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Jerrald King "Jerry" Goldsmith (February 10, 1929 – July 21, 2004) was an American film score composer from Los Angeles, Californiamarker. He won 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, Californiamarker, the son of Tessa (née Rappaport), an artist, and Morris Goldsmith, a structural engineer. 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 Californiamarker, 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; 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).

The many 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 Resortmarker's most popular attractions, Soarin' Over Californiamarker. 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).

As a lover of 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 Hungarian State Opera and National Philharmonic Orchestras.

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.

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" ). 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 (this and The Walt Disney Company's The Black Hole were the last two feature films to have an 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)
  • 1966-"Mission Impossible" (won)(Individual Achievement in Music - Composition)(for main title theme)
  • 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.
  • Goldsmith's daughter, Carrie Goldsmith, went to high school 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. (Goldsmith later said he would never again take on a replacement score with such little time available.)
  • In 1997, he composed a new theme for the Universal Studios opening logo.
  • Goldsmith lived with his wife, former teacher and singer Carol Heather Goldsmith, in Beverly Hillsmarker. 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.
  • 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 soundtrack for Star Trek: First Contact.
  • 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.
  • 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. for Original Score except as noted
  5. :: People :: Carrie Goldsmith ::
  6. :: 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

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