PARIS (Reuters) - Oscar-winning French composer Maurice Jarre, who wrote the rich, lyrical scores for films including “Doctor Zhivago” and “Lawrence of Arabia,” has died in Los Angeles at the age of 84.
Jarre’s music won him Academy Awards for those classics and for “A Passage to India,” all directed by David Lean. He also worked with directors from Alfred Hitchcock and Luchino Visconti to Peter Weir.
“Working with the world’s greatest filmmakers, he showed that music is as important as visual image in the success of a film,” French President Nicolas Sarkozy said in a statement paying tribute to Jarre, who died at the weekend.
“The works to which he contributed so masterfully are part of cinema history forever,” he said.
Throughout the morning, French radio played extracts from “Lara’s Theme,” the recurring motif from Doctor Zhivago that became an easy listening classic, as well as the dramatic score to “Lawrence of Arabia.”
Jarre, who had lived in Los Angeles for many years, was one of the most successful and industrious film composers of his time with more than 150 credits to his name.
After making a start working on French films in the 1950s, he made his international breakthrough with the score to the 1962 Lean epic “Lawrence of Arabia.”
His work spanned five decades and his richly orchestrated scores contributed to films from “Ryan’s Daughter,” “The Tin Drum” and “The Year of Living Dangerously” to “Mad Max III” “Fatal Attraction” and “Witness.”
Jarre maintained that music should be a central part of any film. “If it’s just there to underline a piece of action or a love scene, it’s really not interesting. It’s like putting too much sugar in a cake,” he said.
His final award came as recently as last month when he won a special prize from the Berlin Film Festival.
“Film composers often are in the shadows of great directors and acting stars,” said festival director Dieter Kosslick when he announced the award.
“It’s different with Maurice Jarre; the music of Doctor Zhivago, like much of his work, is world famous and remains unforgotten in the history of cinema,” he said.
Maurice Jarre was the father of electronic music pioneer Jean-Michel Jarre.
Additional reporting by Mike Collett-White in London, editing by Mark Trevelyan