Jerry Goldsmith, on the occasion of his Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

Never mind which Hollywood composer once told me "I always think that Jerry Goldsmith seems uncomfortable in the company of other composers. I don't know why he should be, but he is. I know pretty well that he resents the fact that the Academy Awards keep bypassing him, except that once (The Omen, 1976). Somebody else always wins and he feels it, I think."

I feel it too – the very idea that someone nominated 18 times for, let's say, twenty of the best film scores ever, should have been rewarded just one begrudging time. But then Goldsmith's equally accomplished colleague, Elmer Bernstein, also won only a single Oscar award after a brilliant career and for the most trivial of his efforts. So probably there was no real prejudice going on in Goldsmith's case. Still, to many people, he did seem a guarded figure, reluctant to mingle – not grumpy like Bernard Herrmann but edgy -- something of an outsider. Meanwhile, though, close associates like conductor Lionel Newman and orchestrator Arthur Morton protected and promoted him.

Jerry Goldsmith The status of an outsider does seem odd because we learn from his biography that Mr. Jerrold Goldsmith was actually the ultimate Hollywood insider – one of the few screen scorers born in Los Angeles and then rising through the ranks from studio staff typist to assisting with, and then composing for, some very early Golden Age "live" TV shows like Climax! and Studio One. Those were painfully small scores because the budgets wouldn't support more than a few instruments and the shows were being broadcast Now. But right away in Goldsmith's earliest music there's an efficiency and empathy -- and more musical ideas in the scoring than those dramas required; more than they deserved. Insiders did take notice.

Technically, his music studies had not been all that great. Elmer Bernstein had studied with Copland; John Williams with Mme. Rosina Lhevinne and at Julliard, and both for a while followed concert piano ambitions. Whereas Goldsmith came at scoring almost exclusively from the commercial world – some piano lessons from a Hollywood tutor Jakob Gimpel; some drama-scoring classes from Miklos Rozsa, and then, of course, everyone dropped in on Mario Castelnuevo-Tedesco for a few coaching sessions. Maybe it was his lack of official musical credentials that fed his supposed inferiority complex at cocktail parties, shy before more schooled composers. But we have news for him: by the time he graduated from television to big screen scoring, most of those elite composers were already beginning to envy him. Back in the day, when I wrote a piece surveying what we knew of Goldsmith at that time, I reported how, in Irwin Bazelon's book, "Knowing the Score", when film composers were asked which colleagues they most admired, fully seven out of nine mentioned Goldsmith.

So it is, to a certain degree, a shame that Goldsmith's career has never been properly rewarded in concrete terms and, more importantly, that his overall accomplishment – the originality, the virtuosity, the consistency – has still to this day not been adequately cited or permanently appreciated. Sure, sci-fi fans collect his space scores and comic book enthusiasts tout his superhero music. But that's just a hobbyist mentality – those folks praise anything that soars. And noting how copycat film composers were inspired by Mr. Goldsmith is hardly encouraging. If he were still working, he'd feel more edgy than ever.

Jerry Goldsmith's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame Now recently, in May 2017, someone has seen fit to award him, thirteen years after his death, a tribute star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. That's a rare compliment for a composer even if it wouldn't really earn points before that academic crowd he coveted. But it is a public gesture that, at least, puts the Goldsmith name before us again here. It's a shifting debate whether Goldsmith deserves equal posterity with the other colleagues of his generation (Bernstein was born in 1922; Williams in 1932; Goldsmith in 1929) and, anyway, despite the annual Oscar race, music should not be the subject of competitions nor should prizes be the measure of anyone's worth. The point here is that Jerry Goldsmith, for all his history, is in danger of being lumped in with other B-genre and opportunist composers, hijacked by genre-hobbyists who care little for the subtleties of composition and thus, muffle and blur what we should all hold as special about him: his compositional excellence, daring and heart. It is true that he scored too many films and so there are a number of rather bland soundtracks he churned out for stories he couldn't care about – apparently he felt edgy and oppressed in private life too and so never dared to stop working and relax. Chronic workaholic. In the second half of his career, he also took on concert gigs, conducting suites of his hit-films with symphonies around the world – maybe (I always wondered) to overcome his early awkwardness as a conductor (when he started out, he had a hard time at the podium keeping up with the complex time signatures and orchestral balances he had written into his own scores). At length, he mastered the baton, of course, and earned the respect of experts like Alex North and orchestras like the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Hungarian State Symphony... So why would he ever "feel uncomfortable in the company of other composers"?

