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New York Times Jerry Goldsmith Obituary

Jerry Goldsmith, Prolific Composer for Films, Dies at 75

Published: July 23, 2004

Jerry Goldsmith, a composer whose hundreds of innovative scores for movies and television, from "Patton" to "Gunsmoke," showcased many musical styles, died on Wednesday at his home in Beverly Hills. He was 75.

The cause was cancer, Lois Carruth, his personal assistant, told The Associated Press.

Mr. Goldsmith's many movie scores include "Planet of the Apes" (1968), "The Blue Max" (1966), "Chinatown" (1974), "Basic Instinct" (1992) and "L.A. Confidential" (1997). His themes for television shows included "Dr. Kildare," "Barnaby Jones" and a 45-second fanfare used in Academy Awards telecasts.

Many of his scores became classics, from the military brass of "Patton" (1970) to the sentimental slush of the theme for "The Waltons." His music for several of the "Star Trek" movies added an eerie dimension to the action.

A classically trained composer who began his musical studies at age 6, Mr. Goldsmith had no single recognizable style. He used Latin chants in the 1976 film "The Omen," which won an Academy Award for best score, his only Oscar despite 18 nominations. He won five Emmy Awards for his television work.

In the movies "Freud" (1962) and "Twilight's Last Gleaming" (1977) he used an atonal approach, while his score for "Lonely Are the Brave" (1962), his first major motion picture, recalled Aaron Copland's expressive style.

Mr. Goldsmith was not averse to using a wide variety of electronic sounds, but many of his most striking effects involved the avant-garde use of a conventional orchestra. In "Planet of the Apes" he used horns blown without their mouthpieces.

Mr. Goldsmith also achieved arresting results by being selective about where music was placed in films. In "Coma" (1978), he did not provide music until halfway into the picture.

In 2000 he told Daily Yomiuri, a Tokyo newspaper, that the British Broadcasting Corporation had done a survey a few years earlier and found that every minute of every day, a piece of his music was being played somewhere.

"That's good for my ego," he said.

Jerrald Goldsmith was born on Feb. 10, 1929, in Los Angeles. He studied piano with Jacob Gimpel and composition, theory and counterpoint with Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, a pianist, composer and film musician. At the University of Southern California he studied under Miklos Rozsa, who wrote the Oscar-winning score for the 1945 movie "Spellbound," which starred Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck.

Mr. Goldsmith's first job was as a clerk and typist for CBS television, and by 1950 he had become a composer for live radio shows like "Romance" and "CBS Radio Workshop." He composed a score a week for them.

His television career began with live dramas like "Playhouse 90" and went on to series that included "Perry Mason," "Have Gun Will Travel" and "The Man From U.N.C.L.E."

In a 1998 interview with The Herald of Glasgow he said that he particularly liked composing for "The Twilight Zone."

"The wilder it was, the better," he said. "They said I could try anything, any experiment, just to see if the instruments could do it, just to see what different combinations of sounds would be like."

He left CBS in 1960 to work with the film composer Alfred Newman at Revue Studios, where he composed scores for an average of six films a year in the 60's, his most active period. He developed the technique of waiting until the movie was almost complete before starting the score.

"I can't get ideas from a script," he told The Washington Post in 1983.

In recent years he sometimes collaborated with his son Joel, also a film and television composer. Their collaborations include "Star Trek: First Contact" (1996).

In addition to Joel, Mr. Goldsmith is survived by his wife, Carol; another son, Aaron; three daughters, Carrie, Ellen Edson and Jennifer Grossman; six grandchildren; and a great-grandchild.

Mr. Goldsmith composed orchestral pieces and conducted symphony orchestras around the world, including the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London. He also taught music composition at the University of Southern California.

He told the Glasgow newspaper that one reason he devoted his life to movie music was because he had a taste for "certain middle-class comforts." The other reason was apparent in his exuberant oeuvre:

"I loved drama, and I loved the movies," he said.

* * *

A more personal obit can be found here.


Further tributes:


Washington Post (requires free registration)


The John Williams Fan Network

Movie Music U.K.

Cine Music

Music From the Movies


BSO Spirit


Unification (Star Trek)

Ain't It Cool News

DVD Review

Jaquandor's Personal Blog

The Independent

The London Times

The Guardian

The London Symphony Orchestra

Jerry Goldsmith On Line (Forum)

Northern Sound Source (Young Composers Forum)

Movie (fan personal stories)

Cinematic Sound (radio show)
Tags: film music, memorial

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