News at SoundtrackCollector
Hammer Films Composer James Bernard RIP
10-Jul-2001 - (A message from Joe Kaufman). Sad news that James Bernard passed away last night. He was a friend to me and a dear, dear man.
Born in the Himalayas to a British Army officer, he grew up protected by Ghurka tribesmen. Later he went back to England and went to the same school as Christopher Lee (though they weren't there at the same time). During the war he went into the code-breaking department of the British secret service.

Afterwards he became Benjamin Britten's assistant, and went into composition with Britten's encouragement. Falling into composing for BBC radio, it was a score for the blood-and-thunder Elizabethan play THE DUCHESS OF MALFI on the BBC that got him his Hammer gig.
However, curiously he had previously won an Oscar for Best Screen Story for SEVEN DAYS TO NOON, shared with his "longtime companion" and collaborator Paul Dehn (who also co-wrote GOLDFINGER and wrote MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS and several PLANET OF THE APES films). Together they also did a London stage play called VIRTUE IN DANGER.

As I said here last week Jimmy loved to write music of a romantic character, in addition to the music for which he was recognized. He was something of a black sheep to his family, but I'm sure his latter-day recognition pleased him immensely.

His latter years had its share of tragedies. He'd moved to Jamaica with Dehn. He stayed after the death of Dehn. While Jimmy was in London, a close friend of his was murdered at his Jamaican home. Jimmy chose to return to live in London shortly after that. His brother, with whom he was very close, died a year or two ago, and Jimmy's health started to fail. He finally succumbed last night.

I met Jimmy when he came to L.A. to visit friends. I would drive him about on his errands. He would love a glass of wine and would stock up at the local liquor store, which specialized in fine wines. We had a couple of wonderful dinners over the years with Martine Beswick and other friends. Talk would be of things cultural in general as much as film music and the film industry.

Jimmy was highly intelligent, friendly, cultured in that British way, and soft-spoken. He could be a bit extravagantly campy in certain company, but that was a side of him I didn't see myself.

I hope this gives some sense of the affection that just about everybody who came in contact with him had for him.

Joe Kaufman

All News Items 
New Site Features