mfiles logo

Henry Mancini (1924-1994) - classic themes and songs:

Henry Mancini - The Pink Panther soundtrack CD cover Henry (or "Hank") Mancini scored the music for numerous films from the 50s until the early 90s. During this time he frequently teamed up with director Blake Edwards. Perhaps because of this the films he worked on tended to be light-hearted stories, even the thrillers being more like romantic comedies, and his light Jazz style was very suited to this type of film. Although there are rarely any dark moments in Mancini's music, there is a wistful sadness to some of his songs. For these songs Mancini would frequently team up with lyricist Johnny Mercer, for example on "Breakfast at Tiffany's", "Days of Wine and Roses" and "Charade".

The Henry Mancini Songbook cover Mancini's musical background was in jazz bands, and before his work in films he spent a few years writing for TV series such as "Peter Gunn" and "Mr. Lucky". His background in swing bands made him ideally qualified for two of his earliest film scores "The Glenn Miller Story" and "The Benny Goodman Story". In these and other films, the Mancini style is frequently more akin to Big Band than the symphony orchestra sound. His orchestration will typically include a drumkit perhaps with brushes and a Latin percussion set, the lead tunes are very often played by Trumpet (think Herb Alpert) or Saxophone with occasional flute or voices, perhaps accompanied by bass, guitar, tuned percussion, and a tinkling Lounge Lizard easy-listening piano. The tunes may employ Latin rhythms or Blues-influenced chords and melodies, augmented with Jazz-style improvisation riffs on various solo instruments. Among the session players that worked regularly with Henry Mancini, were pianist/composer John Williams and bassist Abraham Laboriel.

Henry Mancini - Breakfast at Tiffany's soundtrack CD cover The one thing which makes Mancini's music memorable is simply the good tunes. In many ways a Mancini soundtrack is more a collection of tunes or songs rather the "background" music of other composers. This was intentional since Mancini (unlike most film composers) usually negotiated to retain the rights to his music in order to re-release it on albums. His facility as a tunesmith has produced theme songs (full of affection), and instrumental themes (full of humour) which people have been humming and whistling for decades. Among his many well-known tunes that have stood the test of time are items like "Peter Gunn" and "The Pink Panther", the song "Moon River" as used in "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and "The Baby Elephant Walk" from "Hatari!". Mancini won 4 oscars: for Victor/Victoria (Adaptation or Original Song Score), "Days Of Wine And Roses" (Best Song), with Breakfast at Tiffany's winning both Drama or Comedy Score, and Best Song for "Moon River".

Henry Mancini ...Reinventing Film Music by John Caps - book cover "Henry Mancini: Reinventing Film Music" is a new book by John Caps looking at the film music of Henry Mancini. It is a comprehensive study of the composer's music, described "as a bridge between the Big Band period of World War II and the impatient eclecticism of the Baby Boomer generation, between the grand formal orchestral film scores of the past and a modern minimalist approach. Mancini's sound seemed to capture the bright, confident, welcoming voice of the middle class's new efficient life: interested in pop songs and jazz, in movie and television, in outreach politics but also in conventional stay-at-home comforts. As John Caps shows, Mancini easily combined it all in his music." John Caps served as producer, writer, and host for four seasons of the National Public Radio syndicated series "The Cinema Soundtrack", featuring interviews with and music of film composers. His book is available at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. 2019 marks the 25th anniversary of Mancini's passing, and in memory of the composer Caps has penned the following article celebrating Henry Mancini as arranger, film composer and melodist.

