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Jerry Goldsmith (1929-2004):

Jerry Goldsmith: First Knight - soundtrack CD cover Jerry Goldsmith was a prolific and versatile composer who will be sadly missed. His name has appeared so often in film titles that one can be excused for thinking that he was the only composer on the movie scene, seemingly capable of crafting several quality scores a year. In total he created more than 200 soundtracks over his long career. As with others in his profession he started out in radio and TV, working on programmes such as "Gunsmoke" and "The Twilight Zone" (he was later to score "Twilight Zone: The Movie") and many others, before moving into the film scene learning his trade from the likes of Tedesco and Miklos Rozsa. But from about 1960 onwards he has worked steadily in the movie business with his tally of film scores now exceeding the 200 mark. Over this period he has amassed numerous awards and award nominations for his music. At the Oscar ceremonies he has frequently been unlucky as an "also ran" having only one the statuette once out of 17 Academy Award nominations. Nevertheless his music rarely fails to impress.

Jerry Goldsmith: Planet of the Apes - soundtrack CD cover Unlike some composers, Goldsmith doesn't seem to have an immediately recognisable style and in fact seems capable of adopting a wide range of styles as the situation demands. This must surely be due in part to a great flexibility of approach, but it is also as a result of a willingness to experiment. That experimentation can be seen most clearly in his music for Planet of the Apes and "The Illustrated Man". He certainly seems to have set the scene for a number of younger composers following in his footsteps such as James Horner, Alan Silvestri and James Newton Howard. With familiarity, a number of Goldsmith's stylistic mannerisms become apparent though there is a greater breadth than with many composers. The percussive aspect Goldsmith brings to some of his music and his use of mixed meters (for example in Total Recall) is often likened to that of the classical composer Bela Bartok.

Jerry Goldsmith: The Omen (Deluxe Edition) - soundtrack CD cover Goldsmith's one Oscar win was for his landmark score for The Omen, a choral score implying the dark powers awakened by the black mass incantations of devil worshippers. The lighter family moments in the film seem more poignant when the rosy picture is subverted by some subtle cues both visual and musical that the evil still lurks there ready to surface. Other notable instances where Goldsmith's music has truly enhanced a film are his haunting theme for Basic Instinct which depicts the sultry femme fatale played by Sharon Stone and the fascination she arouses, and his score for Alien which evokes the vast loneliness of space where unknown menaces may lurk just around the corner.

Jerry Goldsmith: Alien - soundtrack CD cover Another highly regarded Goldsmith score is Chinatown which is amazing when you appreciate that the composer wrote this in 10 days. Apparently, the soundtrack originally commissioned from another composer had been rejected and Goldsmith was brought in to rescue the situation. Goldsmith has recounted in interviews that he had argued against a contemporary 30s sound to match the setting of the story, and on the spur of the moment had said he imagined something with 4 pianos, 4 harps, strings and a trumpet. He then delivered on this promise with a laid back jazzy sound, which while not authentic in a period sense, matches the mood of the story perfectly. Apart from the main theme much of the movie is thinly scored and almost improvisatory in feel, though elements of the theme serve to change the mood from laid back and mysterious to threatening and sultry, and finally some action as events unfold. Goldsmith's Jazz skills also contributed much to the mood of "L. A. Confidential".

Jerry Goldsmith: Basic Instinct - soundtrack CD cover We must not neglect to mention another of Goldsmith's major contributions to Science Fiction, and that is the Star Trek franchise. The original movie (Star Trek: The Motion Picture), whose slow pacing and focus on visual effects, allowed the composer to let the music carry the sense of wonder while the new Enterprise is in dock ready for its maiden voyage. The main theme for this movie was later used for The Next Generation TV Series, and Goldsmith went on to score four more Star Trek movies in the series and also the theme for the Star Trek Voyager series. One admirable quality which Goldsmith demonstrates is that he will champion the music of others. In particular he has acted as conductor recording albums of Alex North scores including soundtracks such as "Viva Zapata" and "The Agony and the Ecstasy" and the lost score of 2001: A Space Odyssey which the director Stanley Kubrick abandoned in favour of the now well-known soundtrack of classical music.

Jerry Goldsmith: Gremlins - soundtrack CD cover If you watch the films Gremlins and "Gremlins 2, the New Batch" which he scored, you can see Goldsmith making a cameo appearance in both films. In "Gremlins" between 41 and 42 minutes into the movie, the father is at an inventors' convention. Robbie the Robot is there, Steven Spielberg drives past in an electric car and Jerry Goldsmith is wearing a cowboy hat in the telephone booth behind. In the sequel "Gremlins 2, the New Batch" at about 38 minutes when the furry mogwai gremlins have been seen messing about among the sweets/candy, Jerry Goldsmith and others arrive and he says the line "What's going on here? Did she say there are rats?". There is also an early brief cameo of Jerry as a pianist in "In Harms Way". Jerry Goldsmith was also a good friend of composer and orchestrator Alexander Courage who is most famous for composing the theme for the original Star Trek series. Sadly Courage died in May 2008. He orchestrated many of Goldsmith's films and composed the incidental music for many episodes of The Waltons, Star Trek and The Next Generation, as well as TV series such as Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Lost in Space.

