British song writing genius Leslie Bricusse behind Willy Wonka and Goldfinger dies aged 90

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Leslie Bricusse’s sole showbusiness connection was that his grandmother had scrubbed the steps of the Apollo Theatre, reverse Victoria Station.

Incredibly, by the point he died yesterday, aged 90, Bricusse was the composer and lyricist for greater than 40 blockbuster musicals on stage and display screen.

He was nominated for ten Oscars, successful two. On the mantelpiece have been 9 Grammys and 4 Tonys.

The man was an establishment, a phenomenon. Like everybody else, I’ve spent my life immersed in his soundtracks: Doctor Dolittle (Talk To The Animals), Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory (Oompa-Loompa), the splendidly brassy songs for Goldfinger and You Only Live Twice. 

Sir Harry Secombe as Pickwick opening his larynx and belting out, ‘If I dominated the world!’ – Bricusse got here up with that one, too.

Bricusse, together with his long-term collaborator, Anthony Newley, was accountable for basic Sixties reveals akin to Stop The World – I Want To Get Off and The Roar Of The Greasepaint – The Smell Of The Crowd. 

Their songs have been splashy, raunchy hits – and proceed to be. Feeling Good, from the latter musical, made well-known by Tony Bennett and Nina Simone, was given a giant band association for Joe Biden’s inaugural presidential live performance.

Bricusse was born in Pinner (Elton John a neighbour) in 1931. His bed room was wallpapered with posters for MGM extravaganzas, and he took faucet dancing and piano classes. 

After National Service, he went to Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, the place he was president of Footlights.

His first job within the theatre was as a foil to Beatrice Lillie, the Victoria Wood of her day, an eccentric artiste who wore a fez, sang comedian ditties about there being ‘Fairies on the backside of the backyard’ and impersonated a roller-skating bear.

Lillie, in actual life Lady Peel, had misplaced her son when his ship, the HMS Hermes, was sunk by the Japanese. She unofficially adopted Bricusse – and when he went on honeymoon, he and his bride, Evie, photographed Lady Peel’s son’s monument in a struggle cemetery. ‘She’d by no means seen it earlier than,’ mentioned Bricusse, poignantly.

Lillie’s philosophy of comedy was: ‘Tell them what you would possibly do; do one thing else; then deny having executed it.’ 

It’s an method Bricusse discovered congenial – as a result of should you have a look at the topics he tailored and set to music for the theatre and cinema display screen (Peter Pan, Scrooge, Jekyll and Hyde, Sherlock Holmes, Cyrano de Bergerac amongst them), he was drawn at all times to highly effective people who’re fighting life, mastering it of their unique approach.

His first success, with Newley, was Stop The World – I Want To Get Off, which opened in 1961 and performed for 485 performances within the West End. 

It has a broad circus or cabaret theme, and offers with cosmic topics, such because the dissatisfactions of existence and the need of affection.

One of the numbers, What Kind Of Fool Am I?, received the Ivor Novello Award. It has since turn out to be an ordinary, recorded by Tony Bennett, Andy Williams, Shirley Bassey and Kermit the Frog.

The Roar Of The Greasepaint – The Smell Of The Crowd regarded as if it wouldn’t repeat the success of its predecessor. 

This time there was a music corridor format, nearly a Punch and Judy sales space format – the theme is that of violence and submission, the animosity between a grasp and servant, with the emblematic characters referred to as Sir, Cocky and Kid.

Then, for Hollywood, there was Doctor Dolittle, (pictured) which involved Bricusse having to deal with the scornful and impossible Rex Harrison, whom Bricusse, an affable, intelligent, charming man, found ‘formidable and ferocious'

Then, for Hollywood, there was Doctor Dolittle, (pictured) which concerned Bricusse having to cope with the scornful and inconceivable Rex Harrison, whom Bricusse, an affable, clever, charming man, discovered ‘formidable and ferocious’

The manufacturing, starring Norman Wisdom as Cocky, closed in Liverpool or Leicester and by no means reached London. 

Two of the songs, nonetheless, Who Can I Turn To and the rousing Feeling Good, have been recorded by Dusty Springfield. An American producer got interested and, choreographed by Gillian Lynne, and with Newley changing Norman Wisdom, the musical was a success in New York.

Then, for Hollywood, there was Doctor Dolittle, which concerned Bricusse having to cope with the scornful and inconceivable Rex Harrison, whom Bricusse, an affable, clever, charming man, discovered ‘formidable and ferocious’.

For instance, Bricusse offered the star with the lyrics for Talk To The Animals. Rex wasn’t joyful. ‘It is such a foolish song,’ he opined. Rex significantly objected to the rhyming of ‘rhinoceros’ with ‘of courseros’. He didn’t assume it ‘good English’ – and Rex had received the Oscar for (and recognized with) the linguistic stickler, Professor Higgins.

