Henry Mancini often doesn’t get much respect as a film composer. And on some level, you can understand why. Mancini’s soundtrack albums more often than not were re-recorded and repackaged to make them more palatable as albums. As such, they can be great fun to listen to, but usually don’t present the score in its best possible light. You’ll hear the highlights, but miss the meat of the music.
With its smooth sheen, Mancini’s instantly recognizable sound gets unfairly lumped in with the “easy listening” crowd. Categorizing him as such means missing out on some truly wonderful music.
Mancini composed one of his most haunting melodies for TWO FOR THE ROAD (1967). The film stars Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney as a bitter married couple looking back on their path to unhappiness. In Maurice Binder’s lovely main title sequence, primary-colored images of the road—signs, stoplights, trees—float by as if seen through a windshield or a rearview mirror, while Mancini’s wistful melody captures a poignant sadness.
With a piano and tinkling celeste eighth notes in the accompaniment and a gentle beat in the percussion, Mancini allows the heartbreaking theme to tug with unexpressed emotion and heartache.