French composer Maurice Jarre, who won Oscars for the music of “Lawrence of Arabia,” “Doctor Zhivago” and “A Passage to India,” died of cancer Saturday at his home in Malibu. He was 84.
Jarre was one of the last of the great composers of 20th century cinema, scoring not only those films for director David Lean (along with a fourth, “Ryan’s Daughter”) but also collaborating with Alfred Hitchcock (“Topaz”), John Huston (“The Man Who Would Be King”), John Frankenheimer (“Grand Prix”), William Wyler (“The Collector”), Luchino Visconti (“The Damned”) and Elia Kazan (“The Last Tycoon”).
Jarre scored nearly 200 films and TV projects. In addition to his large-scale orchestral scores, he was a pioneer in using electronics and, owing to his early studies in ethnomusicology, an expert in applying unusual ethnic sounds to scores for films set in exotic locales, such as his music for Franco Zeffirelli’s “Jesus of Nazareth” and Japan-set miniseries “Shogun.”
In addition to his three Oscars for the Lean films, Jarre received six Academy nominations for films as diverse as “Witness,” “Ghost” and “Gorillas in the Mist.” He won British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards for “Witness” and “Dead Poets Society” and Golden Globes for “Witness,” “India,” “Gorillas” and “A Walk in the Clouds.” He received a special Cesar from the Gallic film awards in 1985.
Just last month, he was awarded an honorary Golden Bear by the Berlin Film Festival for his lifetime of work.
Jarre was born in Lyon, France, studied at the Paris Conservatory of Music and played timpani with Paris’ major symphony orchestras before becoming music director for the French National Theater, where he wrote nearly 60 scores.
He wrote his first film score in 1952 for the antiwar documentary “Hotel des Invalides,” and continued to work for director Georges Franju on various films throughout the 1950s. It was his music for “Lawrence of Arabia” in 1962 and “Doctor Zhivago” in 1965 (which spawned the Grammy-winning hit “Lara’s Theme”) that firmly established him as one of Europe’s top film composers.
Jarre moved to the U.S. in the mid-1960s, working in Hollywood with Hitchcock, Huston, Frankenheimer and others while regularly returning to the continent to supply music to Visconti, Rene Clement (“Is Paris Burning?”), Karel Reisz (“Isadora”) and Volker Schlondorff (“The Tin Drum”).
In addition to scores for TV projects including “Jesus” and “Shogun,” Jarre wrote the theme for the Western series “Cimarron Strip” and won the cable industry’s ACE award for the HBO film “Apology.”
In the 1980s and 1990s, he scored commercial successes including “Firefox,” “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome,” “Fatal Attraction” and “Ghost” (the soundtrack of which became a platinum-record best-seller).
His final scores were for two Holocaust-themed projects, Istvan Szabo’s 1999 film “Sunshine” and the NBC miniseries “Uprising” in 2001.
He retired from films the same year, although he continued to conduct concerts of his music and write pieces for the concert hall.
Jarre spent half of each year in California and half in Switzerland.
Survivors include his wife Fong; two sons, electronic-music artist Jean Michel and screenwriter Kevin; a daughter, Stephanie; a sister, three grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.
Services will be private; a public memorial will be scheduled later.