Georges Delerue: one of France’s leading, most versatile and enduring film composers

Five time Academy Award-nominee and Oscar winner for his Best Original Score for “A Little Romance” (1979), Georges Delerue may today be one of the most overlooked film composers of his era. Composing the scores of more than 350 movies, (mostly French) TV movies and series, documentaries and shorts since 1950, he was one of the most productive of his kind during his lifetime.

Born in the French border town of Roubaix, in the département Nord-Pas-de-Calais, in 1925, Mr. Delerue passed away in Los Angeles in 1992 of a heart attack at age 67, but not without leaving an incredible legacy of some of the most beautiful scores ever written for film and television which ultimately would make him an immortal craftsman in the world of film soundtracks.

A Man for All Seasons posterWhen he was accepted at the Conservatoire de Paris in 1945, at age 20, nobody was aware what an incredibly gifted composer he would become for numerous prestigious filmmakers who all could rely on him, such as François Truffaut (including “La nuit américaine”, 1973), Alain Resnais, Bernardo Bertolucci, Louis Malle, Jean-Luc Godard, or British film maker Jack Clayton (5 films), as well as several of Hollywood’s leading directors. Fred Zinnemann introduced him to an international audience when he asked Delerue to score “A Man for All Seasons” (1966), “The Day of the Jackal” (1973) and “Julia” (1977), and even though Mr. Delerue remained loyal to French filmmakers, in between he was the man behind some of Hollywood’s most impressive film scores, such as “Silkwood” (1983), “Agnes of God” (1985), two Oliver Stone movies “Salvador” and “Platoon” (both 1986), “Man Trouble” (1989) and, who could forget this one, “Steel Magnolias” (1989).

Also nominated for three Golden Globes and two BAFTA Awards, and in France winner of three César Awards out of seven nominations, he was much in demand by American and British filmmakers, and also composed music for nine ballets and two operas. Known as a great talent for melody and for the ultimate creating surrounding overtones which encapsulated the spirit of the movies on which he collaborated, he pretty much enhanced the expectations of most directors he collaborated with.

This score is the theme Mr. Delerue wrote for “Femme de personne” (1984) starring Marthe Keller and Jean-Louis Trintignant. Here are extracts from a few of Delerue’s other everlasting soundtracks:

“La nuit américaine” (1973), a.k.a. “Day for Night”, Academy Award winner as Best Foreign-Language film, was shot in the Victorine studios near Nice, France, and directed by François Truffaut. Stars were Jacqueline Bisset, Jean-Pierre Léaud and François Truffault playing the film director.

“Le dernier métro” (1980), another French screen classic and also by François Truffaut, was set in occupied France with Cathérine Deneuve and Gérard Depardieu in the leading roles

“Silkwood” (1983), directed by Mike Nichols, was based on the tragic real-life story of Karen Silkwood (1946-1974), a union activist of a nuclear facility. After being contaminated with plutonium, she died a mysterious death in a car crash. The investigations trying to determin her cause of death, received extensive worldwide coverage. Meryl Streep portrayed Ms. Silkwood.

“Steel Magnolias” (1989) was a comedy-drama based on Robert Harling’s 1987 play of the same name, about a group of women who all get together in Truvy’s Beauty Parlor (Truvy was played by Dolly Parton), located in a small-town Louisiana community, and how they cope with the death of one of their beloved friends. The title “Steel Magnolias” refers to the powerful but equally vulnerable female cast (Dolly Parton, Shirley MacLaine, Sally Field, Daryl Hannah, Olympia Dukakis and Julia Roberts, among others) which can be as tough as steel and as delicate as a magnolia flower.