I don't write here to solve that question. It would take a book to discuss it seriously. Here we intend only to ask what all his best scores have in common although they're written for many different genres and use radically different musical styles. It turns out that, as a composer, Goldsmith actually seemed to rely on three specific techniques or traits when approaching any particular film commission. Of course his own instincts colored his output and made it "Goldsmithian" but underlying that personal voice was a procedural routine of means and methods to which he regularly resorted. Rather than survey the long list of films he scored over fifty years, we can trace the evidence of those three compositional traits in just a few of his best scores and thereby suggest that he deserves more than a transient groupie fan base; that posterity should also give him his due, more than just a slab on the Walk of Fame. The familiar features of a Goldsmith score are three and they amount to his modus operandi. Some history first.

Perry Mason From the start, Goldsmith was writing music that was very conscious of its own voice. To this day, you can hear in, for instance, an old TV episode of Perry Mason, how carefully shaped is each music cue behind even such a pedestrian courtroom tale. Likewise the early days of TV's Gunsmoke (1955) received a few elementary Goldsmith scores, eschewing the usual cowboy clichés, treating each show like it was a serious drama instead of the horse opera that it was. His first big screen theatrical film score actually came out of having scored radio drama circa 1956. That was the generic western Black Patch. And even there, he did not seem lured by the bigger-than-TV budget or the luxury of a wider rectangular screen into composing macho music. His tone was terse and stringent and modal, almost resembling Native American chant – and with a preference for solo writing including bass clef piano, harp, marimba; only modestly adding more rhythmic and expressive lines for horns along the way. This was scoring that commented, not through themes but by maintaining a steady grim air. His second feature score, 1959's City of Fear, pushed that same monothematic tonal language to a darker place: a drab cityscape crossed by two escaped convicts. How bold of Goldsmith at such an early stage in his career to be writing what is essentially atonal music for a Hollywood entertainment film. At times, one suspects this music could be an adapted form of that 20th century avant garde composing system invented by Arnold Schoenberg, Serial music or the 12-tone technique (whereby you don't anchor the piece in a particular harmonic key but fashion your own sequence of notes – construct your own key -- and use that as your foundation). But who can identify true Serial music without seeing it on the page? In a score like City of Fear any formal tone row is impossible to peg, so let's just call it a brave atonal score and say that it served its dire plot well. Its moodiness was further spiked with harsh, pointed sounds like xylophone, barking brass and, again, piano details in the bass clef.

The Twilight Zone Goldsmith continued to compose for TV during those same apprentice years. Particularly notable were his seven scores for the classic fantasy series The Twilight Zone, making sure each episode had its own musical identity: "The Big, Tall Wish" about a Black child hero-worshipping a boxer featured a blues-oriented harmonica and ensemble, while the famous segment "The Invaders" – a wordless parable showing an old hermit woman terrorized by (apparently) space aliens – was colored by a unique atonal sound-design made of solo violin, piano, Vox organ, harp and strings that were hesitant at first, then made increasingly violent interjections, chord patterns and rhythms, building to a devil's dance as the woman fought for her life. Network producers would rent or steal those particular music cues for years thereafter to track-in behind their own programs without, of course, crediting their composer, so effective were they in setting a scene and embodying terror. For Goldsmith, such anonymity continued to limit his reputation: he was still not seen as an industry insider.

Jerry Goldsmith: Thriller - film score album cover What his Twilight Zone success did lead to was an invitation to score another TV anthology series by 1960, Boris Karloff's Thriller. These were more conventional stories, gothic instead of cosmic and occult and, so, inspiring more thematic scores: a richly colored Irish landler peasant dance for the episode "Hay Fork and Bill Hook;" a diabolically chromatic piano waltz that wafted through "What Beckoning Ghost;" a sleazy sax theme for "Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper;" and some of his loveliest flute/strings/celesta ensemble writing for the episode "Mr. George" about a lonely girl with a guardian angel. For their times, and certainly beyond anything written for television now, these sensitive, skillful scores stood out from any established norms. From them would come Goldsmith's mature career in scoring theatrical films: almost immediately six jobs from Universal Studios. Two were broad and bland scores, though busy with good intentions (The Spiral Road and A Gathering of Eagles); two drew on offside sources (Lonely Are the Brave recalled Copland Americana music as filtered through Elmer Bernstein and Freud more subtly invoked the modal tonality of someone like Bela Bartok for a bio-pic on the early life of the great psychoanalyst). Again, we should say that music as sophisticated and daring as the latter or as direct and descriptive as the former was audacious from such a young composer. Goldsmith was behaving like someone who would set his own place at the table and maybe even order for everyone else.

Jerry Goldsmith A fifth film in that Universal group, Studs Lonigan, was probably the first Goldsmith score to openly draw attention to itself. This was a film about a young rogue and his aimless pals prowling and pranking through the streets of 1920s Chicago and Goldsmith attempted to depict him three ways: through a lonely cheerless harmonica theme, through sly ironic references to another idle drifter from music history, Stravinsky's "Story of a Soldier", and through a dynamic ten-minute multi-movement ragtime suite that accompanied a montage sequence of Studs's mischief-making around town. There, Goldsmith had become the film's main character. Still, no critics at the time and no awards committees in the months to follow would mention any music from this film nor knew the name of its composer. The sixth Universal film of the period was the mystery/romp The List of Adrian Messenger, noticeable (except that no one did) for its rousing fox hunt music (Did this coax Bernard Herrmann's similar fox hunt music in the next year's Marnie?) and its dour sax theme, obviously derived from the aforementioned Ripper episode of Thriller.

From now on, for a variety of studios, Goldsmith free-lanced his way into the front ranks of film composers without, as I've been saying, really establishing his own name as a "brand" via hit movie melodies like Henry Mancini was doing or hit films like Bernstein served or ongoing director-relationships like Hitch had with Herrmann. Goldsmith had only the content and quality of his music working for him, an introverted advocate at best. But in the second half of the 1960s, it was enough: it seemed that he would at last come into his own – not through public attention but by producing three of the best, most germane film scores ever. We only skim them here:

Jerry Goldsmith: A Patch of Blue - film score album cover First, consider A Patch of Blue, the quiet story of a blind girl abused by her own family but soon championed by one decent stranger who periodically stops by the park bench where she loiters each day, just to chat and ask after her. The 1965 Civil Rights Era irony of this plot was that the kindly stranger was a Black man and the girl's family was going to have a problem with that if they ever found out. She, of course, was "blind to all that". That delicate, hesitant, tactile world of the sightless girl is voiced in Goldsmith's chamber score by solo piano, repeating a triplet motif in 3/4 time, often calmed and comforted by warm major-key string harmonies, sympathetic solo winds, even homey harmonica chords – all of which have their own individual reflective passages to offer during the score and convey great compassion. (For some of us, they also recall the Goldsmith music for that other angel-unawares story, TV's "Mr. George".) Only once does the scoring cloud over with blurred cluster chords and agitated pizzicatos as the girl remembers the violent incident that blinded her; and there is also one utterly joyous musical sequence that stands out for its gentle pastoral scoring, but we'll describe that later.

