Jerry Goldsmith
Biographical Information
Name: Jerrald King "Jerry" Goldsmith
Born: February 10, 1929 (age 75) Los Angeles, California
Died: July 21, 2004 (aged 75) Beverly Hills, California
Age: 75

Jerry Goldsmith was born on February 1929, Jerry Goldsmith studied piano with Jakob Gimpel and composition, theory, and counterpoint with Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco. He also attended classes in film composition given by Miklós Rózsa at the Univeristy of Southern California. In 1950, he was employed as a clerk typist in the music department at CBS. There, he was given his first embryonic assignments as a composer for radio shows such as "Romance" and "CBS Radio Workshop." He wrote one score a week for these shows, which were performed live on transmission. He stayed with CBS until 1960, having already scored "The Twilight Zone" (1959). He was hired by Revue Studios to score their "Thriller" (1960) series. It was here that he met the influential film composer Alfred Newman who hired Goldsmith to score the film Lonely Are the Brave (1962), his first major feature film score. An experimentalist, Goldsmith constantly pushed forward the bounds of film music: Planet of the Apes (1968) included horns blown without mouthpieces and a bass clarinetist fingering the notes but not blowing. He was unafraid to use the wide variety of electronic sounds and instruments which had become available, although he did not use them for their own sake.

He rose rapidly to the top of his profession in the early to mid-1960s, with scores such as Freud (1962), A Patch of Blue (1965), and The Sand Pebbles (1966). In fact, he received Oscar nominations for all three and another in the 1960s for Planet of the Apes (1968). From then onwards his career and reputation was secure and he scored an astonishing variety of films during the next 30 years or so, from Patton (1970) to Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) and from Chinatown (1974) to The Boys from Brazil (1978).

He received 17 Oscar nominations but won only once, for The Omen (1976) in 1977 (Goldsmith himself dismissed the thought of even getting a nomination for work on a "horror show"). He enjoyed giving concerts of his music and performed all over the world, notably in London, where he built up a strong relationship with The London Symphony Orchestra.

Life and CareerEdit

Childhood and educationEdit

Goldsmith was born in Los Angeles, California, 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 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 1960sEdit

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 scoresEdit

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).

As a lover of innovation and adaptationEdit

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 scoresEdit

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 scoresEdit

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.


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.

Re-used MusicEdit

Ridley Scott would later re-use one of Jerry Goldsmith's scores from The 13th Warrior for his film Kingdom of Heaven.

External LinksEdit