Much of Mr. Hamlisch’s legacy rests on “A Chorus Line,” which ran on Broadway from 1975 to 1990 and explored the humanity behind an outwardly anonymous chorus line. The overall conception belonged to the late Michael Bennett, who recruited Mr. Hamlisch after deciding that his original plan for “an opera-ballet” felt too heavy.
Mr. Hamlisch wrote the music to Edward Kleban’s lyrics for such songs as the high-kicking showstopper “One” and the ballad “What I Did For Love.”
The production won the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for drama. It swept the Tony Awards, with Mr. Hamlisch and Kleban sharing honors for best original score. “A Chorus Line” became one of Broadway’s longest-running musicals and drew an endless stream of superlatives from reviewers.
Along with his accumulated movie work, “A Chorus Line”propelled Mr. Hamlisch to the front rank of popular songwriters. In an interview, Jon Burlingame, a historian of film composition, described Mr. Hamlisch as “a tunesmith par excellence.”
Mr. Hamlisch’s reputation won him prime assignments, including one to write the theme to “The Spy Who Loved Me” (1977) with lyricist Carole Bayer Sager. Their song “Nobody Does it Better” was a hit for Carly Simon and brought Mr. Hamlisch and Sager an Oscar nomination for Best Original Score and Best Original Song.
Mr. Hamlisch’s work on “Ice Castles” (1978), “Same Time, Next Year” (1978), “Sophie’s Choice” (1982), “Shirley Valentine” (1989), “The Mirror Has Two Faces” (1996) and the critically derided 1985 film adaptation of “A Chorus Line” brought Mr. Hamlisch even more nominations for his composition skills.
Meanwhile, he remained a stalwart of the concert scene, served as a music director for Barbra Streisand and had a hand in various musical theater productions.
He suffered Broadway flops in 1986 with “Smile,” based on a 1975 movie of the same name that satirizes beauty pageants, and in 1993 with his musical adaptation of Neil Simon’s comedy “The Goodbye Girl.” Mr. Hamlisch’s “Jean Seberg,” a musical stage biography of the actress, played in London in 1983 but never appeared on Broadway. He fared better commercially on Broadway with Simon’s romantic comedy “They’re Playing Our Song” (1979), which was based in part on Mr. Hamlisch’s fitful romantic relationship with Sager (who contributed lyrics). Shortly before his death, Mr. Hamlisch composed the score for a musical stage version of the Jerry Lewis film “The Nutty Professor.”
Marvin Frederick Hamlisch was born June 2, 1944, in New York City and grew up on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. His father, Max, was an Austrian-born accordionist who encouraged his son’s musical proclivities but also urged his ambitions to a perhaps unhealthy degree.