Jerry Goldsmith: The Blue Max - film score album cover A second masterwork of this Goldsmith launching season was the soaring, heroic, fully symphonic tone poem for a film about a squad of WWI flying aces, The Blue Max. As one of his most cogent and concentrated traditional works, redolent of Richard Strauss or Mahler, this was a score with rich and detailed orchestration (in those days aided by orchestrator Arthur Morton). Thick woodwind groupings and brass blends against light and transparent string writing, all gave the very feel of bi-plane flight, of dodging and diving dogfights in the air. Then a dogged passacaglia represented the awful struggle and drudge of the trench war on the ground. If such a score had been coupled with either of the great screen versions of that classic WWI saga "All Quiet on the Western Front"(1930 and 1979) instead of being tied to this puffy melodrama, Goldsmith might have had an award-winner here. (When the Pittsburgh Symphony concerted this music in the 1970s, it stood-up well alongside pieces by Copland, Prokofiev, and Korngold.) As it was, a tiny record label, 'Mainstream', bought up the tapes of both Max and Patch and put out a soundtrack disc of each: the cult of Goldsmith collecting had begun.

Jerry Goldsmith: Planet of the Apes - film score album cover Most striking of all, though, of this break-out trilogy would be Goldsmith's aurally startling, conceptually complex, quasi-Serial score to the sci-fi allegory, Planet of the Apes. Its main theme is only "quasi-Serial" because it was made of more than the 12 tones allowed in strict Serial composing. Still, the order of the tones is constant and all the subsequent musical material is reliant on that "series". A generally atonal score would not have suggested the same deliberate sinister design that a Serial row conveys even abstractly. And this well-known story of Apes – in which a space crew crash landed on a hostile planet where apes have evolved past primitive humans -- needed that special undercurrent of systematic evil. Conventional action scoring would have sufficed but Goldsmith saw an opportunity to exaggerate the nightmare by two gimmicks: exploiting the "foreign" sound and implications of Serial music, and assembling a weird conglomeration of instruments to represent the apocalyptic plot. His orchestra consisted of aggressive brass, shrill woodwinds, active string sections, one bass slide whistle and a lot of jabbing syncopated solo piano work – all of that constantly punctuated by a cohort of strange percussion instruments: tropical drums, clapper sticks, bamboo rods, conch shells used as bugles, even stainless steel mixing bowls swiped by write brushes and made to reverberate like a gong. Much praise is due (and we will revisit this later) to this score's unique sound-design but we are focusing here on the compositional content of these three scores. In this present case, whereas this music appears to "ape" a Serial row and, in its broken primitive rhythms and vivace piano details, seems to invoke Stravinsky, what it really draws on for inspiration (again, remembering the music to Freud six years earlier) is Bartok again, specifically that composer's 1936 "Music for Strings, Piano and Celeste". Its piano parts have just a passing similarity to the Apes music but for more absolute likenesses, compare the "Clothes Snatching" sequence in the film score with the staccato figures four minutes into Bartok's third movement or that same movement's main theme which is at least a close cousin (though it's not Serial) to the apes' main theme, complete with xylophone and piano accents and all. The high, mysterious unison strings in Bartok's first movement are referenced all through the film music by Goldsmith and solo piano commenting over a churning orchestra is a feature of both scores. As bold music in its own right, this was soundtrack that brought Planet of the Apes much of the public and critical attention it enjoyed that year, 1968. Even so, it lost its nominated Academy Award to a conventional period score. Thus, in spite of those three masterworks just described, it was still true that few people knew Goldsmith's name or wrote seriously about his work.

In one brief article from the National Observer (11-7-66), Goldsmith complained about neglect outright: "I resent being looked down on by the so-called musical purists who are still more likely to start a review of a serious piece of mine with something like 'motion picture composer Jerry Goldsmith'..." One could say that he was just young and pouting there – that film composers are specialists and that until there are concert works to out-number your film scores you're not likely to be thought of outside your specialty. After all, the internal architecture and development of a classical composition is one of its main components and yet is clearly lacking in film music which takes its direction externally from the screen. Critics calling him a mere film composer were just acknowledging the limits of the profession he chose. At any rate, Goldsmith has always composed along his own strict guidelines and certainly deserves acknowledgment of that. By the late 1960s, at least he was known inside the Hollywood studios for those three milestone scores – and all that impeccable TV work.

