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Jerry Goldsmith

Goldsmith conducts the London Symphony Orchestra, 2003
Born Jerrald King Goldsmith
February 10, 1929(1929-02-10)
Los Angeles, California
Died July 21, 2004 (aged 75)
Beverly Hills, California
Occupation composer and conductor
Years active 1951 - 2004
Spouse(s) Sharon Hennagin (1950-1970)
Carol Heather (1972-2004)

Jerrald King "Jerry" Goldsmith (February 10, 1929 – July 21, 2004) was an American film score composer from Los Angeles, California. He won four Emmy Awards, an Oscar for The Omen, and was nominated for 17 other Oscars. He worked in various film and television genres, but is prominently associated with action, suspense sci-fi, and horror films.




Childhood and education

Goldsmith was born in Los Angeles, California, the son of Tessa (née Rappaport), an artist, and Morris Goldsmith, a structural engineer.[1] He learned to play the piano at age six. At fourteen, he studied piano, composition, theory and counterpoint with teachers Jakob Gimpel and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco. Goldsmith attended the University of Southern California, where he attended courses taught by veteran composer Miklós Rózsa. Goldsmith developed an interest in writing scores for movies after being inspired by Rózsa.

1950s and 1960s

In 1950, Goldsmith found work at CBS as a clerk in the network's music department. He began writing scores for radio (including CBS Radio Workshop; Frontier Gentleman, for which he wrote the title music; (Suspense) the episode " Eyewitness" broadcast on December 16, 1956 where wrote and conducted the score and Romance) and CBS television shows (including The Twilight Zone). He remained at CBS until 1960, after which he moved on to Revue Studios, where he would compose music for television shows such as Dr. Kildare and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

In 1963, Goldsmith was first nominated for an Oscar for John Huston's film Freud. Shortly after, he met Alfred Newman, who was instrumental in Goldsmith's hiring by 20th Century-Fox. Goldsmith went on to collaborate with many big-name filmmakers throughout his career, including Robert Wise (The Sand Pebbles, Star Trek: The Motion Picture), Howard Hawks (Rio Lobo), Otto Preminger (In Harm's Way), Roman Polanski (Chinatown), Steven Spielberg/Tobe Hooper (Poltergeist), and Ridley Scott (Alien and Legend). But his most notable collaboration was arguably that with Franklin J. Schaffner (for whom Goldsmith scored Planet of the Apes, Patton and Papillon).

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Genres for which Goldsmith composed scores

Goldsmith provided tailor-made scores for many genres; including war films (The Blue Max), film noir (Chinatown), action movies (Rambo: First Blood and the first two sequels), erotic thrillers (Basic Instinct), sports pictures (Rudy), family comedies (The Trouble with Angels), westerns (Breakheart Pass), comic book adaptations (Supergirl), animated features (The Secret of NIMH), and science fiction (Total Recall, Alien and five Star Trek films). His ability to write terrifying music won him his only Academy Award for his violent choral/orchestral score for The Omen. He also was awarded with Emmys for television scores like the Holocaust drama QB VII, and the epic Masada, as well as the theme for Star Trek: Voyager.

Goldsmith composed for The Waltons TV series (including its theme), a fanfare for the Academy Awards presentation show and the score for one of the Disneyland Resort's most popular attractions, Soarin' Over California. Goldsmith did not like the term "film composer", as he felt the term "composer" was more than sufficient. He wrote "absolute" music for the concert hall (such as "Music For Orchestra", which was premiered by Leonard Slatkin and the Minnesota Orchestra in 1970).

Innovation and adaptation

Goldsmith loved innovation and adaptation, and using strange instruments. His score for Alien featured an orchestra augmented by shofar, steel drum and serpent (a 16th century instrument), while creating further "alien" sounds by filtering string pizzicati through an echoplex. Many of the instruments in Alien were used in such atypical ways they were virtually unidentifiable. During the 80s, with the development of more sophisticated synthesizers and technology such as MIDI, Goldsmith started to abandon acoustical solutions to create unusual timbres, and relied more and more on digital instruments. He continued to champion the use of orchestras however (to which, for him, electronics were merely an adjunct). He remained a studious researcher of ethnic music, using South American Zampoñas in Under Fire, native tribal chants in Congo, and interwove a traditional Irish folk melody with African rhythms in The Ghost and the Darkness. His concept for creation and innovation often intimidated his peers. Henry Mancini, another film-music composer, admitted that Goldsmith "scares the hell out of us."

