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Georges Delerue

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Georges Delerue
Photo of George Delerue smiling
Georges Delerue
Background information
Born(1925-03-12)12 March 1925
Roubaix, France
Died20 March 1992(1992-03-20) (aged 67)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
GenresFilm scores, classical
Instrument(s)Piano, clarinet
Years active1947–1992

Georges Delerue (12 March 1925 – 20 March 1992) was a French composer who composed over 350 scores for cinema and television.[1][2] Delerue won numerous important film music awards, including an Academy Award for A Little Romance (1980), three César Awards (1979, 1980, 1981), two ASCAP Awards (1988, 1990), and one Gemini Award for Sword of Gideon (1987). He was also nominated for four additional Academy Awards for Anne of the Thousand Days (1969), The Day of the Dolphin (1973), Julia (1977), and Agnes of God (1985), four additional César Awards, three Golden Globe Awards, and one Genie Award for Black Robe (1991).

The French newspaper Le Figaro named him "the Mozart of cinema."[3] Delerue was the first composer to win three consecutive César Awards for Get Out Your Handkerchiefs (1979), Love on the Run (1980), and The Last Metro (1981). Georges Delerue was named Commander of Arts and Letters, one of France's highest honours.[4]

Early life and education[edit]

Delerue was born 12 March 1925 in Roubaix, France, to Georges Delerue and Marie Lhoest. He was raised in a musical household; his grandfather led an amateur chorale group and his mother sang and played piano at family gatherings. By the age of fourteen he was playing clarinet at the local music conservatory. In 1940 he was forced to abandon his studies at the Turgot Institute in order to work at a factory to help support his family. He continued playing clarinet with local bands, eventually transitioning to piano under the instruction of Madame Picavet-Bacquart. He studied Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, and Grieg, and was particularly inspired by Richard Strauss. Following a long convalescence after being diagnosed with scoliosis, Georges decided to become a composer.[5]

In 1945, following his studies at the Roubaix conservatory, Delerue was accepted into the Conservatoire de Paris, where he studied fugue with Simone Plé-Caussade and composition with Henri Büsser. To help support himself, he took jobs playing at dances, baptisms, marriages, and funerals—even performing jazz in the piano bars near the Paris Opera.

In 1947 he received an honorable mention for the Rome Prize, and the following year he won the Second Grand Rome Prize. That year at the Theater Festival of Avignon, Delerue conducted a performance of Scheherazade. In the 1949 Rome Prize competition, he won the First Second Grand Prize, and the First Prize for Composition.[5] He began writing stage music during the late 1940s, including for the Théâtre National Populaire, Comédie-Française and the company of Jean-Louis Barrault.[6] He also became friends with Maurice Jarre and Pierre Boulez.[6]


By the early 1950s Delerue was composing music for short films and writing theatrical music for the Théâtre Babylone and the Opéra Comique. He began collaborating with Boris Vian on a number of projects during this time, including theatrical adaptations of The Snow Knight and The Builders of Empire, an oratorio A Regrettable Incident, and a ballet The Barker. In 1952 he began directing the orchestra of the Club d'Essai for French National Radio and Television, and scored his first television drama Princes du sang. In 1954 he wrote his first compositions for historical spectacles of light and sound, Lisieux and The Liberation of Paris. In 1955 he composed his Concert Symphony for Piano and Orchestra, and on 31 January 1957 his opera The Snow Knight premiered at Nancy and was a popular success. In 1959 he composed his first score for a feature film, Le bel âge.[5]

His career was diverse and he composed frequently for major art house directors, most often François Truffaut (including Jules and Jim), but also for Jean-Luc Godard's film Contempt (Le Mépris), and for Alain Resnais, Louis Malle, and Bernardo Bertolucci, besides later working on several Hollywood productions, including Oliver Stone's Platoon and Salvador. Another director Delerue composed for was Ken Russell, who in return filmed a BBC documentary about Delerue entitled Don't Shoot the Composer (1966).

He composed the music for Flemming Flindt's ballet, Enetime (The Lesson), based on Ionesco's play, La Leçon. During his 42 years career he put his talent to the service of nearly 200 feature movies, 125 short ones, 70 TV films and 35 TV serials. The soundtrack for war docudrama by Pierre Schoendoerffer, Diên Biên Phu (1992), was one of his late notable works.

Delerue also made cameo appearances in La nuit americaine and Les deux anglaises et le continent.[6]

Collaborations with Jack Clayton[edit]

