Oscar-Nominated Composer John Morris Dies at 91

Obituaries   Oscar-Nominated Composer John Morris Dies at 91
A frequent collaborator of Mel Brooks’, the composer worked on a number of films and musicals throughout his long career.
John Morris
John Morris The Film Music Society

Oscar-nominated film and musical theatre composer John Morris has died at age 91. A frequent collaborator of Mel Brooks’, Morris was a two-time Academy Award nominee for the score of The Elephant Man, which Brooks produced, and for the title song of Brooks’ Western satire Blazing Saddles, which he co-wrote with Brooks.

Angela Lansbury and Kurt Peterson in <i>Dear World</i>, 1969
Angela Lansbury and Kurt Peterson in Dear World, 1969 Friedman-Abeles

Morris worked on a number of Broadway musicals throughout his long career, mostly as a composer of dance arrangements and incidental music. Some of his credits include the Jerry Herman musicals Dear World with Angela Lansbury (1969) and Mack & Mabel with Bernadette Peters (1974), as well as Wildcat starring Lucille Ball (1960), Hot Spot with Judy Holliday (1963), Baker Street (1965), and Hamlet (1975).

He also composed the score and co-wrote the book and lyrics of the 1966 Broadway musical A Time for Singing with Gerald Freedman.

Though Morris and Brooks’ first film collaboration was Brooks’ feature film debut, the 1967 non-musical The Producers, they first worked together on the 1957 Broadway musical Shinbone Alley. Brooks’ adaptation of Don Marquis’ stories featured a score by George Kleinsinger and lyrics by Joe Darion, with additional musical routines by Morris.

A decade later, Morris reunited with Brooks on The Producers, for which he composed the score. Though Brooks later adapted the film into a multi-Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, he and Morris did not work on the stage adaptation together.

The two did collaborate on over 20 films, including Young Frankenstein, which was also adapted into a musical (though Morris was not attached), as well as the comedies High Anxiety and Silent Movie.

Morris died on January 25 in New York, according to The New York Times.