Final scores

Goldsmith's final theatrical score was for the 2003 live action/animated film Looney Tunes: Back in Action. His score for the Richard Donner film Timeline the same year was rejected during the complicated post-production process; however, Goldsmith's score has since been released on CD, not long after his death.

Notable scores

A list of his distinguished film scores, most of which were Oscar nominated, include Freud, A Patch of Blue, The Blue Max, The Sand Pebbles, Planet of the Apes, Patton, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, Papillon, Chinatown, The Wind and the Lion, The Omen, Logan's Run, Islands in the Stream (acknowledged by Goldsmith as his own personal favorite), The Boys from Brazil, Capricorn One, Alien, The First Great Train Robbery, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Twilight Zone: The Movie, Lionheart, The Russia House, First Blood, Rambo: First Blood Part II, Rambo III, Total Recall, Medicine Man, Basic Instinct, Hoosiers, The Edge, The 13th Warrior and The Mummy. Goldsmith's Oscar-nominated score for Under Fire (1983) prominently featured solo guitar work by Pat Metheny. Of all the scores he wrote, Goldsmith has said that Basic Instinct was the hardest and most complex, according to a mini-documentary on the special edition DVD.

One of Goldsmith's least-heard scores was for the 1985 Ridley Scott film Legend. Director Scott had commissioned Goldsmith to write an orchestral score for the movie, but was initially heard only in European theatres, and replaced with a synthesizer score by Tangerine Dream and pop songs for the American release due to studio politics (it has since been restored for DVD release).

Many of Goldsmith's scores from the 1980s and 1990s (such as the aforementioned Legend and the J. Lee Thompson remake of King Solomon's Mines) were performed with the National Philharmonic Orchestra and Hungarian State Opera Orchestra.

It is said that the prologue to the 1965 movie The Agony and The Ecstasy, written in the days when he was lesser-known, remained up until the very end of his career one of Jerry Goldsmith's personal favourites.[2]


Goldsmith received a total of 17 Academy Award nominations, making him one of the most nominated composers in the history of the Academy Awards. Despite this Goldsmith only won the Oscar on one occasion, for his score to the 1976 film The Omen. This makes Goldsmith the most nominated composer to have only won an Oscar on one occasion.

He also received 9 Golden Globe nominations but never won the award. Similarly he received five Grammy nominations but again never won.

List of movies and series (chronological)







Star Trek

Goldsmith is often remembered for composing the scores for five Star Trek films — Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Star Trek: First Contact (with son Joel), Star Trek: Insurrection, and Star Trek Nemesis — and the title theme for the Star Trek: Voyager television series. The theme from Star Trek: The Next Generation was adapted from the main title of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Gene Roddenberry initially wanted Goldsmith to score Star Trek's pilot episode, "The Cage", but the composer was unavailable.

The score for Star Trek: The Motion Picture is regarded by many as the composer's most impressive. Goldsmith was charged with depicting a universe with his music, and so it is extremely expansive. But Goldsmith's initial main theme was not well-received by the filmmakers (director Robert Wise felt, "It sounds like sailing ships" [3]). Although somewhat irked by its rejection, Goldsmith consented to re-work his initial idea and finally arrived at the soaring, majestic theme which was ultimately used (and which remains instantly recognizable today). The core of the main theme bears some resemblance to that of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., scored by Goldsmith in 1964.

Yet there are many other facets to this score. The opening sequence features a theme for the Klingons, a clarion call introduced by woodwinds, accompanied by angklungs (bamboo rattles from Indonesia). Goldsmith would reprise this Klingon theme in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and for Worf in the subsequent scores. The love theme for Ilia was used for the overture. Goldsmith also came up with a signature sound for V'Ger by using Craig Huxley's "Blaster Beam" (a long, narrow metal box, equipped with low, electronically amplified piano strings, which the player strikes with an artillery shell casing and mallet). Goldsmith also utilized a large pipe organ, which required the score be recorded at 20th Century Fox (which had the only scoring stage in Los Angeles equipped with such an organ).

Alexander Courage, who composed the theme for the original Star Trek television series, was a friend of Goldsmith's, and served as his orchestrator on several scores. Courage also provided a new arrangement of his theme from the original series for use in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Another of the original series' composers, Fred Steiner, provided a few minor cues based on Goldsmith's original material (as deadlines prevented Goldsmith from completing every last scene). A considerable portion of the score for Star Trek: The Motion Picture was conducted by an uncredited Lionel Newman; Goldsmith, owing to the unusual instrumental blends, preferred to monitor the balance in the recording booth.

