LONDON -- Sir Malcolm Arnold, the first British composer to win an Academy Award, died Saturday at the age of 84 after a short illness, his companion said.
Arnold, who won an Oscar for the music to "Bridge on the River Kwai" in 1958, died in the hospital in Norfolk county, eastern England, after suffering from a chest infection, said Anthony Day, Arnold's companion for 23 years.
"People didn't see the man that I knew because he had frontal lobe dementia over the last few years which slowly developed but, being with him, he was a happy, lovely man who enjoyed his music and enjoyed his life," he told the British Broadcasting Corp.
Arnold composed more than 130 films scores, including "The Inn of the Sixth Happiness," for which he received one of Britain's prestigious Ivor Novello awards in 1958; "Hobson's Choice" and "Whistle Down the Wind."
Arnold also composed nine symphonies, seven ballets, two operas, a musical and more than 20 concertos. He was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire, or CBE, in 1970.
Arnold died on the day his ballet "The Three Musketeers" premiered at the Alhambra Theatre in the northern English city of Bradford. The performance went ahead Saturday night as planned and was dedicated to him.
Cellist Julian Lloyd Webber said Arnold never received the credit he deserved.
"I think he was a very, very great composer but uneven in his output," he said. "Because he had humor in his music, he was never fully appreciated by the classical establishment. He was a total genius but a very badly behaved genius, but then so was Mozart."
"He was treated appallingly by people who could not live with his bad behavior. He could be extremely rude to people but you should be able to get beyond that and get to the music," he added.
Arnold is survived by two sons and a daughter.