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John Barry, 1934 - 2011


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Film composer (and former acquaintance of mine when I worked at a Beverly Hills hotel,) has died at age 77.

 

Barry, the winner of five Oscars, was at one time, the Briton most honored by the Academy. He won two Oscars for *Born Free* and Best Motion Score statuettes for *The Lion In Winter*, *Out Of Africa* and *Dances With Wolves*. Other nominated scores include *Mary, Queen Of Scots* and *Chaplin*.

 

He is likely best known for his work on the James Bond films, having worked on a dozen of the films, starting with an uncredited role with *Dr. No.* But he is also responsible for other very iconic film scores like *Zulu*, *Midnight Cowboy* and *Somewhere In Time.*

 

He was a remarkablly talented man who was very thoughtful and generous with this hotel staffer. Our private conversation about his "audition" to work on *The Prince Of TIdes* is a particularly special memory. His work was rejected by the director but was retitled "Moviola" becoming the closing piece to a wonderful compilation CD of new renditions of his most famous works.

http://www.amazon.com/Barry-Moviola-Score-Re-recording-Compilation/dp/B0000028SD

 

Take a moment to seek out some John Barry on YouTube today. "Moviola" seems to be a favorite of of slideshow enthusiasts there.

 

Kyle In Hollywood

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Hi Kyle:

 

How great that you met him. I love Barry's music. I think he was a composer with a keen ear for an unusual melody and exotic chord structures. His music is frequently playing on my stereo. That compilation, "Moviola," has long been a family favorite. It is hard to imagine anyone refusing a Barry score.

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A truly great talent has been lost. I remember when I lived in the Los Angeles area in either the late 90s or early 2000s, there was an evening at the Hollywood Bowl dedicated to selections from his more famous movie scores. It was a hugely successful event and it may have even been repeated once or twice. I think it was sponsored by KKGO, L.A.'s classical music station at the time, which later became known as KMZT (K-Mozart).

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*"How great that you met him."* - movieman1957

 

Meeting was nice. Becoming a "confidant", albeit casual, was wonderful. I must have received gifts of every score on CD that he wrote during the five or six years he was a guest at the hotel where I worked. Those include *Dances With Wolves*, "Moviola" and "Moviola II" along with scores for *My Life*, *Indecent Proposal* and *The Crucible*. And he happily signed each of them for me. I also was honored to hold his Oscar for *Dancing With Wolves* the day after he won it.

 

But even I was able to surprise him. One day, I presented him with a CD of the musical "Billy", based on the film *Billy Liar*, which he wrote some years earlier. I was hoping to ask if he would sign it to a friend who was a fan of the score. But it ended up being a "gift" to him. He didn't know that the obscure recording was available on CD. So I gave it to him for his collection instead.

 

*"It is hard to imagine anyone refusing a Barry score."*

 

And it was for him also. But what was more "troublesome" was the fact that the "rejection" by the director was only a nebulous "I just don't get it." without being able to offer any creative criticism that would allow him to adress their concerns or disappointment. Expressing such a musical critique to the composer was beyond the verbal capabilities of the director, at least in the retelling by John Barry. And given "the source" of that dumbed-down assessment of the theme for the film, it was all the more surprising to him. And irritating.

 

Glad to know you are a fan also.

 

Kyle In Hollywood

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Thank you for posting that. I didn't know that he had spoken of the *The Prince Of Tides* situation publically. I now can exhale and not feel guilty for "telling tales" that were passed to me in confidence. And I was being so careful not to actually name the director. (I also knew of the "comeuppance" that came from David Foster's playing the theme for her again and her suddenly new found admiration for it. But that was "a story too far" than I was willing to go.)

 

It was wonderful to "see" John Barry again from those years that I knew him. Funny, around that time I also asked him about *Born Free* and if it is a theme he was still able to be excited about "performing" or re-recording - he mentions in the clip about that theme being accused of becoming a "cliche" - and all he said to me was "Listen to the new arrangement and then tell me what you think." Well, I listened to the "Moviola" CD arrangement of the piece and was quite impressed - and moved. He could still find new inspiration in an old war horse like that. Amazing. And I was so very happy to tell him so.

 

Kyle In Hollywood

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From the liner notes for "Moviola", 1992

 

From the earliest days of cinema nearly a century ago, music and the movies have gone hand in hand. The most iportant advance of all was the advent of the soundtrack which permitted the moving image to be permantly "married" to a particular piece of music. As a result, we now only have to certain melodies or themes to conjure up whole scenes in our mind's eye.

 

The evocative tracks on this album are the work of John Barry, one of the great films composers of our time. They will, I feel sure, transport those that hear them into many dfferent worlds. And I am naturally delighted that John has decided that the haunting music he created for *Chaplin* should be included in such distinguished company.

 

John Barry is without doubt a star. He brings a touch of special inimitable magic to each and every score he writes, and his profound love of movies is evident in all his soaring themes.

Richard Attenborough

 

One of the very best parts of a John Barry score is how he is able to enhance the emotion or power of a scene with the music he writes - as in the make-up removal sequence in *Chaplin* with Chaplin (Downey Jr.) looking upon himself in the mirror. It is the poignancy of the music which creates the most memorable scene of the movie. The music expresses an intimacy which isn't found on the page of the script or in the visuals of the film. That is what a great composer can do.

 

This was also expressed by Sidney Pollack who worked with John Barry on *Out Of Africa*. His comments are on a recording I have and I hope to transcribe them for posting later. Pollack spoke of how John Barry, his emotional intuitiveness and his score caused him to re-conceive a memorable scene in *Out Of Africa*.

 

Kyle In Hollywood

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I heard a story, and I think it was Pollack who told it somewhere, that when he work on a movie he had Barry's music on as background. It finally occurred to him that he should have Barry score "Out of Africa."

 

Barry mentioned, in one of the clips I watched, that he only had about 35 minutes of music for "Out of Africa." The film is, for me, too long and rather dull but I love the music.

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*"I heard a story, and I think it was Pollack who told it somewhere, that when he work on a movie he had Barry's music on as background. It finally occurred to him that he should have Barry score "Out of Africa." "* - movieman1957

 

That's true. I've heard the same story. I think it is in the "Moviola" program/video that Pollack says he used John Barry scores as "temp tracks" when editting many of his films.

 

I also am not a "fan" of *Out Of Africa.* It is in the *Dr. Zhivago* column for me - an epic with talented stars but a less than interesting (all right, dull) story. I wonder if seeing it in a theater helps?

 

Kyle In Hollywood

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The Bond films benefited greatly from Barry's mood setting score. It told the viewer exactly what to feel; suspense, excitement, romance. In fact, to fans of the series, the choice of music was a tip, preparing them for what was coming next. "Oh! This is the danger theme!" This ground breaking music played a big part in the phenomenal success of the series. If I live to be 100, I'll never forget these delightful tunes.

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