Films by Henry Mancini:

    Henry Mancini - Breakfast at Tiffany's & Arabesque double-soundtrack CD cover
  • The Glenn Miller Story - ideally suited to the composer since he joined the Glenn Miller Band for a while
  • The Benny Goodman Story
  • Breakfast at Tiffany's - with the unforgettable "Moon River"
  • Days of Wine and Roses - with its well known title song
  • Summer Love
  • Arabesque - a spy caper with Arabs set in England, with Sophia Loren and Gregory Peck as a mistrusting romantic couple - musically the best bits are the sequence set in the zoo, when Peck has been drugged, and the main theme
  • Touch of Evil - for Orson Welles, with a dark theme and some latin and jazz source music
  • The Pink Panther 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7? - just how many sequels were there?
  • A Shot in the Dark - number 2 from the Pink Panther series and providing another tune for the spin-off cartoons of The Pink Panther and Inspector Clouseau
  • Gunn - based on the successful "Peter Gunn" television series and retaining the theme that has spawned so many cover versions
  • Charade
  • Henry Mancini - Charade & Experiment in Terror double-soundtrack CD cover
  • Gaily, Gaily - includes a pleasant Tango with solo Gypsy violin and guitar
  • That's Entertainment
  • The Molly Maguires
  • Experiment in Terror - some of this is darker than most of Mancini's output, yet still displays his wit
  • The Thief who came to Dinner
  • The Prisoner of Zenda
  • Condorman
  • Grease 2 - song material for this
  • An Officer and a Gentleman - song
  • Hatari! - this has some drum and percussion-driven tracks for the African setting, and fun pieces like the funky "Baby Elephant Walk" based on simple blues chords
  • Victor/Victoria - with lyricist Leslie Bricusse and featuring director Blake Edward's wife, Julie Andrews, with her incomparable voice
  • The Man who Loved Women
  • Henry Mancini - Hatari! soundtrack CD cover
  • The Right Stuff - a Mancini song for Bill Conti's score
  • Fletch
  • Lifeforce
  • 10 - co-writing the song "It's Easy to Say"
  • Santa Claus: The Movie
  • The Great Mouse Detective
  • That's Life!
  • Blind Date
  • Fear
  • Ghost Dad - with a couple of cues taken from films scored by Bill Conti
  • Tom and Jerry: The Movie - with Bricusse again
  • Glass Menagerie
  • The Presidio - song
  • Born on the fourth of July - song

TV themes by Henry Mancini:

  • Peter Gunn - this was also used in "The Blues Brothers" movie and elsewhere, as well as the main theme you might come across tracks called "Fallout!", "Dreamsville" and "Timothy"
  • Mr. Lucky - among the many recorded tracks from this series there's one called "March of the Cue Balls"
  • Man of the World - theme
  • Blaulicht - theme for this German series
  • The Pink Panther - the long-running animated series spawned from the first film's title sequence, generally shown alongside the cartoon version of Inspector Clouseau
  • Cade's County - theme
  • Henry Mancini - The Complete Peter Gunn double CD album cover
  • Remington Steele
  • The Thorn Birds - another easily likeable theme tune showing a certain Celtic heritage, and Meggie's tune called "Anywhere the Heart Goes"
  • Hotel
  • Mystery Movie Theme - the "Mystery Movie" was a scheduled television slot which was used to broadcast a number of shows including Columbo, Quincy M.E., McMillan & Wife, McCloud, Banacek, The Snoop Sisters and others
  • The Blue Knight - series
  • NBC Nightly News Theme
  • Newhart - theme

The Peter Gunn theme is reputed to be the first ever use of Jazz for television theme music.

Henry Mancini Recommendations:

Henry Mancini Greatest Hits songbook cover There are many albums available of Mancini songs - original soundtracks, song collections and cover versions. Among his best film-related material are the soundtrack albums to "The Pink Panther" (available at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com) and "Breakfast at Tiffany's" (available at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com). Many of Mancini's most famous songs and themes are also available as sheet music arrangements for piano and other instruments, including "The Pink Panther", "Peter Gunn", "Moon River", "The Baby Elephant Walk" and "The Thorn Birds". These you can find as individual pieces or in collections. If you are looking for song collections (usually including a few instrumental tracks too) then the first two links below suggest two which are worth looking at, both from Sheet Music Plus:

There are a large number of CDs of music by Henry Mancini and music arranged and conducted by him. Here is a small selection of music from his film scores, the first 2 items being collections released in 2004 to mark the 10th anniversary of Mancini's death and celebrate his wonderful legacy of music: