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John Addison
Addison in 1953.
Addison in 1953.
Background information
Birth nameJohn Mervyn Addison
Born(1920-03-16)16 March 1920
Chobham, Surrey, England
Died7 December 1998(1998-12-07) (aged 78)
Bennington, Vermont, U.S.

John Mervyn Addison (16 March 1920 – 7 December 1998) was a British composer best known for his film scores.[1]

Early life

Addison was born in Chobham, Surrey[2] to a father who was a colonel in the Royal Field Artillery, and this influenced the decision to send him to school at Wellington College, Berkshire. His grandfather was Lieut-Colonel George Addison, who played for the Royal Engineers in the 1872 and 1874 FA Cup Finals.

At the age of sixteen he entered the Royal College of Music,[3] where he studied composition with Gordon Jacob, oboe with Léon Goossens, and clarinet with Frederick Thurston.[2] This education ended in 1939 with service in World War II. Addison served with the British XXX Corps in the 23rd Hussars. He was a tank officer in the Battle of Normandy and wounded at Caen, later participating in Operation Market Garden. Addison would later write the score for the film A Bridge Too Far about the operation. At the end of the war, he returned to London to teach composition at the Royal College of Music.


Addison is best known for his film scores. He won an Academy Award for Best Original Score and a Grammy Award in the Best Original Score from a Motion Picture or Television Show category for the music to the 1963 film, Tom Jones.[3] He also won a BAFTA Award for A Bridge Too Far (1977). His other film scores included A Taste of Honey (1961), Smashing Time (1967), The Honey Pot (1967),[4] Sleuth (1972), Swashbuckler (1976) and the television series Centennial (1978).

He composed the theme music for the television series Murder, She Wrote, and won an Emmy for the 2-hour pilot episode in the Outstanding Achievement in Music Composition for a Series (dramatic underscore) category. Addison will also be remembered as the composer Alfred Hitchcock turned to when the director ended his long relationship with Bernard Herrmann over the score to his 1966 film Torn Curtain,[3] although Addison was not hired for any of his other films.

He had a personal connection to Reach for the Sky (1956) which he scored, since Douglas Bader (the subject of the movie) was his brother-in-law, having married Addison's elder sister Thelma.[5]

For the theatre, Addison wrote the music for John Osborne's plays The Entertainer (1957)[6] and Luther (1961).[7] He collaborated with John Cranko on a revue, "Cranks" in 1956.[8]

Although he wrote numerous classical compositions, Addison explained that "If you find you're good at something, as I was as a film composer, it's stupid to do anything else." His classical works included the Concerto for trumpet, strings and percussion (1949), described by The Times as "buoyant" and "Gershwinesque";[9] a trio for oboe, clarinet and bassoon;[10] Carte Blanche, a ballet for Sadler's Wells first performed at the 1953 Edinburgh Festival[11] from which an orchestral suite of "sophisticated high spirits" was performed at the Proms;[12] a septet for wind and harp,[13] a piano concertino,[14][15] a concertante for oboe, clarinet, horn and orchestra;[16] and a partita for strings, which was warmly praised.[17] The Bassoon Concertino was one of his last compositions. It was premiered by Graham Salvage and the Hallé Orchestra on 4 July 1998 at the BBC Proms.[18]

Marlene Dietrich recorded If He Swing By the String and Such Trying Times from the music in Tom Jones.

Addison's collection of correspondence, scores, and studio recordings were donated to the Film Music Archives at Brigham Young University in 1994. He was survived by his wife Pamela; two sons Jonathan and Daniel; daughter Lucinda; stepson Rex Birchenough, and stepdaughter Sandra Stapleton. His daughter Jane pre-deceased him.

Film scores

Music composed for TV

Concert works


  1. ^ "John Addison". Archived from the original on 5 February 2017.
  2. ^ a b Randel, Don Michael, ed. (1996). "Addison, John". The Harvard biographical dictionary of music. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press. pp. 5. ISBN 0-674-37299-9.
  3. ^ a b c The Guardian obituary, 15 December 1998
  4. ^ The Honey Pot: original motion picture score OCLC 20325955
  5. ^ Frayn Turner, John (30 April 2009). Douglas Bader: The Biography of the Legendary World War II Fighter Pilot. Pen and Sword Books. p. 233. ISBN 978-15-267-3615-4.
  6. ^ Tynan, Kenneth. Tynan on Theatre, Penguin Books, London, 1964, p. 50
  7. ^ The Times, 7 July 1961, p. 15
  8. ^ The Times, 24 May 1956, p. 3
  9. ^ The Times, 18 July 1950, p. 8 and 18 June 1951, p. 2
  10. ^ The Times, 18 April 1952, p. 2
  11. ^ The Times, 19 August 1953, p. 4
  12. ^ BBC Proms performance archive, 11 August 1956
  13. ^ The Times, 27 February 1957, p. 3
  14. ^ 1959, commissioned for and performed by the then "National Schools Symphony Orchestra" (not to be confused with the later National Schools Symphony Orchestra), otherwise called the "British Youth Orchestra" ( ), following the withdrawal of his former teacher, Gordon Jacob from the commission, following the death of the latter's first wife
  15. ^ "Concertino for Piano and Orchestra".
  16. ^ The Times, 14 July 1959, p. 8
  17. ^ The Times, 1 May 1961, p. 16
  18. ^ Philip Lane. Notes to ASV CD WHL 2125 (2001)
  19. ^ See IMDb entry
  20. ^ British Piano Concertos, Lyrita SRCD.416 (2023)