Francis Chagrin

Last updated 09 January 2020

Alexander Paucker

Born: Wednesday 15th November 1905
Died: Friday 10th November 1972 (age: 66)


Francis Chagrin was a composer of film scores and popular orchestral music, as well as a conductor.

He was born in Bucharest, Romania, to Jewish parents and at their insistence studied for an engineering degree in Zurich while secretly studying at that city's music conservatoire. He graduated in 1928 but when his family failed to support his musical ambitions, left home and moved to Paris where he adopted his new, French-sounding name.

By playing in night clubs and cafes and writing popular songs, he funded himself though two years, from 1933, at the Ecole Normale, where his teachers included Paul Dukas and Nadia Boulanger, and settled in England in 1936.

At the outbreak of World War II, he was appointed musical adviser and composer-in-chief to the BBC French Service, and the programme, Les Francais parlent aux Francais. For this, he was decorated Officier d'Academie by the French government in 1948.

In 1951 he formed his own chamber ensemble. He composed the score for the 1955 film about Colditz, The Colditz Story. His harmonica work Romanian Fantasy was composed in 1956 for Larry Adler.

In 1959 he composed the theme and incidental music for the Sapphire Films TV series The Four Just Men for ITV.

In 1963, he won the Harriet Cohen International Music Award as "film composer of the year". The following year, he composed music for the 1965 Doctor Who television story The Dalek Invasion of Earth.

His son Nicolas was an actor, who was to appear in Vengeance on Varos some years later.