Jerry Goldsmith, favorite composer

I have always had a fondness for movie soundtracts.  Before CD’s came about, I had a massive record collection.  I would note a particular composer’s work in a movie and watch for the record album to come out.  I have no real musical background, I just know what I like.

I have a number of favorite composers but one that stands out (and I’m not sure if he has ever gained the kind of public attention he deserves is Jerrald King Goldsmith or more popularly, Jerry Goldsmith.

My first introduction into this versatle composer’s work was on Lilies of the Field—a black and white, Ralph Nelson production. The score was fairly simple with an harmonica, banjo and strings.  The ongoing theme was a riff on the old spiritual “Amen” “sung” by Sidney Poitier’s Homer Smith. (The actual singing was done by Jester Hairston if I remember correctly…) But the soundtract so underscored the narrative that it just fit marvelously. It had a simplicity that enhanced the story but never got in the way. The score is uplifting and inspiring—just as is the movie’s storyline.

The next Jerry Goldsmith score I enjoyed was the Flim-Flam Man starring George C. Scott as Mordecai Jones, the titlar character. Again, Mr. Goldsmith features the harmonica because of the rural setting but it tended to be a bit more complex than the Fields score.. There were some basic similarities with his Lilies of the Field score but stands on its own and is tremendously enjoyable to listen to. Although I was able to get the record album for Lilies, the score for the Flim-Flam Man was not cut (or at least, I could not find it in Hawaii).  I remember taking my little tape recorder and recording the opening sequence for the movie so I could listen to it after viewing it in the theater (was that illegal???). I have the movie on VHS because it has not been released on DVD yet.

When the James Bond phenomenon hit, TV had to have it’s own secret agents—so, to my delight came The Man from Uncle!  It was not until many years later that I found out that Jerry Goldsmith composed the pounding, brassy opening fanfare! He also composed the lilting Dr. Kildare theme before that…

Jerry Goldsmith has been quite prolific and there are times I’ll view a movie and discover it had been scored by him!  Of course, I’m always delighted to make that discovery! Mr. Goldsmith has written so many scores that I’m certain I am familiar with only a portion of his work.

My next “jump” to another Jerry Goldsmith score was Patton. The echoing “war horns” that begin the main title starts off slowly and then the fife/flutes come in, introducing the “Patton March.” This is followed by the brass which enter in majestically and the score builds to a magnificent, rousing cresendo and then tapers back to the soft echoing of the aforementioned horns— a “call to war” triplet as some have described it. These “triplet” horns were intended to represent Patton’s belief in reincarnation. Certainly a great score!

When the demands of Star Trek fans finally brought about a full movie version of the classic TV series, it was Jerry Goldsmith who did the score (and not Alexander Courage). One of my seminary friends complained that the score didn’t seem to have much of a “bottom” but I thought the score quite appropriate — and having “no bottom” was not a problem since this story takes place in outer space there seem to be no need for a heavy base line. Of course, Mr. Goldsmith’s main theme was carried over to the Star Trek TV’s Next Generation.

But of the various Goldsmith scores for Star Trek, the them that I LOVED  was the main theme for First Contact.  It is so beautiful!  It has a warmth that takes the visual narrative into a whole other realm (it seems). It may be the use of French Horns that may give it that “warmth” but I just loved it. I used the theme for various audio-visual slideshows I’ve put together. So, even though my visuals were more teresterial, the “extra-teresteral” theme still works wonderfully well!

The versitility of Mr. Goldsmith can also be seen in his scores for animated features.  The one of note that comes to mind is The Secret of N.I.M.H. which was a colaboration with Paul Williams who composed the songs.

Goldsmith’s score enhances the mystery, wonder and excitement to this Don Bluth animation film. Years later, Mr. Goldsmith scored the Disney hit Mulan.

Science fiction is not the only genre Jerry Goldsmith exells in. He wrote the score for the Tobe Hooper supernatural thriller Poltergeist. His music initially takes us through a generic neighborhood as we see children playing with their radio-remote cars. The music moves from the normal to the supernatural with wonderful flair and certainly adds to the horror that would befall the unfortunate family.

The horror genre would be the realm where Goldsmith would attain his first and only Academy Award. The movie The Omen, of the birth and early years of the Antichrist (“666”) would be one where the composer would use a choir in “an Avant-garde style.”  So, in 1976, Jerry Goldsmith walked up to receive his award for Best Original Score! Although Mr. Goldsmith has not won many awards, his scores have won numerous nominations and critical acclaim. I admire the score’s on its technical merits but have a hard time listening to it… it is too intense and scary!

Some composers seem to have common themes musical phrases and certain characteristics that one can recognize from score to score.  I have an extremely difficult time identifying a Jerry Goldsmith score—just because it is so unique and through his creativity, unlike anything he has done before. Jerry Goldsmith’s creativity and prolific body of work is second to none!




One thought on “Jerry Goldsmith, favorite composer

  1. “Ground Hog Day” is one of my favorite movies, for all the reasons you recounted. Also enjoyed learning something about Jerry Goldsmith. You have a great capacity for pulling together the varied works of the people behind the movies and what their contributions were to them. I hope you keep this up. You have your own unique perspective, which helps others in understanding the contribution of all the artists, not just the most obvious ones.
    Great job.

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