In 1952, Mancini joined the Universal Pictures music department. During the next six years, he contributed music to over 100 movies, most notably The Creature from the Black Lagoon, It Came from Outer Space, Tarantula, This Island Earth, The Glenn Miller Story (for which he received his first Academy Award nomination), The Benny Goodman Story and Orson Welles' Touch of Evil.
Mancini left Universal-International to work as an independent composer/arranger in 1958. Soon after, he scored the television series Peter Gunn for writer/producer Blake Edwards, the genesis of a relationship which lasted over 35 years and produced nearly 30 films. Together with Alex North, Elmer Bernstein, Leith Stevens and Johnny Mandel, Henry Mancini was one of the pioneers who introduced jazz music into the late romantic orchestral film and TV scores prevalent at the time.
Mancini's scores for Blake Edwards included Breakfast at Tiffany's (with the standard "Moon River") and Days of Wine and Roses (with the title song, "Days of Wine and Roses"), as well as Experiment in Terror, The Pink Panther (and all of its sequels), The Great Race, The Party, and Victor/Victoria.
Another director with whom Mancini had a longstanding partnership was Stanley Donen (Charade, Arabesque, Two for the Road). Mancini also composed for Howard Hawks (Man's Favorite Sport?, Hatari! — which included the well-known "Baby Elephant Walk"), Martin Ritt (The Molly Maguires), Vittorio de Sica (Sunflower), Norman Jewison (Gaily, Gaily), Paul Newman (Sometimes a Great Notion, The Glass Menagerie), Stanley Kramer (Oklahoma Crude), George Roy Hill (The Great Waldo Pepper), Arthur Hiller (Silver Streak), Ted Kotcheff (Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe?), and others.
Mancini's score for the Alfred Hitchcock film Frenzy (1972) was rejected and replaced by Ron Goodwin's work.
Mancini scored many TV movies, including The Thorn Birds and The Shadow Box. He wrote his share of television themes, including Mr. Lucky (starring John Vivyan and Ross Martin), NBC News Election Night Coverage, NBC Mystery Movie, What's Happening!!, Newhart, Remington Steele, Tic Tac Dough (1990 version) and Hotel.
Mancini also composed the "Viewer Mail" theme for Late Night with David Letterman. Lawrence Welk held Mancini in very high regard, and frequently featured Mancini's music on The Lawrence Welk Show (Mancini, at least once, made a guest appearance on the show).
Two of his classics, and my favorites: