For those familiar with the jazz elements of composer Henry Mancini’s myriad film scores, it should come as no surprise that he began his professional career in swing, first working with Benny Goodman then joining the Glenn Miller band following World War II (minus Glenn Miller, a member of the Army Air Force who went missing in action in 1944). In 1952 Universal hired Mancini to work on the score of Lost in Alaska, an Abbott and Costello feature. It would be the first of hundreds of assignments with various studios, with his more lauded compositions gracing the soundtracks of Touch of Evil (1958), Experiment in Terror (1962), Days of Wine and Roses (1962), Charade (1963), The Great Race (1965), Two for the Road (1967) and Victor Victoria (1982).
Here are three of Henry Mancini’s most famous creations—resilient, instantly recognizable elements of the composer’s legacy.
“The Pink Panther Theme” was first used over the animated credits for, naturally, The Pink Panther (1963) and went on to grace all but two of the 12 films in the series as well as countless animated shorts.
Perhaps Mancini’s most unexpected hit was the goofy and almost annoyingly catchy “Baby Elephant Walk,” a bit of incidental music to underscore a scene involving baby elephants out for a walk in the film Hatari! (1962). [Bonus: John Wayne “speaks” German!]