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updated: 8/7/2012 10:05 AM

Composer Marvin Hamlisch dies at 68 in Los Angeles

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  • Award-winning composer Marvin Hamlisch, best known for the torch song "The Way We Were," died Monday, Aug. 6, in Los Angeles. He was 68.

    Award-winning composer Marvin Hamlisch, best known for the torch song "The Way We Were," died Monday, Aug. 6, in Los Angeles. He was 68.
    Associated Press File Photo

  • Marvin Hamlisch, who composed the scores for dozens of movies including "The Sting," died Monday.

    Marvin Hamlisch, who composed the scores for dozens of movies including "The Sting," died Monday.
    Associated Press File Photo

  • Composer Marvin Hamlisch, here with Barbra Streisand at the Cedars-Sinai Board of Governors Gala in 2011, died Monday, Aug. 6, at age 68.

    Composer Marvin Hamlisch, here with Barbra Streisand at the Cedars-Sinai Board of Governors Gala in 2011, died Monday, Aug. 6, at age 68.
    Associated Press File Photo

  • Composer Marvin Hamlisch, right, at the piano worked with lyricist Howard Ashman in 1986. Hamlisch died Monday.

    Composer Marvin Hamlisch, right, at the piano worked with lyricist Howard Ashman in 1986. Hamlisch died Monday.
    Associated Press File Photo

  • Marvin Hamlisch, left, and theatrical producer Joseph Papp attended the record-breaking 3,389th performance of the musical "A Chorus Line" in New York in 1983.

    Marvin Hamlisch, left, and theatrical producer Joseph Papp attended the record-breaking 3,389th performance of the musical "A Chorus Line" in New York in 1983.
    Associated Press File Photo

 
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- Marvin Hamlisch, who composed the scores for dozens of movies including "The Sting" and won a Tony for "A Chorus Line," has died in Los Angeles at 68.

Hamlisch collapsed and died Monday after a brief illness, his publicist Ken Sunshine said on behalf of the family. Other details were not released.

Hamlisch's career included composing, conducting and arranging music from Broadway to Hollywood.

The composer won every major award in his career, including three Academy Awards, four Emmys, a Tony and three Golden Globes.

His music colored some of film and Broadway's most important works.

Hamlisch composed more than 40 film scores, including "Sophie's Choice," "Ordinary People" and "Take the Money and Run." He won his third Oscar for his adaptation of Scott Joplin's music for "The Sting." On Broadway, Hamlisch received the Pulitzer Prize for long-running favorite "The Chorus Line" and wrote "The Goodbye Girl" and "Sweet Smell of Success." A news release from his publicist said he was scheduled to fly to Nashville, Tenn., this week to see a production of his hit musical, "The Nutty Professor."

He even reached into the pop world, writing the No. 1 R&B hit "Break It to Me Gently" with Carole Bayer Sager for Aretha Franklin. He won the 1974 Grammys for best new artist and song of the year, "The Way We Were," performed by Barbra Streisand.

Although he was one of the youngest students ever at the Juilliard School of Music, he never studied conducting. "I remember somebody told me, 'Earn while you learn,'" he told The Associated Press in 1996.

"The Way We Were" exemplified Hamlisch's old-fashioned appeal it was a big, sentimental movie ballad that brought huge success in the rock era. He was extremely versatile, able to write for stage and screen, for soundtracks ranging from Woody Allen comedies to a somber drama like "Ordinary People."

He was perhaps even better known for his work adapting Joplin on "The Sting." In the mid-'70s, it seemed everybody with a piano had the sheet music to "The Entertainer," the movie's theme song. To this day, it's blasted by ice cream trucks.

Hamlisch earned his place in American culture through his music, but he also had a place in popular culture. Known for his nerdy look, complete with thick eyeglasses, that image was sealed on NBC's "Saturday Night Live" during Gilda Radner's "Nerd" sketches. Radner, playing Lisa Loopner, would swoon over Hamlisch.

Hamlisch was principal pops conductor for symphony orchestras in Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Dallas, Pasadena, Seattle and San Diego. He was to be announced to the same position with the Philadelphia Orchestra and also was due to lead the New York Philharmonic during its upcoming New Year's Eve concert.

He was working on a new musical, "Gotta Dance," at the time of his death and was scheduled to write the score for a new film on Liberace, "Behind the Candelabra."

He leaves behind a legacy in film and music that transcended notes on the page. As illustrative as the scenes playing out in front of the music, his scores helped define some of Hollywood's most iconic works.

He is survived by his wife of 25 years, Terre.

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