Our point here is that he continued that same self-conscious work ethic for the next 35 years. In examining that, we have identified three recurring compositional traits that Goldsmith seems to have applied to each of his most serious and personal scores no matter whether he was scoring a dark horror film, a comedy, adventure, or a sensitive character study. Certainly technical experience and personal qualities are ultimately what any composer's music has in common but I have been curious to analyze Goldsmith's means and methods more closely. So I have noted three traits – well, two procedures and one stylistic result.

Jerry Goldsmith The Planet of the Apes score is a good demonstration of the first characteristic of Goldsmith's composing: his scores were most often monothematic – one representative theme stood for each film, either expressive of the setting or of some subtext in the film story. Out of that theme, then, he would typically extract a three or four note cell to be used as a seedling replanted throughout the score and developed into the rest of his narrative and descriptive music. In Apes, there is one main theme, a quasi-tone row from which he then derives a distinctive three note motif (C>A<Bb), sometimes followed by an answering phrase. That motif becomes iconic, posed as a question or a warning or just a reminder throughout the scoring, buried, varied, manipulated into action sequences or scenes of meditation, usually harmonized in unresolved ways – not just baldly repeated but unraveled slowly as part of a chord or tossed into a piano run; even rendered by the tonal percussion instruments. That practice of isolating small cells of notes and using them to build your developmental material (which is a tenant of the formal Serial system) was already in Goldsmith's composing repertoire and for him it became a habit.

The triplet piano figure in A Patch of Blue (G<G#>G>C as 16th notes) became a similar motto or repeating cell for that film score. Goldsmith used it as a stand-alone melodic figure, as a harmony to his sympathetic legato theme for the blind girl, and as a kind of tonal totem around which the other instruments could modulate in some of the functional, transitional music cues in the score. One especially joyous use of the triplet motto we have hinted at already -- where the repeated variation of that single cell actually seems to drive and inspire the action on screen, not just follow it – comes during the scene where the blind girl shares some unexpected cheer with her new friend, Gordon. On his way to work, he has paused to watch her at her menial handiwork -- stringing beads to make cheap necklaces -- then briefly joins-in helping her, to their mutual delight. The scoring, so far for this scene, has been a lingering backdrop of woodwinds; now as the two new friends interact Goldsmith introduces a gathering sense of excitement by stirring the triplet figure into more rhythmic patterns, bringing in woodwinds with contrapuntal lines, and soon even inserting a castanet click to mimic each bead that drops into place on the necklace string. Through the music score, the girl's rote work has become a happy game. It is still a monothematic score but it has become both functionally cinematic and satisfyingly musical.

Jerry Goldsmith: Chinatown - film score album cover Though not always comfortable coming up with wholly natural or believable melodic themes (but especially moving when he did) Goldsmith's bluesy world-weary trumpet theme that becomes the voice and conscience of a cynical detective in Chinatown (1974) proved instantly charismatic and expressive – a monothematic score if there ever was one. Its first three notes are his motto here and provide a speculative introduction to almost every cue thereafter whether or not the rest of that trumpet torch song is carried to its climax; and in a similar vein, motto-based composing derived from monothematic scores has been Goldsmith's habit since the early days of Lonely Are the Brave noting his nine note phrase there which became a motto (this time on cowboy trumpet), or a certain lunging habanera theme that reduced to an exciting motto in 100 Rifles or the jittery accented two-note trope, confined within a strict 6/8 meter, that kept tensions high around the fictionalized U.S. space program in Capricorn One (1978).

