Composer Marvin Hamlisch dead at 68

FILE - This undated file image originally provided by Columbia Artists Management Inc. LLC shows Marvin Hamlisch. Hamlisch, a conductor and award-winning composer best known for the torch song "The Way We Were," died Monday, Aug. 6, 2012 in Los Angeles. He was 68. (AP Photo/Columbia Artists Management Inc. LLC, Jason Cohn)
Jason Cohn

(CBS/AP) Marvin Hamlisch, who composed the scores for dozens of movies including "The Sting" and won a Tony for "A Chorus Line," has died in Los Angeles at 68.

Hamlisch collapsed and died Monday after a brief illness, his publicist Ken Sunshine said on behalf of the family. Other details were not released.

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Hamlisch's career included composing, conducting and arranging music from Broadway to Hollywood.

The composer won every major award in his career, including three Academy Awards, four Emmys, a Tony and three Golden Globes.

His music colored some of film and Broadway's most important works.

He composed more than 40 film scores, including "Sophie's Choice," "Ordinary People," "Three Men and a Baby," "The Informant!" and "Take the Money and Run." He won his third Oscar for his adaptation of Scott Joplin's music for "The Sting." On Broadway, Hamlisch received the Pulitzer Prize for long-running favorite "The Chorus Line" and wrote "The Goodbye Girl" and "Sweet Smell of Success."

The Julliard School of Music graduate even reached into the pop world, writing the No. 1 R&B hit "Break It to Me Gently" with Carole Bayer Sager for Aretha Franklin. He won the 1974 Grammys for best new artist and song of the year, "The Way We Were," performed by Barbra Streisand.

That ballad exemplified Hamlisch's old-fashioned appeal - it was a big, sentimental movie ballad that brought huge success in the rock era. He was extremely versatile, able to write for stage and screen, for soundtracks ranging from Woody Allen comedies to a somber drama like "Ordinary People."

He was perhaps even better known for his work adapting Joplin on "The Sting." In the mid-'70s, it seemed everybody with a piano had the sheet music to "The Entertainer," the movie's theme song. To this day, it's blasted by ice cream trucks.

A news release from his publicist said he was scheduled to fly to Nashville, Tenn., this week to see a production of his hit musical, "The Nutty Professor." Hamlisch was also expected to conduct the New York Philharmonic's upcoming New Year's Eve concert.

According to his website, Hamlisch had been working on a new musical called "Gotta Dance." He was also writing the music for a buzzed-about Steven Soderbergh-directed movie about Liberace, starring Michael Douglas and Matt Damon.

Hamlisch earned his place in American culture through his music, but he also had a place in popular culture. He was known for his nerdy look, complete with thick eyeglasses, an image that was sealed on NBC's "Saturday Night Live" during Gilda Radner's "Nerd" sketches. Radner, playing Lisa Loopner, would swoon over Hamlisch.

Hamlisch was principal pops conductor for symphony orchestras in Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Dallas, Pasadena, Seattle and San Diego at the time of his death.

He leaves behind a legacy in film and music that transcended far beyond notes on the page. As illustrative as the scenes playing out in front of the music, his scores helped define some of Hollywood's most iconic works.

In July, he told Broadway World, "Music is truly an international language and it has the ability to bring people together like nothing else ... except comedy."

He is survived by Terre, his wife of 25 years.