Jerry Goldsmith Biography
was born on February 10th 1929 in Pasadena California, growing up in
Los Angeles. Jerry Goldsmith was the son of
Tessa and Morris Goldsmith. Tessa was an Artist
and Morris a Structural Engineer. Jerry
Goldsmith had originally intended to become a concert hall
composer, but he soon realised that the infrequency of concert hall
commissions would never satisfy his hunger to write music. Jerry
Goldsmith began studying piano at the age of 6 and by the age
of 14 was studying composition, theory and counterpoint with
Jacob Gimpel and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco. He also became acquainted
with legendary composer Miklos Rosza and attended his classes
in film composition at the University of Southern California.
It was Rosza's own score to Spellbound and the film's
star Ingrid Bergman that had captivated Goldsmith back in 1945.
Goldsmith recalled later how he joked about planning to marry Ingrid Bergman and
having a career in writing music for film. Saying that one out of two wasn't
In 1950 Goldsmith was employed
as a clerk typist in the music department at CBS. There he was
given his first assignments as a composer for live radio shows
such as Romance and CBS Radio Workshop and progressing
on to live TV shows such as Climax and Playhouse 90.
He stayed with CBS until 1960, having already scored the cult
sci-fi show The Twilight Zone. Then was hired by Revue
Studios to score their Thriller series, which lead on
to further TV commissions including the famous Dr Kildare
theme, which gave the composer his only top ten hit of his long
career. Goldsmith also wrote the memorable theme and a handful of episode scores for The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
Goldsmith scored his first theatrical movie in 1957 - the little known western
In 1962 Goldsmith was awarded
his first Oscar nomination for his acclaimed score to the poorly
received John Huston biopic of Freud. At the same time,
he met and became acquainted with the influential film composer
Alfred Newman. Newman, recognising Goldsmith's talents, influenced
Universal into hiring him to score the acclaimed Kirk Douglas
western Lonely Are The
Brave in 1963.
From there Goldsmith
established himself as a contract composer for 20th Century Fox,
quickly re-defining the modern film score. Along with his close
friend Alex North, Goldsmith established himself as a leading
name in American film music, and by the beginning of the 1970's
the composer had already written a number of landmarks scores
that cemented his position and his reputation. These included
A Patch Of Blue, Lilies Of The Field, The Sand Pebbles,
The Planet Of The Apes, The Blue Max and Patton.
beginning of the 70's Goldsmith suffered a dry patch with assignments for the
big screen and augmented
his movie scoring with a plethora of TV assignments and remains
one of the few composers to juggle film and TV scoring successfully.
This included the critically acclaimed and Emmy winning score to the
first TV mini series QBVII, as well as the popular theme and
early episode scores
for the TV series The Waltons. By the middle of the decade
things had moved on proving to be one of the composer's most successful
periods with a combination of gritty thrillers and prestigious
assignments like The Wind And The Lion, Chinatown,
The Wild Rovers and Papillon. The late 70's brought
Goldsmith his lone Oscar, as well as an Oscar nomination for best
song (Ave Satani) for the avant-garde and ground breaking
score to the classic Richard Donner horror The Omen. Never had a film score been so critical
to the movie's atmosphere and dramatic power. Goldsmith's work
proved a revelation and stands today as one of the greatest moments in film
music with its dramatic mix of chilling chorus and heartbreakingly beautiful
moments that conveyed the horror of a family torn apart by an unseen evil.
The decade finished
with a series of the composer's most popular crowd pleasing scores,
from the military action of the berated movie The Swarm, a sumptuous English
caper score for The Great Train Robbery and the terrifying masterwork Alien.
And of course what is generally regarded as Goldsmith's greatest
work - Star Trek The Motion Picture. Here Goldsmith was
tasked with re-inventing a franchise and creating a brand new
theme. Goldsmith remarked that the theme was the toughest he
ever wrote and remains a remarkable achievement. At the behest
of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry it later became
the signature theme for the popular Star Trek spin off
The Next Generation. In 1995 Goldsmith would
write a new theme for Star Trek Voyager, a further spin-off.
Interestingly Goldsmith's association with Star Trek may have started
even earlier. In interview Goldsmith revealed he had been approached
by Roddenberry back in the sixties to write the original TV
series theme, but due to scheduling was unable to do so.
the beginning of the 80's Goldsmith took a break from his usual hectic scoring
schedule with only a couple of assignments. This included the TV mini series Masada in which the composer scored the first
four hours and the rousing main theme, which garnered another Emmy
for the composer. Handing the remaining
four hours to friend and fellow composer Morton Stevens. Goldsmith
also completed the Omen trilogy with an awe inspiring work to The
Final Conflict in which he completely transformed the choral and orchestral
style he developed in the first two movies into a score that was as terrifying
as it was beautiful. So magnificent it is regarded by many to be superior to
even the first film score!
abilities at being a musical chameleon served him well throughout
his career and just as the decades before brought dramatic changes
in style, the 80's also saw further development and transformations.
Notably with the robust and action packed First Blood and its
spectacular action packed sequel score - Rambo First Blood Part II
as well as the epic third score to Rambo III in which the composer
bids a fond farewell to the Rambo character. Then came
the animated splendour of The Secret Of Nimh, as
well as critically acclaimed works to Under Fire, Poltergeist
and the orchestral/electronic triumph to the sporting drama
Hoosiers. The mid 80's proved to be a mix of comedy
and adventure scoring for big budget fare that included a series
of assignments for Joe Dante, most notably the box office smash
Gremlins, featuring the composer's infectious "rag" to cult hits Supergirl, Twilight Zone
The Movie and a stunningly rousing sequel score to the poorly
received Star Trek V.
This decade also saw further electronic development that had
begun back in the 60's with Freud. In 1985 the composer
tackled his first all electronic score to Michael Crichton's
minor sci-fi thriller Runaway. And later followed it up with
courtroom thriller Criminal Law along with an un-used score to
Alien Nation. Goldsmith finally fused
orchestra with electronics proper in the 90's and remains one
of the few silver age composers to spend so much time cultivating
the technology without betraying the traditional orchestral world.
In the 90's
Goldsmith started the decade with his action opus Total Recall.
Goldsmith's mammoth score is nothing short of a symphony and
remains the defining moment in action film scoring, and is now regarded
as a classic of the genre. He also became friends with the film's
acclaimed director, Paul Verhoeven and went on to collaborate on the
difficult assignment Basic Instinct. The assignment
remains a rare moment in the cut throat business of Hollywood
where a director showed total commitment to his composer and
worked closely with him to encourage Goldsmith to fashion one
of his most memorable scores. The decade also brought another
of the composer's finest works, the beautiful score to The
Russia House for director Fred Schepisi. Interestingly
Goldsmith's Russia House theme had originally been composed for his
aborted score for Wall Street and then tried out for another
aborted effort Alien Nation. The theme finally found its rightful home
though. Goldsmith's other noteworthy assignments during this decade included the critically acclaimed
score to the minor true life sporting drama Rudy, along
with further Star Trek sequels First Contact and
Insurrection, action epics such as Air
Force One and The Mummy, as well as more challenging
assignments such as the big screen adaptation of Six Degrees
Of Separation (Fred Schepisi), and the critically acclaimed
thriller LA Confidential (Curtis Hanson).
began the new millennium with a further collaboration with Dutch
director Paul Verhoeven on the summer 2000 sci-fi thriller Hollow
Man where Goldsmith's genuine love and affection for the
director shone through with an enormous and complex
thriller score. The next two years featured The Last Castle
where Goldsmith's moving theme was adopted to remember the
victims of September 11th 2001. Followed by the box office
hit The Sum Of All Fears featuring an equally moving score.
And a second outing with exciting director Lee Tamahori for
the Morgan Freeman thriller Along Came A Spider. By this
time the composer's health began to take its toll and prevented
Goldsmith from working as much as he once did but he finished
his work on the Star Trek franchise with Star Trek
Nemesis, making this his third collaboration with editor turned
director Stuart Baird.
Goldsmith's final scores were for friends. In the case of Timeline directed by The Omen's
Richard Donner. Sadly a score that was not used in the finished
film due to dramatic changes in the final cut of the movie. Donner
tried to secure Goldsmith again to rewrite the score but the
composer was unable to do so. Fittingly for his final score he
was with Joe Dante, another close friend, for the comedy Looney
Tunes Back In Action. Jerry Goldsmith passed away on July
21st 2004 peacefully in his sleep after a long and gallant battle
Credits And Awards
A list of credits for the composer can be found on the
comprehensive list of Jerry Goldsmith's awards and nominations can be found on
the Awards And Nominations Page.
The composer received an Hon Doctorate From Berklee College Of
Music in Boston. And in between scoring duties for Hollywood
taught a graduate course in music composition at UCLA School
The composer has previously been credited as Jerrald
Goldsmith, to appease his Mother who disliked the shortening of his name to
Jerry. As well as Jerry King Goldsmith, revealing his little used middle name as
well as his
brother in law's name - Michael
J. Hennigan. The latter for being able to write the theme for Black Saddle while still under contract with another studio.
Jerry Goldsmith has 4 children from his first marriage with singer
Sharon Hennigan Goldsmith. His oldest daughter Ellen performed
the vocals on The Wild Rovers album. Carrie and Ellen
now work as teachers, and Jerry's youngest daughter, Jennifer,
is in the entertainment industry. Joel Goldsmith is his only
child to follow him into film and TV scoring.
Visit our special Biography page for Joel
Jerry's second wife - Carol Heather Goldsmith, is a talented
songwriter and singer, and worked with Jerry on vocals for Cabo
Blanco as well as a song for Coma and the song The
Piper Dreams composed for The Omen. Jerry had his
fifth child with Carol, named Aaron.
Jerry Goldsmith was represented by Blue Focus Management.
His agent was close friend Richard
The last time I saw my friend Jerry Goldsmith was with Bob Townson
as we presented him with Varese Sarabande's "Jerry Goldsmith
at 20th Century Fox" boxed set.
Though he was not feeling well
that day, Jerry's spirits lifted instantly as he pulled the booklet
from its black slipcase. Slowly, he pored over every title like
he was exploring a photo album of his children, each one dear
and special to him in a different way. He shared memories of
working on those scores which spanned several decades of his
He was surprised and delighted
when he was told that its entire run had sold out within days
of its announcement. It meant a great deal to him that his fans
continued to appreciate him so strongly.
Jerry cared deeply about his
fans (I should know, I was one who first met my idol by stalking
him as a rabid nine year-old armed with overstuffed shopping
bags crammed with soundtracks for him to autograph). Jerry was
also a very private person and extremely shy. Even though it
would sometimes embarrass him, I would often share with him titbits
from his supporters on the various film music sites. All of your
love and appreciation gave him great comfort and pleasure.
The last opportunity Jerry had
to connect with his public was two weeks ago when John Mauceri
cell phoned him from the podium of the Hollywood Bowl smack dab
in the middle of a concert so Jerry could hear the "Goldsmith
Television Medley" he was about to conduct. At the final
downbeat Mauceri hoisted his cell phone towards the audience
so Jerry, lying at home, could take in the monstrous applause
of 19,000 of his fans.
Jerry Goldsmith wrote music,
not for himself, but to connect with others. He was very blessed
to know that he succeeded in doing just that for so many years
with so many people around the world.
Thank you all for letting him
know how much you cared.
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