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‘Dr Dolittle and I occur each to be and to talk English,’ Rex imperiously snapped. Bricusse patiently defined it was meant as a comic book quantity. ‘A humorous song is supposed to be humorous,’ persevered Rex. ‘This isn’t humorous. God shield me from f***ing puns. Silly schoolboy stuff.’

He walked out and was changed by Christopher Plummer. Rex then begged to be reinstated, which he was, and his spouse Rachel Roberts begged to be allowed to dub the barking canine, which she wasn’t. Talk To The Animals proceeded to win the Academy Award for finest song in 1967.

The songs from Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory, initially written in six weeks, have had a lifetime of their very own. Pure Imagination, sung by Gene Wilder, was admired by Sinatra, Garland, Streisand and Lena Horne. 

Another fan was Fred Astaire, who desperately wished to painting Willy Wonka on display screen. The producers most popular somebody youthful.

The Candy Man, once more within the film, grew to become an enormous hit for Sammy Davis Jr, certainly his first Number One worldwide success. He’d cellphone Bricusse up each week with the countdown – ‘It’s at 18, 14, 12, earlier than it grew to become Number One,’ the composer/lyricist recalled with amusement.

Indeed, Sammy recorded greater than 60 of Bricusse’s numbers, and on one event stored an viewers captive till 5am on the Palladium going by them. When he died, Bricusse was engaged on a musical about Sammy’s life, which needed to be curtailed owing to Covid.

Another perennial was Scrooge, first devised in 1970 as a film with Albert Finney – Rex had dropped out. It nonetheless seems as a stage model in some provincial metropolis most Christmases, starring Tommy Steele. 

The man was an institution, a phenomenon. Like everyone else, I’ve spent my life immersed in his soundtracks: Doctor Dolittle (Talk To The Animals), Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory (Oompa-Loompa), the wonderfully brassy songs for Goldfinger and You Only Live Twice.

The man was an establishment, a phenomenon. Like everybody else, I’ve spent my life immersed in his soundtracks: Doctor Dolittle (Talk To The Animals), Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory (Oompa-Loompa), the splendidly brassy songs for Goldfinger and You Only Live Twice.

I as soon as noticed it in Oxford, with Anthony Newley and an excellent supporting solid. Jon Pertwee was Marley’s Ghost and a rotund Stratford Johns was the Ghost of Christmas Past. All now gone to their reward.

Bricusse’s reveals, actually, are mounted everywhere in the world. They significantly admire him in South Korea and China. 

There is speak of Netflix making a sequence of animations. Bricusse stored up together with his business and inventive pursuits proper till the top, if ‘primarily on the cellphone to date’.

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What this implies – and meant for many of Bricusse’s profession – is that his copyrights are very profitable, affording him homes and villas in Beverly Hills, Malta, Gstaad, Acapulco and Saint-Paul de Vence, amongst different spots overlooking blue seas, swimming pools or crisp snow.

The south of France place was stuffed with work by Bricusse’s neighbour, Chagall. ‘We don’t have an inch of wall house anyplace.’ There was additionally an residence on the Thames in London.

Bricusse was at all times thrilled he’d been in a position to benefit from the ‘sybaritic, hedonistic heaven’ which was Hollywood within the Sixties and Seventies. Ava (*90*), running from the Press, banged on his door, in search of sanctuary. Sean Connery hid up a tree.

Bricusse launched Sondheim to John Lennon and taught Barbra Streisand how one can converse in an English accent fairly than a Brooklyn honk for On A Clear Day You Can See Forever. 

The songs from Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory, initially written in six weeks, have had a life of their own

The songs from Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory, initially written in six weeks, have had a lifetime of their very own

Each weekend there was a celebration for the ‘British refugees’ – Michael Caine, Christopher Lee, Samantha Eggar, David Hemmings and Roger Moore. There was even a celebration, in April 1984, for Prince Andrew.

In 1958, Bricusse married Yvonne Romain, a semi-Maltese magnificence who’d starred in Double Trouble reverse Elvis Presley.

She, Evie, was additionally in The Saint with Roger Moore, their neighbour in Los Angeles, Switzerland and Monaco.

Bricusse and Evie had an enviably lengthy and joyful match – their son Adam is an artist; there are quite a few grandchildren – and it’s that factor of joyousness, of zest and oomph, which at all times made Bricusse’s compositions compelling, life-enhancing. (Newley, I believe, who died in 1999, and was married to Joan Collins between 1963 and 1970, injected the darker strains.)

If Charles Dickens went into showbusiness, he’d have been Leslie Bricusse – the vaudeville gusto, the exaggerated characters, the streak of shameless sentimentality.

From Secombe’s Pickwick, benignly ruling the world, Willy Wonka’s ballad about believing within the creativeness, Sammy Davis’s many renditions, Nina Simone’s model of Feeling Good, to Julie Andrews within the transsexual present Victor/Victoria (which received Bricusse his second Oscar in 1983) – the which means of the songs he wrote may be summed up in three potent (and by some means topical) phrases: Freedom is mine. 

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