Jerry Goldsmith, RIP

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A rousing end-credits fanfare for my favorite composer of movie scores. This Reuters story perversely identifies him as "'Rambo' composer Jerry Goldsmith." Though I'm a fan of both Goldsmith and the Rambo franchise, this was not among his better efforts. I sang Jerry's praises in a discussion a while back, so in honor of his death you can reread my comments at no additional charge:

John Williams couldn't hold Jerry Goldsmith's jockstrap. In a lot of ways Goldsmith is Williams's b-side, and in fact in some cases Goldsmith would do the music for the less prestigious of back-to-back Spielberg productions (Poltergeist, for example, while Williams got E.T.) He's been tarred by doing a lot of work on bad films—often a Goldsmith score is the only reason to see a movie—and is not unreasonably considered a hack.

Since I admire hacks, I'll make the case for Goldsmith. He's produced countless memorable scores in every style imaginable: waltz (The Boys From Brazil), march (Patton), tango (Six Degrees of Separation), avant-garde suite (Planet of the Apes), Ravel/DeBussy-type fantasia (incidental music in Poltergeist), ersatz church chant (The Omen), innumerable variations on Richard Rodgers's Victory at Sea music (he's the go-to man for commando/special forces pictures), novelty/merry-go-round music (Gremlins) and so on. Even when he clips a score, as he did in taking Leonard Bernstein's On the Waterfront for L.A. Confidential, he makes sure to steal a good one.

Make mine Jerry!

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  1. He was indeed ubiquitous, like the other Bernstein: Elmer.

  2. John Williams couldn’t hold Jerry Goldsmith’s jockstrap.

    Eeeewwwwww, Gross! I probably couldn’t either.

  3. Jerry Goldsmith’s body of work is broad, if not always deep. Occupying adjacent places on my DVD shelf are the films L.A. Confidential and Logan’s Run. Both were scored by Goldsmith. I think that says as much as one can about him. Rest in peace indeed.

  4. The Orion Slave Girl music has made an appearance on every party mix I’ve made.

  5. I had a nagging memory that Goldsmith had something to do with Star Trek, too. He did. He’s pretty much the composer of everything Trek since the first movie. I’m not sure who actually wrote the Orion Slave Girl Song–it might have been Alexander Courage, who I’m pretty sure came up with the original theme–but I’m afraid my absolute knowledge of TOS ended about 25 years ago.

    IMDB.com lists all of Goldsmith’s movie work.

  6. Orion slave girl music? I don’t think Goldsmith wrote any music for the original Star Trek TV series.

  7. Tim —

    Goldsmith was one of the best ever; he’ll be missed. Thanks for the encomium. But your list left off perhaps his finest score: the moody, seductive, and rapturous Chinatown.

    Jason Ligon — You’re confusing John Williams with the Actual Man from Oingo Boingo – Danny Elfman, another brilliant film composer. Williams’ background was in jazz; he was a first call session pianist in the early 1960s, when he was known as “Johnny Williams.”

  8. This is downright disrespectfult of John Williams. You may like Goldsmith better, but no way is he THAT much better.

    Don’t even think about disrespecting Our Man from Oingo Boingo …

  9. I really like a lot of his sci-fi work. Check out ‘Alien’ and ‘Total Recall’ for two outstanding scores. In fact, the ‘Alien’ DVD has a feature where you can listen to an alternate Goldsmith score instead of the regular movie audio. I’d put Goldsmith up there with Bernard Hermann, Alan Silvestri (the ‘Predator’ soundtrack is one of my favorites), and Danny Elfman.

  10. Williams is OK, but his reputation far exceeds his accomplishments, and he’s been doing the same schtick forever. Listen to the Schindler’s List and Harry Potter themes back-to-back: They’re almost note-for-note the same melody.

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