Awards nominations

Academy Awards

Eighteen nominations, one win

Emmy Awards

Seven nominations, six wins

  • 1961-"Thriller" (Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Music for Television)(shared nomination with Pete Rugolo)
  • 1973-"The Red Pony" (won)(Outstanding Achievement in Music Composition - for a Special Program)
  • 1975-"QB VII (Parts 1 & 2)" (won)(Outstanding Achievement in Music Composition for a Special Program)
  • 1976-"Babe" (won)(Outstanding Achievement in Music Composition for a Special)
  • 1981-"Masada (Episode 2)" (won)(Outstanding Achievement in Music Composition for a Limited Series or Dramatic Special)
  • 1995-"Star Trek: Voyager" (won)(Outstanding Individual Achievement in Main Title Theme Music)

Golden Globes

Nine nominations, no wins

  • 1965-Seven Days in May
  • 1967-The Sand Pebbles
  • 1975-Chinatown
  • 1980-Star Trek:The Motion Picture
  • 1980-Alien
  • 1984-Under Fire
  • 1993-Basic Instinct
  • 1998-L.A. Confidential
  • 1999-Mulan

Grammy Awards

Six nominations, no wins

  • 1966-The Man From U.N.C.L.E. with the Hugo Montenegro Orchestra (Best Original Score Written for A Motion Picture or TV Show - Composer's Award)(shared nomination with Lalo Schifrin, Mort Stevens and Walter Scharf)
  • 1975-QB VII (Best Album of Original Score Written For a Motion Picture or TV Special - Composer's Award)
  • 1976-The Wind and the Lion (Best Album of Original Score Written For a Motion Picture or TV Award - Composer's Award)
  • 1977-The Omen (Best Album of Original Score Written For a Motion Picture or TV Special - Composer's Award)
  • 1980-Alien (Best Album of Original Score Written For a Motion Picture or TV Special - Composer's Award)
  • 1981 - "The Slaves" (track from Masada soundtrack (Best Instrumental Composition - Composer's Award)


  • His score for Islands in the Stream remained his personal favourite.[citation needed]
  • Goldsmith's daughter, Carrie Goldsmith, went to high school[4] with famed Titanic composer James Horner, who also composed music for Star Trek's second and third movies: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. And contrary to Horner's comments on the subject, Joel Goldsmith states "Jamie" was at a few of his father's sessions.
  • On the Planet of the Apes DVD commentary track, he explains why he didn't score the final scene: "Charlton Heston was a bit over the top by himself," and didn't need any score to accompany him.
  • He considered Total Recall (1990) one of his best scores.[citation needed]
  • He considered his score for The Secret of NIMH one of his best. He asked for another three weeks to refine the score and make it perfect, which he was not under contract to do. He said it was one of his hardest to compose, due to the full film not yet being completed when he started to score it.
  • With help from fellow composer Joel McNeely, he composed and recorded the score to Air Force One in just three weeks (after replacing a score by Randy Newman). Goldsmith later said he would never again take on a replacement score with such little time available, but in spite of that, took on five films where he replaced a composer/composers, including doing a new score in a short amount of time—two years after the vow—to The 13th Warrior (replacing a score by Graeme Revell).
  • In 1997, he composed a new theme for the Universal Studios opening logo (first heard in The Lost World: Jurassic Park).
  • Goldsmith used the 1939 Novachord in several of his early scores.
  • Goldsmith lived with his wife, former teacher and singer Carol Heather Goldsmith, in Beverly Hills. She composed lyrics for, and sang in the additional track "The Piper Dreams" for the soundtrack of The Omen, as well as a song from the film Caboblanco.
  • Ellen Edson, a daughter from his first marriage, who supposedly played on his theme to The Waltons, is a teacher and composes folk music.
  • He died after a long struggle with colon cancer.
  • His oldest son, Joel Goldsmith, is also a composer and collaborated with his father on the score for Star Trek: First Contact, composing approximately twenty-two minutes of the score.
  • His daughter, Carrie Goldsmith, is working on a biography of her father, the first chapter of which can be read on her younger brother's website. Update: the book has been suspended indefinitely, for unspecified reasons.[5]
  • Throughout the '90s, he sported long hair that he pulled back into a neat ponytail. This became his signature look. In concert, Goldsmith often would recount a story of how Sean Connery copied Goldsmith's hairstyle for the 1992 film Medicine Man. In the film's closing credits, Goldsmith is listed as "hair designer". He cut his hair in 2002, after more than a decade with the ponytail.