Delerue composed the music for five of the films made by the noted British director Jack Clayton. Their first collaboration was The Pumpkin Eater (1964), followed by Our Mother's House (1967). In 1982 they reunited for the Disney film version of Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes, but the production was fraught with problems. Unhappy with the sinister tone of Clayton's original cut, the studio took control of the film, and held it back from release for over a year. They reportedly spent an additional $5 million on re-editing the film, cutting some scenes and replacing them with newly shot footage, with the aim of making the film more commercial and 'family-friendly'. To Delerue's great disappointment, Disney also insisted on the removal of his original music (which was considered 'too dark'), and replaced it with a new, 'lighter' score by American composer James Horner. Speaking later about the rejection of his score, Delerue said: "It was extremely painful ... because it was probably the most ambitious score I wrote in the United States."[7] Delerue's music for the film was only available to collectors in low-quality bootleg copies until 2011, when Disney authorised the release of approximately 30 minutes of music, sourced from Delerue's personal tape copy of the score (which originally ran for over an hour). This was issued by Universal France (along with Delerue's music for the 1991 film Regarding Henry) in a limited edition of 3000 CDs, as the inaugural release of its "Ecoutez le Cinema!" soundtrack series. Despite this disappointment, Delerue worked with Clayton twice more, on his last feature film, The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne (1987), and on Clayton's final screen project, a feature length BBC TV adaptation of Muriel Spark's Memento Mori (1992), which aired just a month after Delerue's death.

Working methods[edit]

According to many testimonies Delerue would do and redo some cues to fit the new editing of a sequence without any protestation. He insisted on being allowed to orchestrate and conduct himself in order to polish every detail. Georges Delerue had a great talent for melody and for creating surrounding overtones which encapsulated the spirit of the movies on which he collaborated, enhancing them often beyond the expectations of their directors.


Georges Delerue died on 20 March 1992 from a heart attack in Los Angeles, eight days after his 67th birthday, just after recording the last cue for the soundtrack to Rich in Love. He is buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.[5] He left behind his wife, Colette Delerue, whom he married in 1984, and his daughter Claire from an earlier marriage.[8]


Georges Delerue composed the musical scores for 351 feature films, television movies, television series, documentaries, and short films. The following is a list of feature films for which he composed the music.

  • Memento Mori1 (1992) (A BBC drama)


The following is a select list of albums of the music of Georges Delerue.[9]

  • Jules et Jim (1961)
  • Cent Mille Dollars Au Soleil (1963)
  • Il Conformista (1970)
  • Paul Gauguin (1974)
  • A Little Romance (1979)
  • The Borgias (1981)
  • Vivement Dimanche! (1981)
  • La Femma d'A Cote (1983)
  • Agnes of God (1984)
  • The London Sessions (1990)
  • Delerue: Suite Cinématographique, Tirée des films (1990)
  • Les Deux Anglaises et le Continent (1991)
  • Black Robe (1992)
  • Diên Biên Phú (1992)
  • Man Trouble (1992)
  • Rich in Love (1992)
  • Like a Boomerang (1993)
  • Georges Delerue: Music from the Films of François Truffaut (1997)
  • Comme un Boomerang (2000)
  • Joe Versus the Volcano (2002)
  • True Confessions (2005)
  • An Almost Perfect Affair (2006)
  • The Pick-Up Artist (2006)
  • The Cinema of François Truffaut (2007)
  • Promise at Dawn (2008)
  • Georges Delerue: Jules et Jim; Les Deux Anglaises (2008)
  • Partitions Inedites (2011)

Other compositions[edit]

  • Operas: Ariane; Le chevalier de neige; Une regrettable histoire; Médis et Alyssio
  • Ballets: L'emprise; Conte cruel; La leçon; Les trois mousquetaires
  • Diptyque for flute
  • Duos pour flûte et guitare
  • Concerto pour Trombone
  • Visages (for guitar)
  • Mosaique (for guitar)
  • Graphic (for guitar)
  • Antienne 1 for violin and piano
  • Concerto de l'Adieu
  • Aria et Final
  • Mouvements pour instruments à percussion et piano
  • Stances for cello and piano
  • Violin Sonata
  • Récit et choral for trumpet and organ
  • Madrigal, for solo trombone and five trombones (published 1999)
  • Fanfares Pour Tous Les Temps for brass
  • Cérémonial (for brass ensemble)
  • Four Pieces for Clarinet and Piano
  • Prélude & danse for oboe and piano
  • String Quartet No. 1
  • String Quartet No. 2

Awards and nominations[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Georges Delerue". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 4 March 2012.
  2. ^ "Georges Delerue". Soundtrack Guide. Archived from the original on 6 March 2012. Retrieved 4 March 2012.
  3. ^ "Georges Delerue". The Criterion Collection. Archived from the original on 18 May 2013. Retrieved 4 March 2012.
  4. ^ "Georges Delerue Biography". BBC. Retrieved 4 March 2012.
  5. ^ a b c d "Georges Delerue Biography". Official Web Site. Archived from the original on 25 January 2012. Retrieved 5 March 2012.
  6. ^ a b c Brill, Mark. Georges Delerue. In: The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2nd Edition. Macmillan, London, 2001.
  7. ^ Stephanie Lerouge, CD liner notes for Georges Delerue Unused Scores (Universal France, 2011)
  8. ^ "Georges Delerue, 67, a Composer On Truffaut and Stone Films, Dies". The New York Times. 23 March 1992. Retrieved 6 March 2012.
  9. ^ "Georges Delerue". Allmusic. Retrieved 4 March 2012.
  10. ^ "Awards for Georges Delerue". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 4 March 2012.

External links[edit]