Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: Morricone, Ennio from Philip's Encyclopedia

Italian film composer who scored more than 400 films. He is best known for his work with director Sergio Leone. He wrote the scores for Leone's 'spaghetti westerns': A Fistful of Dollars (1964), The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966), and Once Upon a Time in the West (1968). Other works include the classic scores for The Untouchables (1987) and The Mission (1986).


Summary Article: Ennio Morricone from The Faber Companion to 20th Century Popular Music

A prolific composer for over 300 movies, Morricone brought a new dimension to film scoring in his work on numerous Italian Westerns of the sixties, most notably those of Sergio Leone. He radically affected the practice of writing musical themes for characters, replacing the themes with motifs, which often involved startling use of percussion and chorus.

A graduate of the Conservatorio di Santo Cecilia, Morricone studied trumpet and composition and wrote classical and experimental music in the late fifties. He began to write film scores in the early sixties, but his first significant work was the score for Per un Pugno di Dollari (1964). Just as Leone's film (entitled For a Few Dollars More when dubbed into English) redefined the Western, so, in place of what one critic has called the 'heroic style' which dominated American Western scoring, Morricone brought a 'surrealistic panorama of strange cries, savage guitar chords, jangling bells and the cracking of whips'. The results have been described as sounding 'like Mitch Miller on dope'. As well as scoring all Leone's films, Morricone composed the music to numerous Italian films of the sixties and seventies, releasing many soundtrack albums on RCA.

From the late seventies onwards he wrote scores for Hollywood and international productions, including Quemada! (1969), Exorcist II (1977), Days of Heaven (1978) and The Mission (1985), for which he won an Oscar. Ironically, Morricone's only major hits came from accompanying Paul Anka on the Italian-language recording 'Ogni Volta'* (RCA, 1964) and as the writer and performer of the theme to the British teleseries The Life and Times of David Lloyd George, 'Chi Mai' (BBC, 1981). In 1987 he co-wrote 'It Couldn't Happen Here' with the Pet Shop Boys and Virgin released Film Music 1966-87, a double-album of new recordings of his most notable themes. The same company issued an album of his Chamber Music in 1988.

Morricone has subsequently maintained his prolific output, scoring such films as The Endless Games (1989), Zefferelli's Hamlet (1990), Money (1991), State of Grace and In the Line of Fire (1993). Later nineties film scores included Nostromo (1997) and U Turn (1998).

*This title sold at least a million copies

The Faber Companion to 20th Century Popular Music, © Phil Hardy 2001

Related Credo Articles

Full text Article Morricone, Ennio
The New Penguin Dictionary of Music

(b. Rome, 10 Nov 1928) Italian composer, whose all-embracing grasp of style, and stylishness, has made him one of the most soughtafter film...

Full text Article Leone, Sergio
The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Italian film director and screenwriter. One of the pioneers of the ‘spaghetti Western’, he was largely responsible for making a star of the actor Cl

Full text Article Leone, Sergio
Chambers Biographical Dictionary

1922-89 Italian film director Born in Rome to silent film director Vincenze Leone, he studied law before becoming an assistant to various directors i

See more from Credo