Jerry Goldsmith: The Wind and the Lion - film score album cover None of this is to say that Goldsmith always stuck with monothematic scoring. The intrepid fanfare of open 5ths that stands as the main motto in the Moroccan adventure score The Wind and the Lion is actually challenged and equaled by a compelling love theme and both themes sweep in and out of some of Goldsmith's most vigorous and virtuosic orchestral scoring for desert battle scenes. So, too, is the main theme of Star Trek, the Movie equal to, but kept separate from, that film's strong exotic love theme. Predictably, that score is based on a seven note derivative motto though, as Goldsmith evolved through that decade, the narrative/descriptive body of the score works its way farther than usual from that seedling material. Even ethnically specific scores like Under Fire (1983) with its Peruvian flute-motto or Russia House (1990) with its dark Soviet era ambiance and voicing, broke off a single motto (which didn't necessarily sound ethnic by itself) for use as score-starter. Even the heavily-panting sex thriller Basic Instinct (1992) got a harmonically ambiguous main theme (reminding us of the composer's chromatic piano waltz from 30 years earlier in TV's "What Beckoning Ghost") from which a descending chromatic five-chord motto was extracted to spawn that whole score. So that is the first composing habit we attribute to Goldsmith – working from motivic cells -- a reasonable way to proceed when facing still another as-yet-silent film soundtrack in need of a score.

Jerry Goldsmith: The Mephisto Waltz / The Other - film score album cover A second characteristic of the Goldsmith method of composing that seemed to distinguish him was his penchant for somehow "hearing" in his head and then recreating in fact a unique sound-world for each film – i.e. custom tailoring unusual combinations of instruments that, in theory, would become part of the film's distinctive memory, at least part of its atmosphere. Ultimate examples have already been suggested: the tight but transparent ensemble of piano, harmonica, vibes, solo winds, and a handful of strings in A Patch of Blue used there not for the sake of economy (as in those live TV days) but for intimacy's sake; the aggressively eccentric collection of percussion instruments and reverberation effects that disturbed the already sharp orchestral writing in Planet of the Apes. As an early and leading champion of incorporating synthesized sounds into the traditional orchestra, Goldsmith exploited a wide range of electronic voicings over the years that illustrate this category of sound-design: tone beds and singular sounds to give a film its own aural profile. Examples include the electronically reproduced Andean flutes and South American drums in Under Fire, the computer-sampled and altered African tribal chants that became part of the fabric of the score to Ghost and the Darkness, and the synthesized moans and creaks and shrieks and knocks mixed in with Goldsmith's vivid paraphrase of Liszt in The Mephisto Waltz later exaggerated to comic proportions in Gremlins. The sound-world of Warlock, if not as memorable in its synthesized snarling as was The Omen, was still the more interesting aspect of its score than the composition itself. This gift for sound design must be an instinctual, highly personal, probably un-teachable talent. I still cannot quite fathom the creative mindset from which Goldsmith once said that, on seeing the film Chinatown for the first time and considering a sound-world for its score, he immediately "heard a solo trumpet, strings, four pianos, four harps, and a chime..." Of course, that's a score that proved inseparable from its film – one of the best of its decade. But where does such intuition come from?

Jerry Goldsmith: The Great Train Robbery - film score album cover A third overall trait of Goldsmith scoring is the least concrete but the most important, and it's not a quantifiable procedure like using mottos or settling on a sound design – it is a qualitative style of Goldsmith the composer: that the narrative body of his best scores, the functional descriptive music driving ahead with "mere" accompaniment chores is equally committed to its prosaic storytelling function and to its own music-making. It is musical prose, a kind of instrumental recitative impulsively following the action on screen, yet it sustains its own kind of internal logic. It is instinctual but sounds intentional. Thus, for instance, the orchestral seascapes heard in films like Islands in the Stream or Papillion while not shaped or paced in any formal or symmetrical way, nor theme-driven at all, play-out as interesting, purposeful impressionistic sketches, blessedly free of clichés, musically satisfying and yet always in service of the cinema. Internal architecture and external music-making likewise characterized Goldsmith scores to The Blue Max, TV's The Red Pony, adventure films like The Great Train Robbery, First Knight, Take a Hard Ride, Star Trek Insurrection and smaller productions Rudy or Small Soldiers, any one cue from which could be removed and presented as a tight, logical evocative concert impromptu. For a classroom demonstration of such functional music which is also compositionally legit and satisfying, try the "Trip to the County Fair" from Raggedy Man, the "Restless Hours" sequence from Seconds, the tennis match in The Reincarnation of Peter Proud, the frantic Raisuli attack music in Wind and the Lion, or the suddenly emotional scoring behind a bleak phone call being placed from frozen outer space to a warm home planet in Outland. Goldsmith's sad, lyrical scoring there is light-years away from the rest of that cold mechanical score. Half prose; half poetry.

