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John Addison 1920-1998

by Lukas Kendall

British film composer John Addison, 78, passed away last Monday, December 7, of a stroke in Bennington, Vermont, where he had been living. He was an Oscar-winner for his score to Tom Jones (1963) and wrote the well known theme music for Murder, She Wrote. Among his other film scores are Torn Curtain, Seven Days to Noon, The Charge of the Light Brigade, Sleuth, Swashbuckler and A Bridge Too Far.

You can read newspaper obituaries for Addison at the L.A. Times and New York Times web sites; type "John Addison" in the search field. (You may have to register with the NY Times.)

Film music agent Richard Kraft was kind of to contribute these thoughts upon learning of Addison's passing:

    I interviewed John Addison with my brother David about 1980. I later worked with him when I was head of music for Cannon Films when he wrote the score for the the Katherine Hepburn/Nick Nolte film, THE ULTIMATE SOLUTION OF GRACE QUIGLEY directed by his longtime collaborator Tony Richardson. Here of my memories of him:

    John Addison was very sly, very soft-spoken and very British. He definitely seemed like a stranger in a strange land... not just an Englishman in Hollywood, but an old fashion gentleman stranded in a time and place that had stopped appreciating a finely crafted, orchestral film score.

    By the time I met John he was working in television and low-budget films that rarely saw the light of a projector. It broke my heart. Here was the witty voice of TOM JONES, the devilish spirit of TORN CURTAIN and SLEUTH, the playful spark of SWASHBUCKLER and the reflective soul of A BRIDGE TOO FAR struggling to get gigs in a town that thought he was no longer relevent.

    John would have one more success after I met him. He penned the perfect theme to accompany the television series MURDER SHE WROTE. Every time I hear this lightly romping theme I think of John decked out in his turtlenecks and tweed smiling sweetly with a sparkle in his eye. He was like a grand character out of WIND AND THE WILLOWS, someone more in place in Toad Hall than the San Fernando Valley.

    Eventually I lost touch with John; I heard he had moved to Vermont. I imagined he would be a lot happier there than facing more indignities in an industry that had changed too much for this gentle man.

We will compile a more comprehensive obituary on this distinguished composer for an upcoming issue of Film Score Monthly. In the meantime, for a complete list of his credits, see the Internet Movie Database's list at,+John+(I).

For those wishing to send their condolences, Addison's family has asked that in lieu of flowers, contributions be made in John's memory to: Sage City Symphony, PO Box 547, Shaftsbury VT 05262.

If there's anyone out there who knew Addison, or just a fan who would like to share his or her thoughts, please write us:

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