03 August 2023

Bafta-winning composer Carl Davis dies aged 86

03 August 2023

Bafta-winning composer and conductor Carl Davis has died at the age of 86, his family has said.

Davis, whose music credits include the BBC’s 1995 drama Pride And Prejudice, won a Bafta and an Ivor Novello Award for his score to 1981 classic The French Lieutenant’s Woman.

A statement from the family said: “We are heartbroken to announce that Carl Davis (CBE) passed away this morning, following a brain haemorrhage.

“We are so proud that Carl’s legacy will be his astonishing impact on music. A consummate all-round musician, he was the driving force behind the reinvention of the silent movie for this generation and he wrote scores for some of the most-loved and remembered British television dramas.

“He was a conductor and composer of symphonic works, as well as a notable writer for the ballet.

“In 2005 he was awarded a CBE (Hon). A beloved father, grandfather and husband, Carl married the actress Jean Boht in 1970. They have two daughters, Hannah and Jessie and three grandchildren, Molly, Fred and Alice.

“The family would like to send their grateful thanks to the paramedics who assisted Carl and the neurological ICU team at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.”

We are heartbroken to announce that Carl Davis (CBE) passed away this morning, following a brain haemorrhage

Grammy award nominee Davis’s other notable credits include music for BBC drama Upstairs, Downstairs in 2012, following his work on Cranford in 2007, as well as writing music for films including 1984 hit Champions starring Sir John Hurt, 1989’s Scandal with Sir Ian McKellen and Joanne Whalley, and most famously The French Lieutenant’s Woman with Meryl Streep.

His music has accompanied a host of British classics including 1971’s Up Pompeii!, Widows’ Peak in 1994 with the late Natasha Richardson and Mia Farrow and 1993’s The Trial with Sir Anthony Hopkins.

In the 1970s, Sir Jeremy Isaacs commissioned Davis to write the award-winning score for The World At War television series and he was later commissioned by the BBC to write the music for a host of it’s classic serials.

His scores for the small screen include The Snow Goose, Hotel Du Lac, Hollywood, The Naked Civil Servant, Silas Marner, The Commanding Sea, Goodnight Mister Tom, A Dance To The Music Of Time and Oppenheimer.

Born in New York in 1936, his early work included co-authoring the music to the revue Diversions, which won an Off-Broadway Emmy, before moving to London in 1960.

Following on from his work on the Hollywood series, he created a score for Abel Gance’s epic Napoleon, and went on to write and reconstruct scores for over 50 silent films ranging from Charlie Chaplin to Buster Keaton.

As well as a composer, Davis was a conductor and notable writer for the ballet, debuting two newly composed full-length ballets in 2019, The Great Gatsby for the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre in the US and Chaplin: The Tramp for the Slovak National Ballet in Bratislava.

His composition Last Train To Tomorrow, based on the story of the Kindertransport, had its London Premiere at the Roundhouse in Camden in 2014, in the presence of the King, then the Prince of Wales.

Davis is survived by his wife Jean Boht, his two daughters and three grandchildren.

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