Lots of talk this year about Antony Hegarty being the first trans person to be nominated for an Academy Award, as co-writer of the song “Manta Ray” from documentary Racing Extinction. And while we love Antony, and applaud her Oscar nod, composer Angela Morley already had the distinction of being the first trans nominee. And she did it back in 1974. Morley received two Oscar nominations: One for the score of Frederick Loewe and Alan Jay Lerner‘s music for The Little Prince (1974) and the second for the Sherman brothers Cinderella musical, The Slipper and the Rose (1978).
She also has three Emmys, two for Julie Andrews specials — Julie Andrews in Concert (1987) and The Sound of Christmas (1990) — as well as having scored iconic series like Dallas, Dynasty, Wonder Woman, Cagney & Lacey and Falcon Crest. Pretty fabulous huh?
Angela died in 2009. From HuffPo:
The Guardian‘s obituary noted that Morley had suffered “a lifelong mental struggle with gender identity, a fact that, for all those years, he had kept sealed tightly inside himself.” Eventually, Morley underwent gender reassignment surgery in 1972, only two years after marrying her second wife, Christine Parker. It was through her that she’d been able to cross that “terrifying” gender border.
What many don’t know is the crucial role Morley played in the composition of one of the most iconic scores of all time: Star Wars. John Williams, who just picked up his 50th Oscar nomination for scoring J.J. Abrams‘ latest foray into that galaxy far far away, often turned to Morley for help with his compositions and his score for the 1977 George Lucas classic was no exception. It’s a fact that’s been hiding in plain sight for years.
“Do you know the scene in Star Wars where Luke goes down into the Death Star trench and the voice says ‘Use the Force, Luke?'” Morley asked journalist Kenneth LaFave ahead of a 1997 concert appearance alongside Patti Lupone and Yo-Yo Ma, “That’s my orchestration.” Her work with Williams, which went largely uncredited, also included work on Superman, E.T., The Empire Strikes Back, The Right Stuff, Karate Kid and The Verdict. Her orchestrations and “source music” can also be heard in Schindler’s List and in Home Alone.
It’s perhaps fitting than in a year when Antony Hegarty nabbed a Best Original Song nomination and Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander were recognized for their work on The Danish Girl we’ve been prompted to revisit Morley’s story and return her, perhaps, to the place in LGBT history she’d always earned.
There’s a great article about her at A Sketch of the Past if you want to learn more about this overlooked icon.