Oscar-winning composer Maurice Jarre dies

Wrote 'Doctor Zhivago,' 'Lawrence of Arabia' scores

Maurice Jarre, who wrote the hauntingly lovely "Lara's Theme" for "Dr. Zhivago" as well as the sweeping score for the epic "Lawrence of Arabia," has died. He was 84.

Jarre died in his home in Las Angeles, where he had lived for decades, Bernard Miyet, a friend of the composer and leader of the French musicians guild SACEM, said Monday. No cause of death was given.

"The world of film music is mourning one of its last great figures," Miyet said. "As well as his talent, Maurice Jarre cultivated an eternal good nature, a way of living and a simplicity that became legendary."

Jarre won three Academy Awards for best score for his work on the David Lean films "Lawrence of Arabia," "Dr. Zhivago" and "Passage to India." He also earned six other Oscar nominations for best score for "Sundays and Cybele," "The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean," "Messenger of God," "Witness," "Gorillas in the Mist" and "Ghost." In all, Jarre composed scores for more than 100 motion pictures.

"Lara's Theme" became an international hit in the late '60s, and the love song is still an often-played favorite, from the concert hall to the piano bar. Jarre's other more memorable scores include music for "The Longest Day," "Is Paris Burning?" Lean's "Ryan's Daughter" and "The Year of Living Dangerously."

Jarre's film music offered up a masterful evocation of the East in its textures and rhythms, often imparting a mysticism, as well as conveying the throb and dissonance of an exotic society in turmoil. "From the beginning, I have always liked to mix ethnic instruments in my music," he once said. From the Mideastern strains prominent in "Lawrence" and "Zhivago" to the Far Eastern refrains of "Shogun," Jarre was an innovator in shadings and style. In all, Jarre wrote musical scores for films from eight different countries, including the People's Republic of China. He also wrote a special musical piece in honor of famed Japanese director Akira Kurosawa and conducted the Japanese Philharmonic Orchestra in Tokyo for its maiden performance.

Maurice Jarre was born in Lyons France on Sept. 13, 1924, the son of the director of a radio station. He excelled as an athlete, wining numerous medals as a sprinter. He studied art and literature at the Sorbonne and went on to take a degree in electrical engineer at the Ecole Centrale d'Electricite.

However, living in Paris, he developed an interest in music. He soon became determined to become a conductor, which his parents ridiculed because he had no musical training. Undeterred, Jarre set out in analytical, engineer style: He studied percussion first since he reasoned that those were the easiest instruments to attain a rudimentary mastering. Within two years, Jarre had become a member of the Orchestre National de Radiofiufusion Francais, playing the xylophone, the drums and the marimba -- in essence, all the percussion instruments. He remained with the Orchestre National for three years and considered it his conservatory, learning from his fellow musicians.

When writer Jean-Louis Barrault left the Comedie Franciase and founded his own company, his cutting-edge productions necessitated behind-the-scenes music. In essence, he needed an orchestra but could only hire two people. Barrault hired Jarre and another aspiring composer named Pierre Boulez to serve as his offstage "orchestra." The talented duo contributed varied sounds and textures, using an array of instruments. They remained with Barrault for four years.

Jarre was amazingly proficient, inventive and picked up instruments with an astonishing facility. And, once again, the professional apprenticeship served to nurture Jarre's knowledge and skills in music

Others noticed his versatile accomplishment, and he was invited by Jean Vilar to compose the score of his production of Kleist's "The Prince of Hamburg" for the Avignon Festival. During that period in the early '50s, Jarre branched out: He also composed a violin and piano concerto, a cantata and a passacaglia for orchestra. For his works, he won top honors in Italian Radio.

Jarre began his film-scoring career by composing for French director Georges Franju as well as a number of French and American films produced in Paris. His list of credits is vast and uniquely impressive, including "Isadora," "The Fixer," "Behold a Pale Horse," "The Collector," "The Professionals," "To Die in Madrid," "Topaz," "The Damned," "The Longest Day," "The Man Who Would Be King," "The Spy Who Loved Me," "Tin Drum," "Fatal Attraction," "Dead Poet's Society," "Enemies, A Love Story" and "Fearless."

He became one of the few composers to have a star on Hollywood Boulevard.

Jarre was married four times. He is survived by two sons, screenwriter Kevin and electronic musician Jean-Michel, and a daughter, Stefanie.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.