Oscar-winning composer Maurice Jarre, who captured the majesty of the desert in his music for “Lawrence of Arabia” and wrote the haunting “Lara's Theme” in his score for “Doctor Zhivago,” has died. He was 84.
Jarre died in his villa in California, where he had lived for decades, said Bernard Miyet, a friend of the composer and leader of the French musicians' guild SACEM. No cause of death was given.
“The world of film music is mourning one of its last great figures,” Miyet said. “As well as his talent, Maurice Jarre cultivated an eternal good nature, a way of living and a simplicity that became legendary.”
Born in 1924 in Lyon, France, Jarre studied music at the Conservatoire de Paris, training initially as a kettledrum player. He started his career composing scores for theatrical productions and worked 12 years as permanent composer at the Theatre National Populaire.
He soon branched into composing soundtracks for movies, and in 1961 worked on director David Lean's “Lawrence of Arabia,” for which he won his first Oscar.
He won a second for his work on another Lean film “Doctor Zhivago,” based on the novel by Boris Pasternak. The movie's song “Lara's Theme” became a hit single and earned him worldwide recognition.
Jarre collaborated with Lean again in 1984 on “A Passage to India,” winning his third Academy Award.
Jarre's musical style was noted for his use of ethnic instruments, and later synthetic sounds.
After moving to California in the early 1960s, Jarre returned to Europe regularly, working in France with Rene Clement on the score for “Is Paris Burning?” in 1966 and with Franco Zefirelli on “Jesus of Nazareth” in 1977.
He received a lifetime achievement award at the Berlin Film Festival in February, after a career including more than 150 soundtracks. He worked with some of Hollywood's most well-known directors including William Wyler, John Huston, Michael Apted, Alfred Hitchcock and Alfonso Arau.
He had “a sense of grandeur” and knew how “to translate in a very short time, very few notes, absolutely essential feelings,” French film music expert Stephane Lerouge said.
Jarre was made an officer in the French Legion of Honor for his contribution to culture. French President Nicolas Sarkozy hailed Jarre as “a great composer who bequeaths us a generous and majestic body of work.”
Jarre was married four times. He is survived by two sons, screenwriter Kevin and electronic musician Jean-Michel, as well as a daughter, Stefanie.