In the company of greatness

A guttural chuckle between bites of popcorn came from behind our movie theater seats.

Toes tapped to the film soundtrack.

My friends and I giggled with schoolgirl delight and amazement.

The 79 time Grammy nominated composer Quincy Jones was sitting behind us in the Egyptian Theater in Los Angeles.

Italian JobMoments before, Jones was interviewed by TCM host Ben Mankiewicz at the 2014 Turner Classic Movies Film Festival before “The Italian Job” (1969) starring Michael Caine. Jones composed the score for the film.

Jones’s music in the film is a quirky, 1960s English style with an English jig at the end.

“Nineteen year old Elton John said only a Brit could write a song like that,” Jones said. “I said, ‘Wanna bet?'”

“The Italian Job” is a British comedic caper film about a group of men stealing gold during a traffic jam in Italy. The film is also famous for it’s use of Austin Minis in the climactic heist.

“Michael Caine is one of the greatest guys,” Jones said.

Jones gave a mischievous chuckle while recalling the time he and Caine both dated actress Raquel Welch at the same time.

“That was funny,” he said. “OH that was funny.”

Other film scores Jones composed include “The Pawnbroker” (1964), “The Slender Thread” (1965),  “Walk Don’t Run” (1966) and “In Cold Blood” (1967). Along with his film work, Jones worked with musicians and performers such as Michael Jackson, Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin.

“Music in ‘In Cold Blood’ all boils down to building tension and then release,” he said. “The movie was filmed in the house where the actual murders took place. That was scary.”

Quincy Jones during an interview with Ben Mankiewicz during the TCMFF, April 11, 2014. Jones discussed his career and "The Italian Job" (Getty Images)

Quincy Jones during an interview with Ben Mankiewicz during the TCMFF, April 11, 2014. Jones discussed his career and “The Italian Job” (Getty Images)

Author of the novel Truman Capote was mad when he learned a “black guy” was composing the music to the film. Once Capote heard the score, he relented.

“Just drama–You know,” Jones said casually, waving his hand with dismissal.

Jones was approached by Steve McQueen and Ali McGraw to compose the music for “The Getaway” (1972), replacing composer Jerry Fielding at McQueen’s request.

“I composed the music for that film in 10 days,” Jones said. “You don’t let it get around Hollywood that you can compose a film in 10 days.”

His friendship with composer Henry Mancini helped him break into the business, he said.

“When composing for a film, you look at the script with the director and decide when the music stops and starts in the film,” Jones said.

Jones discussed his time in Hollywood and relationship with celebrities. Jones was good friends with singer, actor Frank Sinatra, who gave him a ring he still wears. However, Sinatra wasn’t kind to everyone.

1964: Quincy Jones and Frank Sinatra in Sinatra's dressing room.

1964: Quincy Jones and Frank Sinatra in Sinatra’s dressing room.

“He either loved you, or he would roll over you in a Mac truck while driving it in reverse,” Jones said.

After the interview, the 81-year-old walked a few rows back and sat right down behind us. He promptly received a bag of popcorn and became just another fan.

This is a follow up vignette from the 2014 Turner Classic Movies Film Festival, April 9-April 14.

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