Georges Delerue Biography

12 March 1925, Roubaix, France, d. 20 March 1992, Los Angeles, California, USA. An important composer of film music for well over 150 features, from the early 50s through to the 90s. Delerue won a scholarship to the prestigious Paris Conservatoire, where he was encouraged to develop his interest in music for the screen. In 1952 Delerue composed new scores for two early 20s silent films, Le Chapeau De Paille De’Italie and Les Deux Timides, and, in 1956, he served as musical director for a series of short films by Alain Resnais, and then for Raymond Rouleau’s The Witches Of Salem (1957). Two years later he co-composed the scores for Le Bel Age (with Alain Goraguer), and Hiroshima Mon Amour (with Giovanni Fusco). In 1960 Delerue made Shoot The Piano Player, the first of a celebrated series of films with Francois Truffaut, one of France’s premier ‘new wave’ directors. Their other collaborations included Jules And Jim; Love At Twenty; The Soft Skin; Two English Girls (in which Delerue made a cameo appearance); Such A Gorgeous Kid Like Me; Day For Night (Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film (1973)); Love On The Run; The Last Metro; The Woman Next Door; and Confidentially Yours (1983). In 1961 Delerue began another important association with director Philippe De Broca, lasting some 16 films. These included Five Day Lover (Time Out For Love); The Joker; Cartouche; That Man From Rio; Up To His Ears; King Of Hearts, which became a cult item); Practice Makes Perfect (1978).

In the early 60s Delerue’s career developed further with his involvement in British films. In 1963 he scored French Dressing, controversial director Ken Russell’s feature debut, and also Russell’s Women In Love (1969), with its famous nude wrestling sequence. Delerue’s other scores for British films included The Pumpkin Eater; It Began In Brighton; A Man For All Seasons; Our Mother’s House; Interlude; Anne Of The Thousand Days (the first of his five Oscar nominations); The Lonely Passion Of Judith Hearne; A Summer Story; and Paris By Night (1988). By the early 70s, after completing one of his best scores for The Conformist, an Italian-French-West German production, Delerue broke into Hollywood, and subsequently lived in Los Angeles for several years. Even so, for the majority of the time he continued to work in France. His initial US scores included Frankenheimer’s The Horsemen; The Day Of The Dolphin; Fred Zinnemann’s Julia; and A Little Romance (1979), for which Delerue received an Academy Award. During the 80s scores for English-language movies included Rich And Famous; True Confessions; A Little Sex; The Escape Artist; Exposed; Man, Woman And Child; Agnes Of God; Maxie; Salvador; Maid To Order; A Man In Love; The House On Carroll Street; Memories Of Me; Heartbreak Hotel; and such box-office hits as Mike Nichols’ Silkwood and Biloxi Blues; Oliver Stone’s Platoon and Twins (Schwarzenegger and De Vito); Beaches (‘Bette Midler is dynamite’); and Steel Magnolias (1989).

In 1985, he composed a new score for Alexander Volkov’s 1927 silent film Casanova. His last few scores, in the early 90s, included Black Robe; Curly Sue; Count A Lonely Cadence; Mister Johnson; American Friends; and the French production Dien Bien Phu (1992). Delerue died shortly after the latter film had been previewed at the Berlin Festival. Besides his work for feature films, he wrote a great deal of music for television, for shows such as Love Thy Neighbour; Silence Of The Heart; Aurora; Arch Of Triumph; The Execution; Amos; Deadly Intentions; Stone Pillow; A Time To Live; Sin Of Innocence; Women Of Valour; Her Secret Life; Escape From Sobibor; and Queenie (mini-series). His last few projects for the small screen were The Josephine Baker Story; Without Warning: The James Brady Story; and Momento Mori, based on Muriel Spark’s 1958 novel, which received rave reviews when it was shown in Britain in April 1992. Representative recordings include: The London Sessions volumes 1-3. Delerue was a Commander of Arts and Letters, one of France’s highest honours.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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