Jerry Goldsmith: Christus Apollo - album CD cover Here are a selection of videos to celebrate Jerry Goldsmith's amazing achievements: This Memoriam Sequence features music from The Wind and the Lion, Patton, Papillon, Gremlins, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Basic Instinct, Alien, The Omen, The Mummy and Rambo: First Blood. In this Jerry Goldsmith concert in the Royal Albert Hall in 2001, the composer jokes that he only has time for one encore and let's the audience choose between Star Trek & Supergirl, but plays them both anyway! A third video features a concert piece called Music for Orchestra by Goldsmith composed using 12-tone techniques, and commissioned following his atonal film music for the Planet of the Apes. This and other concert pieces by the composer are available on a CD called "Christus Apollo" from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.

Jerry Goldsmith's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame In 2009 there was a tribute concert for Jerry Goldsmith to mark what would have been his 80th Birthday. The concert took place at the Fimucité Festival held in Tenerife, and the conductors for the occasion were the film composers Mark Snow and Diego Navarro. The concert was recorded for posterity and it has now been released as a combination DVD/CD package (see this link at Screen Archives for details). Going back a few years here is a Jerry Goldsmith documentary by Fred Karlin which includes footage of recording sessions for The River Wild. And more recently here is an article by John Caps for mfiles which on the occasion of Jerry Goldsmith's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2017 looks at 3 key features of the composer's music.

Films by Jerry Goldsmith:

    Jerry Goldsmith: The Russia House - soundtrack CD cover
  • Lonely are the Brave
  • Freud
  • The List of Adrian Messenger
  • Lilies of the Field
  • The Prize
  • Seven Days in May - oscar-nominated political thriller
  • Fate is the Hunter
  • In Harm's Way - for director Otto Preminger and giving Jerry a small cameo as a pianist
  • Shock Treatment
  • The Satan Bug
  • Von Ryan's Express - starring Frank Sinatra
  • The Sand Pebbles - mixing Chinese instrumental and thematic elements into the orchestral sound originally conducted by Alfred Newman, this is bold and militaristic in some places and tragically tense in others, the love theme giving rise to the song "And We Were Lovers"
  • A Patch of Blue
  • The Reincarnation of Peter Proud
  • The Wind and the Lion
  • Sebastian - film about a British Code Breaker starring Dirk Bogarde, and the soundtrack has a track "Sputnik Code" by electronics pioneer Tristram Cary
  • Hour of the Gun
  • Bandolero!
  • Planet of the Apes - modernistic, experimental sounds
  • Escape from the Planet of the Apes - the 3rd film in the series where 3 apes visit earth, the music is more upbeat and conventional, and reminiscent of Goldsmith's percussive syncopated action music, and also featured on the Planet of the Apes album
  • Jerry Goldsmith: The Shadow - soundtrack CD cover
  • The Last Run - an interesting European influence in this score
  • The Illustrated Man - an unusual film with music to match
  • Wild Rovers
  • Papillon - the music swings between the brutality of the penal system and the lyrical sounds of freedom led by the main theme, a French waltz on accordian representing Papillon's irrepressible spirit
  • Chinatown - the main theme is slow, sleazy and jazzy, and elsewhere the sense of corruption is palpable
  • The Omen - excellent contribution to the Horror Genre, his only Oscar awarded out of 17 nominations
  • Damien: Omen II, and Omen 3 (The Final Conflict)
  • The Cassandra Crossing
  • Damnation Alley
  • The Blue Max - this is a truly symphonic score by Goldsmith with exciting aerial combat scenes accompanied by a wind machine, and the underlying mood of obsession for the medal of honour; the latest soundtrack album has music recorded but unused in the final film
  • Jerry Goldsmith: Poltergeist - soundtrack CD cover
  • The Boys from Brazil
  • Magic
  • The Salamander - soundtrack now available from Tadlow Music
  • Capricorn One
  • Alien - excellent, depicting emptiness of space and the mounting tension
  • Star Trek, the Motion Picture - re-used in the Next Generation TV series
  • Star Trek 5 (8: "First Contact", 9: "Insurrection" and 10: "Nemesis")
  • Raggedy Man - Goldsmith maintains a light touch with a charmingly simple main theme
  • Poltergeist and "Poltergeist II: The Other Side" (Renzetti did no. 3) - the theme has children's voices wordlessly singing a simple nursery rhyme, their closing laughter seeming to break the mood and suggest all is not as it seems
  • Outland
  • Psycho II
  • Twilight Zone: The Movie - note the Gremlin in part 4 with hints of the Gremlin theme
  • Gremlins and "Gremlins 2: The New Batch" - these are great fun and note the cameo appearances by Goldsmith himself, Gremlins has an arrangement of Silent Night for the "Santa Clause" story
  • Jerry Goldsmith - Star Trek: The Motion Picture - soundtrack CD cover
  • Supergirl
  • The Challenge - Samurai action drama
  • The Secret of NIMH
  • Under Fire
  • The First Great Train Robbery - the music adds to the excitement of this period caper
  • Baby: Secret of a lost legend
  • The Swarm - including buzzing sound
  • Explorers
  • Mephisto Waltz
  • Rambo: First Blood Part I, Rambo: First Blood Part II, Rambo 3 and TV Series - stirring stuff with an usual low rasping bass sound, the main theme of "First Blood" is only heard in full towards the end and becomes a song for the end titles "It's a Long Road" and the locations are near Hope in British Columbia
  • Innerspace
  • Legend - includes "the Goblins" track, though the released US cut had a synth soundtrack by Tangerine Dream
  • MacArthur - very military
  • Patton - the martial theme heralded by echoing trumpets takes on a number of guises and expertly portrays the different facets of Patton's character, from the heroic to the almost psychotic
  • Jerry Goldsmith: Total Recall - soundtrack CD cover
  • Tora! Tora!
  • Executive Decision
  • The Burbs - Goldsmith seems to have lots of fun with this score with references ranging from Morricone to his own "Patton"
  • Leviathan
  • Malice - some choral bits and some poor keyboard playing!
  • Medicine Man - the film is set in the jungles of South America, and a couple of tracks are influenced by Carribean music
  • The Russia House - masterful soundtrack, Connery's character plays Soprano Sax, echoed in the main film-noir love theme, there is also some disquieting, halting moments, and hints of the Russian setting, mostly jazzy with sax, bass, piano and strings
  • Total Recall - a great action oriented score
  • The River Wild
  • Basic Instinct - very atmospheric, seedy with hints of the psychotic, the main theme is notable for the way it alternates between the woodwind and strings
  • Forever Young - despite the science fiction premise, most of the score is unashamedly romantic with a love theme and touches of jazz
  • Bad Girls - in addition to Jerry's score, the soundtrack has songs such as Shall We Gather at the River and Onward Christian Soldiers
  • The Shadow - Goldsmith has lots of fun in this rare contribution to the superhero genre
  • Chain Reaction
  • Fierce Creatures
  • The Ghost and the Darkness - a very fine score which cleverly fuses a celtic theme with African tribal percussion and scary effects
  • First Knight - another Goldsmith gem, always powerful and dramatic, and invoking voices for the final climactic battle scene
  • Small Soldiers
  • Deep Rising - Jaws-style something nasty lurking below and over-the-top macho stuff for the good guys
  • Air Force One - thriller with music depicting US military heroics and dark threatening Russian terrorists
  • Jerry Goldsmith: The Edge - soundtrack CD cover
  • Powder - theme used as first track on a recent Sarah Brightman album
  • L. A. Confidential - among many period songs, a moody jazz trumpet with strings, percussive hits and low piano notes (for which Goldsmith has a fondness)
  • The Edge - captures the vastness of the Alaskan landscape and the threat of a wild stalking bear, with an elemental resemblance to Stravinsky's Rite of Spring
  • Mulan - slightly Chinese sounding in parts
  • The Haunting - supernatural music mostly for strings and harp
  • The Mummy - Alan Silvestri did the sequel
  • Along came a Spider
  • Star Trek: Nemesis - the score is dark: part of it is moody and brooding and the rest all-out action, plus Data gets to sing Irving Berlin's "Blue Skies" (which in instrumental form briefly introduces the final track on the soundtrack album)
  • Looney Tunes: Back in Action - there are lots of musical gags to match the visual ones, including Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, Offenbach's Can-Can tune, Carl Stalling's song "What up, Doc?", touches of Psycho, and Goldsmith's own "Gremlins Rag" with John Debney contributing additional music
  • Prometheus - Marc Streitenfeld's excellent score included some music from Jerry Goldsmith's "Alien"

TV themes and music by Jerry Goldsmith:

