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Remembering Morricone: Ten of the Italian composer’s greatest film scores

As Italy remembers legendary composer Ennio Morricone, who has died at 91, here are some of his most memorable film moments.

Remembering Morricone: Ten of the Italian composer's greatest film scores
Ennio Morricone conducting in 2016. Photo: Heikki Saukkomaa / Lehtikuva / AFP

While Morricone is best known for scoring Sergio Leone's spaghetti westerns, the classically trained composer was at ease in seemingly every musical and cinematic genre.

READ ALSO: Famed Italian film composer Ennio Morricone dies

Over a 50-year career, Morricone's music was a key part of some 500 films from comedy to horror, made in Italy, Hollywood and beyond.

“It was essential that I change my style for every film,” the composer, conductor and trumpet player said in 2017. “Every movie required it.”

Here are ten of Morricone's works that show just how much he contributed to cinema history.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Morricone's distinctive theme, said to recall the howling of a coyote, is one of the most memorable in film history.

The soundtrack was among the top five bestselling albums of 1968 and was added to the Grammy Hall of Fame 50 years later.

The Battle of Algiers

The urgent, drum-led score that drives this neorealist account of Algerian rebels' war of independence with the French was a collaboration between Morricone and director Gillo Pontecorvo.

The Bird with the Crystal Plumage

Morricone scored Italian director Dario Argento's debut thriller, as well as his next two films in the same 'Animal Trilogy'.

Part of his score would later be reused by Quentin Tarantino, one of Morricone's biggest fans.
 

La Cage aux Folles

Morricone went back to his early days as a composer and arranger of pop songs for the summery soundtrack to this French-Italian comedy.

Days of Heaven

His work on Terence Malick's historical romance earned Morricone his first Oscar nomination in 1979, though it would be another 40 years before he actually won an Academy Award.

Once Upon A Time in America

The composer teamed up with Leone again for this tale of New York gangsters, 16 years after he wrote the score for the director's 'Once Upon A Time in the West'. 

While the soundtrack is considered one of Morricone's finest, it missed out on an Oscar nomination after the studio accidentally cut his name from the opening credits while trying to trim down its length, thus rendering him ineligible.

Cinema Paradiso

Morricone co-wrote the soundtrack to this Oscar-winning Italian classic with his son, Andrea, who followed in his father's footsteps as a film composer.

The Mission

Morricone's Oscar-nominated score for this period drama about 18th-century Jesuit missionaries in South America showed the full breadth of the composer's talents.

It incorporates liturgical music and indigenous instruments, as well as lyrics in Latin written by his wife and collaborator, Maria Travia.

The Untouchables

Morricone was once more nominated for an Oscar for his staccato, jazz-inspired soundtrack to Brian De Palma's Prohibition-era crime drama. While he didn't win the Academy Award, he did take home a Grammy.

The Hateful Eight

The score that eventually won Morricone an Oscar – following his honorary lifetime achievement award in 2007 – was for Tarantino's 2015 western. 

The director had been trying to persuade Morricone to work on one of his films for years, and eventually succeeded. It was the first time he had scored a western in more than 30 years, and would be the last.

 

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CULTURE

Why Friday the 13th isn’t an unlucky date in Italy

Unlucky for some, but not for Italians. Here's why today's date isn't a cause for concern in Italy - but Friday the 17th is.

Why Friday the 13th isn't an unlucky date in Italy

When Friday the 13th rolls around, many of us from English-speaking countries might reconsider any risky plans. And it’s not exactly a popular date for weddings in much of the western world.

But if you’re in Italy, you don’t need to worry about it.

There’s no shortage of strongly-held superstitions in Italian culture, particularly in the south. But the idea of Friday the 13th being an inauspicious date is not among them.

Though the ‘unlucky 13’ concept is not unknown in Italy – likely thanks to the influence of American film and TV – here the number is in fact usually seen as good luck, if anything.

The number 17, however, is viewed with suspicion and Friday the 17th instead is seen as the unlucky date to beware of.

Just as some Western airlines avoid including the 13th row on planes, you might find number 17 omitted on Italian planes, street numbering, hotel floors, and so on – so even if you’re not the superstitious type, it’s handy to be aware of.

The reason for this is thought to be because in Roman numerals the number 17 (XVII) is an anagram of the Latin word VIXI, meaning ‘I have lived’: the use of the past tense apparently suggests death, and therefore bad luck. It’s less clear what’s so inauspicious about Friday.

So don’t be surprised if, next time Friday 17th rolls around, you notice some Italian shops and offices closed per scaramanzia’.

But why then does 13 often have a positive connotation in Italy instead?

You may not be too surprised to learn that it’s because of football.

Ever heard of Totocalcio? It’s a football pools betting system in which players long tried to predict the results of 13 different matches.

There were triumphant calls of ho fatto tredici! – ‘I’ve done thirteen’ – among those who got them all right. The popular expression soon became used in other contexts to mean ‘I hit the jackpot’ or ‘that was a stroke of luck!’

From 2004, the number of games included in Totocalcio rose to 14, but you may still hear winners shout ‘ho fatto tredici’ regardless.

Other common Italian superstitions include touching iron (not wood) for good luck, not toasting with water, and never pouring wine with your left hand.

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