Academy Award-nominated and Emmy-winning composer John Morris died in his home in Red Hook, NY on Thursday, January 25. He was 91.
According to the New York Times, Morris’ daughter, Bronwen Morris said he died from a respiratory infection.
Morris was born in Elizabeth NJ on October 18, 1926. He studied at New York’s Juilliard School of Music and the New School for Social Research. He went on to work o Broadway starting in the ’50s and well into the ’70s, doing dance arrangements for notable musicals including Bells Are Ringing, Bye Bye Birdie, and Mack and Mabel. He also had his hand in Shakespeare, composing music for productions of King Lear and Hamlet.
His work in Broadway eventually led to him writing his own musical, A Time for Singing, a musical version of How Green Was My Valley. He worked with Gerald Freedman on the books and lyrics of the musical that ran from May to June 1966.
Morris is best known for collaborating with Mel Brooks on his comedies. He first worked with Brooks on 1967’s The Producers. He wrote the arrangement for the popular tune “Springtime For Hitler” on the musical and composed the score for the film. He also wrote the main theme Young Frankenstein and worked on the dramatic score The Elephant Man, which earned him a Grammy nomination. The two worked together for 24 years on 10 films including The Twelve Chairs, Silent Movie, High Anxiety, History of the World Part I, To Be or Not To Be, Spaceballs, and Life Stinks.
Outside of the Brooks cinematic universe, he wrote scores for benchmark films during the ’80s including Johnny Dangerously, Clue, Dirty Dancing, Ironweed, and Stella.
On the TV side, he wrote music for many shows throughout the ’70s, and well into the ’90s. He wrote the theme for Julia Child’s The French Chef as well as the lively marching band theme for Coach starring Craig T. Nelson. He wrote the score for several miniseries and was honored with a Daytime Emmy in 1978 for the afterschool special The Tap Dance Kid.