Monday, November 28, 2011

Jerry Goldsmith: The Landmark

Of the few highly regarded composers for the hardcore film score fans, Jerry Goldsmith typically is on the top of the list.  His output is incredibly extensive, and Goldsmith’s scores are all unique.  Possibly more than other composers, his scores have been restored, expanded and released over the years.  With that, Jerry Goldsmith remains a modern film master.

Goldsmith was born in California in 1929.  Jerry, like many composers, studied music (piano) at a young age and eventually transitioned into studying composition in his teens.  He studied counterpoint and theory with the great guitar composer
Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco.  Goldsmith eventually attended classes at University of Southern California with classes taught by renowned film composer Miklós Rózsa. 

Like so many other composers in his generation, he started composing for radio.  Working at CBS, he began as a typist in the music department, composing for some radio series.  He worked his way up at CBS, for television shows like Climax!, Playhouse 90 and Perry Mason
.  1957’s Black Patch marked Goldsmith’s feature film debut.  From 1960-1961, while still at CBS, Goldsmith composed for a handful of Twilight Zone episodes. Upon moving to Revue Studios (later MCA/Universal Television), he composed the themes for The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Dr. Kildare.  Goldsmith received his first Academy Award nomination in 1962 for Freud.  His connections with composer Alfred Newman led him to the scoring of the western, Lonely Are The Brave in 1962.  1963 brought Goldsmith several films including Lilies of the Field, with Sidney Poitier.  Around this time, Goldsmith became a part of the 20th Century Fox music department, scoring some of his most well known films there.  Films in the late 60’s began to show Goldsmith’s intricate composition style with a more modern sound.  These films include A Patch of Blue (1965) The Sand Pebbles (1966), The Blue Max (1966), and the extremely inventive score to The Planet of the Apes (1968).  Both A Patch of Blue and The Sand Pebbles were nominated for Academy Awards.  It is also important to note that around this time, Goldsmith began collaborating with longtime orchestrators Alexander Courage and Arthur Morton.

By 1970, Goldsmith was working on epics at Fox.  This includes the WWII epic Tora, Tora, Tora (1970) and the Oscar-winning best picture, Patton.  Goldsmith continued to do television
movies throughout the 70’s including the first ‘Apes’ sequel: Escape From The Planet Of Apes (1971).  He continued his collaboration with Patton director Franklin J Schaffner in 1973 with Papillion.  For one of Goldsmith’s most beloved scores, Chinatown (1974), he replaced composer Philip Lambro and the haunting score was done in 10 days.  It was nominated for the Oscar and currently is on the AFI top film scores at number 9.  In the years following, Goldsmith scored some of his best known scores including The Wind & The Lion (1975), The Omen (1976), Logan’s Run (1976), 1977’s MacArthur and Islands in the Stream, The Boys From Brazil (1978), Capricorn One (1978).  1979 saw two of Goldsmith’s biggest hits and possibly his most popular works: Alien and Star Trek the Motion Picture.  It was Richard Donner’s The Omen in 1976 that Goldsmith won his Academy Award for score. 

The 1980s allowed Goldsmith to continue with harmonically and melodically interesting music.  He began working with varied directors like Joe Dante, which gave Goldsmith lighter scores.  As franchises became more popular, Goldsmith composed music for several sequels.  His scores added more and more electronic components such as synthesizers.  Here are a few highlights of the decade:
1981 – Outland, The Final Conflict Omen III
1982 – First Blood, Secret of NIMH, Poltergeist
1983 – Twilight Zone: The Movie, Under Fire
1984 - Gremlins
1985 – Explorers, Rambo First Blood Part II
1986 – Hoosiers, Legend
1987 - Innerspace, Lionheart
1988 - Rambo III
1989 - Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (Goldsmith’s return to Star Trek)

Into the 1990s, Goldsmith continued his complex writing with directors like John McTiernan, Paul Verhoeven, David Anspaugh and Curtis Hansen.  This decade musically is in his style with many new styles added.  Like the 1980s, he found himself scoring many blockbusters as well as many cult classics/flops like Supergirl (1984).  He received back to back Oscar nominations for L.A. Confidential and the Disney film Mulan.  Highlights of this decade include:
1990 – Total Recall
1992 – Basic Instinct, Forever Young
1993 – Rudy
1995 – First Knight
1996 - The Ghost & The Darkness, Star Trek: First Contact
1997 – Air Force One, L.A. Confidential
1998 – Mulan, Star Trek: Insurrection
1999 – The Mummy, The 13th Warrior


His friendship with directors continued, and his variety of material continued as well.  He continued doing many thriller scores in the 2000s, and as his health declined, he scored fewer films.  In 2002 he scored his last Star Trek score, for Star Trek Nemesis.  He begun work on 2003’s Timeline, but due to constant re-editing his score was replaced by Brian Tyler, with Goldsmith’s score eventually released on CD.  With his health failing and constant changes to the film, Goldsmith’s score to Looney Tunes: Back in Action was supplemented by John Debney. 

After a long battle with cancer, Jerry Goldsmith died in July 2004 at age 75. 

Jerry Goldsmith had a truly illustrious career.  He was able to bring his own style to films and his meticulous attention to detail.  He was a hard worker and brought his dedication to every project he worked on.  Each work also stands on its own, yet is married to the films so well.  Even with his schedule, he composed concert music such as Fireworks A Celebration (1999) and the cantata Christus Apollo (1974).  He composed the music to the Disneyland ride Soarin’ Over California in 2001.  And of course the fanfare for Universal Studios seen since 1997. 

Even after conducting several of his scores for the film, he would adapt them into suites, which are often performed.  Goldsmith also has the honor of having almost every work recorded and released.  He remains an inspiration to film composers and fans alike.  He is truly a landmark. 

Below is a great video with clips of Goldsmith talking, conducting and playing.

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