  • Black Saddle - one of Goldsmith's earliest TV themes for this Western series
  • Room 222 - the theme for this series set in a school starts as a homely affair on recorder building to fuller arrangement as it heralds the programme
  • Gunsmoke
  • The Twilight Zone - "Dead Man's Shoes" features distinctive library music by Goldsmith suggesting an influence from Leonard Bernstein, "The Four of Us Are Dying" often anticipating the sound world of West Side Story, "The Big Tall Wish" with its Bluesy harmonica, "Nightmare as a Child" with its spooky chilhood sounds, and many other episodes allowed a great scope for experimentation including the episode "The Invaders"
  • Boris Karloff's Thriller - Goldsmith was one of many composers creating dramatic and often experimental music for this imaginative horror series
  • Masada - an exuberant march theme for this classical-set 4-part blockbuster mini-series, parts 1 & 2 scored by Goldsmith and parts 3 & 4 by Morton Stevens, the series was released in film form as "The Antagonists"
  • The Loner - a great Western theme from Goldsmith
  • Hawkins - a short-lived series, where Goldsmith used a weird electronic accompaniment
  • Police Story
  • The Red Pony - TV movie
  • Anna and the King - a TV series following from the musical "The King and I" and even starring Yul Brynner
  • QB7 - a mini-series, whose music spans typical action drama and subline music remembering the Holocaust
  • Captains and the Kings - a mini-series
  • Barnaby Jones - the long-running detective series
  • Dr. Kildare (credited as "Jerrald Goldsmith", with Peter Rugolo) - almost set the mould for other dramatic soap-opera style series
  • The Man from U.N.C.L.E. - a truly unique theme which seems to capture the mood perfectly, with its driving beat and jazzy brass - Goldmsith also did the incidental music for some episodes with its careful balance between spy thrills, suspense and a light-hearted tongue-in-cheek mood
  • The Waltons - another very long-running series keeping Goldsmith's music in the public consciousness; there was also a spin-off movie-length episode called "The Homecoming: A Christmas Story"
  • Star Trek, The Next Generation - theme originally from Star Trek the Motion Picture and also appearing in other Goldsmith Star Trek soundtracks
  • Star Trek: Voyager - full of both wonder and majesty

Note that the theme for "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." is in 5/4 time (5 beats in a bar) which is very unusual, but strangely the same as Lalo Schifrin's time signature for the theme tune for "Mission Impossible". Schifrin had worked on a couple of episodes of "The Man from Uncle" and this may have given him the idea for the "Mission Impossible" theme. In another connection with Jerry Goldsmith, Lalo Schifrin also worked on the TV Series spinoff of "Planet of the Apes". Dave Grusin did the spin-off show "The Girl from Uncle" picking some ideas from Goldsmith.

See also Bernard Herrmann for other composers involved in the original Twilight Zone TV series.

Here is an interview (lasting nearly 2 hours) which Jerry Goldsmith gave with film music journalist and author Jon Burlingame, concentrating mostly on the composer's music for television. The video is on this YouTube link from the Archive of American Television, and here is another video of Goldsmith rehearsing and recording a couple of cues from The River Wild.

Jerry Goldsmith Recommendations:

There are many CDs on the market of Goldsmith's music. The following reviews and recommendations are only a small selection from his vast output:

The "Frontiers" collection mentioned above was recorded with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, and I am particularly pleased to note Jerry's fondness for Scotland and working with the RSNO. In 1999, Goldsmith gave a series of concerts in Scotland to mark his 70th birthday and Our Review provides a synopsis of the programme and the sprinkling of anecdotes given at the Edinburgh concert. At the time Jerry gave regular concerts, and many were lucky enough to attend these.

There is a nice looking web-site dedicated to Jerry Goldsmith at www.jerrygoldsmithonline.com. You can see Jerry winning the oscar for "The Omen" on this link at YouTube.

Jerry Goldsmith Memorabilia

Many admirers of Jerry Goldsmith have kept items to remind them of brief moments in their lives where they interacted in some small way with the composer. We are pleased to publish here scans of such memorabilia. In all cases if you click on the small image, you will be able to see the full-size scan which will open in a separate window or tab. (Depending on your browser the full-size image may be scaled to fit the window space, but in most cases if you click with the magnifying-glass pointer it can be further enlarged.)

Our thanks go to Steve Vertlieb for the first set of items. Steve wrote a letter of appreciation to Jerry Goldsmith in 1980 and received the following response.

Jerry Goldsmith letter to Steve Vertlieb

Jerry Goldsmith's letter to Steve Vertlieb.

Jerry Goldsmith signature (close-up)

Close-up of Jerry Goldsmith's signature on his letter to Steve Vertlieb.

Jerry Goldsmith envelope to Steve Vertlieb

The envelope from Jerry Goldsmith's letter to Steve Vertlieb.

Here are some album covers signed by Jerry Goldsmith. Our thanks to Petr Kocanda for permission to use his collection of autographed albums. Click any thumbnail below to see the image full size in a separate window.

Jerry Goldsmith: The Blue Max - signed CD Jerry Goldsmith: Logan's Run - signed CD