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Italian composing giant Ennio Morricone — who died in July 2020 at 91 — will be given his due at Venice with a screening of Ennio, a documentary by Cinema Paradiso director Giuseppe Tornatore. (The spine of the film is a conversation between the two men, with commentary interspersed from among Morricone’s legions of admirers, including Quentin Tarantino and Bruce Springsteen.)
Morricone was born in Rome in 1928 while Italy was under fascist rule by Benito Mussolini. It was his father, a professional trumpeter, who taught him how to read music. After graduating from the Saint Cecilia Conservatory in 1946, he embarked upon a career in the theater; that led to work scoring radio dramas and eventually film, with 1961’s Il federale (The Fascist), a World War II-set satire produced by Dino De Laurentiis, among his first. It was his arrangement of Woody Guthrie’s “Pastures of Plenty” — which he adapted in 1962 for American folk singer Pete Tevis — that intrigued director Sergio Leone, a childhood classmate of Morricone’s. Leone hired Morricone to score the 1964 Clint Eastwood movie A Fistful of Dollars, and they collaborated again on sequels For a Few Dollars More (1965) and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966).
Morricone’s playful approach and unorthodox instrumentation (he used everything from whip cracks to a Jew’s harp) helped turn the so-called Dollars Trilogy into a critical and box office triumph. The soundtrack for Ugly sold 3 million copies worldwide.
This story first appeared in The Hollywood Reporter‘s Sept. 2 daily issue at the Venice International Film Festival.
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