Cinema world loses prolific musical hero: Phil Reeves on the innovative Henry Mancini, who lost his long battle against cancer

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THE Oscar-winning composer Henry Mancini, who wrote such classics as 'Moon River' and the 'Pink Panther' theme, has died at his home in Beverly Hills, California, aged 70. His death, after a long battle with liver and pancreatic cancer, robs the music and movie industry of one of its most prolific and popular talents.

Mancini was nominated for Academy awards 18 times, and won four Oscars and 20 Grammys. Last night tributes were pouring in, in which he was hailed as a composer who fundamentally changed the use of music in movies, particularly by adding an element of jazz.

He began his career as an arranger and pianist with the Glenn Miller Orchestra and other big bands, and made his entry into films as the arranger for music in The Glenn Miller Story (1954) and The Benny Goodman Story (1956). After working on dozens of minor films, he soon became in much demand and went on to compose scores for many movies, including the Blake Edwards's Pink Panther series. His triumphs include the music for Breakfast at Tiffany's, which earned him two Oscars and five Grammys, and won 'Moon River' an indefinite place in popular culture. His other hits included 'Days of Wine and Roses' and 'Charade'.

In 1991, he told the Independent: 'All of us craftsmen have a tendency to borrow a bit from those we love. It's something you'd love to fight if you had the talent to - if you could be an original voice, wouldn't that be great? And sometimes it happens . . . With me, it happened in my use of jazz - incorporating various popular idioms into the mainstream of film scoring. If that's a contribution, then that's mine.'

His death was announced last night by his publicist, Linda Dozoretz, who said he died with Ginny, his wife of 46 years, at his side. After he contracted cancer, he went on working with the lyricist Leslie Bricusse on a stage version of Victor-Victoria. They had won the Academy Award for their score of the 1982 film.

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