Jerry Goldsmith: The Hollow Man - film score album cover For Jerry Goldsmith laboring, as it were, in isolation over these bits of film trying to match them with music, "gut wrenching" over thematic inventions and sound designs, stringing together long-ish descriptive passages that also "make music", probably never to be noticed, film scoring could indeed seem to be a thankless job, a transient career at best. He said he went out on the road as a guest conductor, late in life, mainly to beat the isolation of composing and to overcome that old feeling of anonymity – to replace the professional resentment with some public applause. Sure enough of his own talents and modest enough about the collaborative aspect of his chosen field (your job as a film composer is to please the producer/director; not "have your own say") he did not become bitter in the end or reclusive. Indeed, he softened in his old age; his scores still offered one main theme but he less often labored over motive-variations and counterpoints: his later orchestrations rested on (often pale) long-lined tunes, simply harmonized with whole sections of the orchestra replaced by synth pads. Still, it was not for laziness that his final scores slackened in scope and style: after all, only a composer of personal integrity could find such fun-and-color in a film score called Mom and Dad Save the World (1991) or new spook-sounds in The Haunting (1999) or The Hollow Man (2000). And, now and then, there were still simple, sincere themes that occurred to him like the song in Not Without My Daughter. Meanwhile, the generation of directors who sought his services and the audiences who begged him to concertize grew younger and broader every year. Now there's even a commemorative star on the pavement of his Hollywood home town!

Jerry Goldsmith: The Other - film poster I still worry somewhat, though, that his support is shallow and that his main fame still rests only with those brassy action movies rather than with the rich and varied catalogue I have spotlighted here. I could only hope that the next generation of students/listeners might take the time to test-out these three Goldsmithian characteristics described above and follow them through to some kind of appreciation, thereby debunking his own apparent pessimism about posterity. It's still a thankless field; he was right about that, though. I think back to one impeccable little Goldsmith score to a 1972 occult film by Robert Mulligan, The Other. It was a period piece set on a Depression era farm asking us to decide which of two twin brothers was the naively Good one and which murderously Evil. At the time of its release, the critic for "Films in Review" gave the score such a high-level of detailed attention and lasting appreciation as I am hoping our generation (and the next) might aspire to in support of a talent like Goldsmith:

"The Other", he wrote, "1972's most beautiful film music to date, adds a guileless and moving voice to the film... From the opening credits we hear the main theme briefly whistled as introduction to an ensuing, superbly orchestrated setting. The melody itself is a fragile one, sad and winsome Americana discreetly harmonized and later turned into a veritable ballet as Grandma Ada urges one boy to play a game of soul-transference scored by a rather thrilling waltz... Goldsmith's tendency to dissolve more complex harmonies into the simplest tonal combinations is one of his hallmarks and his theme for the boys' damaged mother is some of his most poignant music; a strings and piano duet to bring realization to her inner torture and loneliness. This is music of contour, proportion and a direction that is individual but with the advantage of flexibility and restraint. Goldsmith's extraordinary score... may be the year's stunner."

They don't bother with detailed reviews like that anymore (except on websites like this?). But that was just one of many fairly functional, easily missed Goldsmith accomplishments in his 50 year career. And it turns out that his early pessimism was often justified: in this case, it so happened that the producers of The Other somehow found fault with the perfect 20 minutes of music Goldsmith provided for their film – and so only about half of his score was ever heard in the final film! If the film industry treats even its masters like that while they're alive, what hope have we that posterity (that is, current and future fans and critics) will make amends? I'd say Goldsmith was right to be guarded and skeptical way back when. Even the Walk of Fame can be fickle.

Author: John Caps


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