Henry Mancini: Thief at Dinner


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Most of Henry Mancini's scores are easy on the ear and many have a 1960s melancholy optimism that was so much a part of the feel back then. His soundtracks nearly always inhale and exhale uniformly and build a mood with jazzy pearls-and-champagne grace that's unmatched in Hollywood. Much of this luster and sparkle came from Mancini's inventive instrumentation—such as putting a harpsichord on top of strings with flutes or a bass clarinet. His textures were always inventive and lustrous.

His most familiar scores are those from the early 1960s—roughly from TV's Mr. Lucky in 1960 to Darling Lili in 1970. But Mancini scored films up to 1993, with Son of the Pink Panther being the last before his death in1994. Listening to many of these soundtracks while writing over the past week, I stumbled upon a perfect gem that had escaped me: His score for The Thief Who Came to Dinner, a nothing movie directed by Bud Yorkin and released in 1973 about a computer programmer who quits his job to become a jewel thief. Enough said.

The score, however, is another matter. As Scott Bettencourt and Lukas Kendall writein the liner notes to the CD, “Always a master of orchestral color, Mancini designed an ensemble blending orchestral and 'mod' elements that updated his '60s cocktail-dramatic sound for the Shaft era: the orchestra totaled 55 players at most."

This score is pure 1960s meets the '70s. It's as authentic a sound as you'll find—sunken living rooms and shag rugs meet long sideburns and muscle cars. I can't stop listening to it.

JazzWax tracks: You'll find Henry Mancini's soundtrack for the Thief Who Came to Dinner here.

JazzWax clips: Here's the film's main theme...


Here's the Love Theme for Laura...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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