  1. ^ Jerry Goldsmith Biography (1929-)
  2. ^ SoundtrackCorner [1]. Accessed on 3 July 2007.
  3. ^ Star Trek: The Motion Picture Director's Edition DVD special features
  4. ^ :: People :: Carrie Goldsmith ::
  5. ^ :: People :: Carrie Goldsmith ::

Further reading

  • Thomas, Tony: Music For The Movies (1973)
  • Thomas, Tony: Film Score (1979)
  • Brown, Royal S.: Overtones And Undertones (1994)
  • Büdinger, Matthias: "A Patch Of Goldsmith". In: Soundtrack vol. 8, No. 69, p. 46-48

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Jerrald King Goldsmith (1929-02-102004-07-21) was an American film score composer from Los Angeles, California. Goldsmith was nominated for eighteen Academy Awards (winning only one, for The Omen), and also won five Emmy Awards.



  • I admit it worked fairly well but my first reaction was to get up and walk away from the job, but I couldn't. Once you've heard music like that with the picture, it makes your own scoring more difficult to arrive at, it clouds your thinking. Later, as an inside joke, I included a snippet of the Strauss in the score-and some critic pounced on me for stealing. You can´t win.
    • Tony Thomas, Music for the Movies (1973), p. 209
  • The fact that certain composers have been able to create first-class music within the medium of film proves that film music can be as good as the composer is gifted.
    • ibid., p. 209
  • Working to timings and synchronising your musical thoughts with the film can be stimulating rather than restrictive. Scoring is a limitation but like any limitation is can be made to work for you. Verdi, except for a handful of pieces, worked best when he was 'turned on' by a libretto. The most difficult problem in music is form, and in a film you already have this problem solved for you. You are presented with a basic structure, a blueprint, and provided the film has been well put together, well edited, it often suggests its own rhythms and tempo. The quality of the music is strictly up to the composer. Many people seem to assume that because film music serves the visual it must be something of secondary value. Well, the function of any art is to serve a purpose in society. For many years, music and painting served religion. The thing to bear in mind is that film is the youngest of the arts, and that scoring is the youngest of the music arts. We have a great deal of development ahead of us.
    • ibid., p. 209
  • You read reviews by top reviewers of films that not only had remarkably interesting scores, but films whose effectiveness was absolutely enhanced, and frequently created by the music, yet the reviewers seem unaware that their emotions and their nervous reactions to the films have been affected by the scoring. This is a serious flaw. Any film reviewer owes it to himself, and the public, to take every element of the film into account
    • ibid., p. 209
    • On Goldsmith's irritation at the lack of response from responsible critics
  • It's nice to think about the Golden Age of Hollywood, with the big studios and their fabulous music departments and the hundreds of films coming out every year. But it's gone. In some ways the composer today is more fortunate, provided he can find a good film, because he can attempt more than he could two decades ago. Twelve-tone music was unheard of during Max Steiner's heyday, as were any other avant-garde techniques. Finally, the future of film music rests with the composers themselves. lf they take their work seriously and turn out the best that is within them, then perhaps we can persuade not only the public, but the filmmakers that good music is valuable in films. The public is not stupid. If our music survives, which I have no doubt it will, then it will be because it is good.
    • Tony Thomas, Film Score: The Art & Craft of Movie Music (1991), pp. 285–295
  • Originally I was supposed to do Grand Prix, but I was under contract to 20th Century Fox at that time and Alex North was supposed to do Sand Pebbles, but he got sick, so Fox preempted me out of Grand Prix, and to my good fortune, I got to do Sand Pebbles. It was my first time working with Robert Wise and it was a great experience.


  • I've been using the Mac solely for years, and got very comfortable with it.
  • I like the variety. But basically my choice of films is a small intimate film. Quiet film, no action, just people in relationships. That's what I like the most.
  • My wife has them all in a vault… a copy of every album.


  • Jerry Goldsmith is an artist who meets all the demands upon the composer in films. He communicates, integrates, subordinates, supports, and designs with discipline.

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