Famous French Film Score Composers – Part 1

There have been many great composers who have written music especially for the cinema, and among these are a long list of French musical score composers that have delighted cinema goers with their obvious talent. French music is synonymous with the big screen and composers such as Maurice Jarre and Michael Legrand have made their mark in cinema with brilliantly written scores.

Their skill and fantastic composing are not just restricted to French cinema, Hollywood also has seen the benefits of using these great creators to enhance their films, and you would be surprised the number of American films that were set to the music by these fine minds. In this blog we look at some of the most talented and famous French composers.

Maurice Jarre

Maurice Jarre started his musical career in France and was writing for French films during the 1950’s. A decade later he was ensconced in Hollywood and doing most of his writing for American films. His close liaison and collaboration with legendary director David Lean brought stunning results. Famed Jarre has won three Academy Awards for his musical scores for the David Lean directed films: Doctor Zhivago, A Passage to India and of course Lawrence of Arabia. Jarre also has his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

If Maurice Jarre’s name sounds familiar it is because he was the father of the great electronic musician and composer Jean-Michel Jarre. Although possibly his best music score, that he did not win an Oscar for, was for the tear jerker film Ghost.

Joseph Kosma

Strictly speaking Joseph Kosma is not a French composer as he was born in Hungary. But in 1933 he immigrated to France and started to work with the great French filmmakers of the day, Marcel Carne and Jean Renoir. Kosma was jointly responsible for some of the most highly popular French films of the 1930s and 40s including one of the greatest French films ever, Les Enfants du Paradis. Joseph Kosma is probably best known for the score of the film, Les Portes de la Nuit and the classic song Les Feuilles Mortes. Autumn Leaves has featured in other major films including more recently My Week with Marilyn.

Michel Legrand

Possibly most people’s idea of the archetypal French film composer is Michel Legrand. He wrote many superb musical scores for numerous big pictures, including for the charismatic director Jacques Demy. The brilliance of Legrand’s writing is that in many of the films the music was the star and was critical to the story line and not just an embellishment.

Perhaps the revolutionary Les Parapluies de Cherbourg in 1964 brought Legrand to the attention of the cinema going public, and it also brought him his first Oscar nomination. Like Maurice Jarre, Legrand was highly popular in Hollywood and wrote many American classics. Summer of’ 42, and Windmills of Your Mind are two of the most noteworthy. Legrand has won four Oscars for his musical scores and must go down as one of the finest French composers of modern times. We continue our musical journey to discover the best French film composers in part two of this blog.