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Obit: 'Chorus Line' Composer Marvin Hamlisch Wrote for Film, Theater and TV --and Streisand

Photo of Aljean Harmetz By Aljean Harmetz | Thompson on Hollywood August 7, 2012 at 7:57PM

Marvin Hamlisch, a composer who moved effortlessly from movies to musical theatre to television, winning Grammys, Emmys, Oscars and a Tony award, died unexpectedly on Monday, August 6, at the age of 68 after a brief illness. Hamlisch and Richard Rodgers are the only two composers who have won all of those awards as well as a Pulitzer Prize. As the composer of “A Chorus Line,” Hamlisch shared the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1976.

Marvin Hamlisch was born on June 2, 1944.  Viennese Jews, his parents had come to America to escape the Nazis. His father, Max, was an accordionist and bandleader, and Marvin was a musical prodigy.  At the age of seven, he was offered a place at Julliard.  When he left 13 years later, his first job was as a rehearsal pianist for the Broadway musical, “Funny Girl.”  That job began an association and friendship with the musical’s star, Barbra Streisand, that would last for decades and lead in later years to Emmys for HBO’s documentary of Streisand’s 1994 concert tour and, in 2001, for “Barbra Streisand – Timeless.”

In recent years, Hamlisch had a second career as a conductor.  He was currently the principal pops conductor for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, and several others.  Within the last few weeks, according to the Pasadena Symphony president Melinda Shea, he had signed a three-year contract with the symphony.

Hamlisch is survived by his wife Terre Blair. 

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.