Jerry Goldsmith, an appreciation

Jerry Goldsmith, circa mid-1960s

Feb. 10 is the 90th anniversary of the birth of composer Jerry Goldsmith. July will mark the 15th anniversary of his death at age 75.

Things just haven’t been the same since this remarkable talent left us.

Goldsmith had a long career. But he had a particularly big impact during the spy-fi mania of the 1960s.

Goldsmith was involved in the genre before its popularity surged. He acted as what we would now call a music supervisor for the 1954 broadcast of CBS’s adaptation of Casino Royale. He selected music from the CBS music library to be played as underscore during the live broadcast.

Almost a decade later, producer Norman Felton enticed Goldsmith to score the pilot for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (titled Solo at the time). Goldsmith had worked for Felton on the latter’s Dr. Kildare series.

Goldsmith turned in not only a memorable theme but a top-notch score for the pilot. The thing is, he’d later tell journalist Jon Burlingame that he felt U.N.C.L.E. was “silly.” But you couldn’t tell it by the work the composer performed.

The composer also made a huge contribution to the two Derek Flint movies of the 1960s starring James Coburn (Our Man Flint and In Like Flint). Watching today, it looks like the movies had a budget only marginally higher than TV shows of the era. But Goldsmith’s music coupled with Coburn’s performance elevated the proceedings immensely.

Jerry Goldsmiths title card for Tora! Tora! Tora!

Goldsmith also got to be an actor (briefly) in the 1965 war film In Harm’s Way. Naturally, he played a musician during an early sequence depicting a party for U.S. Navy officers on the eve of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

One of Goldsmith’s most famous television themes was for Barnaby Jones, the 1973-80 Quinn Martin series with Buddy Ebsen as an aging private eye. Goldsmith told Burlingame for an interview for the Archive of American Television he disliked the pilot and wanted to get out of it.

But you couldn’t tell it by the quality of work Goldsmith provided. One of Goldsmith’s best compositions for that pilot accompanied Ebsen just walking down to the street to the office of his murdered son. Goldsmith’s theme is playing as we watch Jones walking. It was a classic technique, getting the audience to associate the theme with the character. Simple, yet memorable to those who watched it.

Goldsmith was nominated for almost 20 Oscars. His one win was for The Omen.  He was nominated for films such as Chinatown, The Wind and the Lion, Hoosiers and L.A. Confidential. Goldsmith displayed consistent excellence that was easy to take for granted.

The blog gave a favorable review to the 2015 movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.  Still, it would have been better if director Guy Ritchie had permitted a full version of Goldsmith’s U.N.C.L.E. theme instead of a few notes.

Regardless, Goldsmith retains his fans. One example is a Facebook page, The Cult of Jerry. His enormous contributions to television and film remain, long after he passed away.

Yvonne Craig, TV’s Batgirl, dies at 78

Yvonne Craig in The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Yvonne Craig in The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Yvonne Craig, who played Batgirl in the 1960s Batman series, has died at 78, according to obituaries ON HER OFFICIAL WEBSITE and on CNN’S WEBSITE.

She died “from complications brought about from breast cancer that had metastasized to her liver,” according to the obituary on her website.

Craig’s Barbara Gordon was introduced during the final season of the 1966-68 Batman series. The librarian doubled as the masked crime fighter Batgirl, whose identity was unknown to Batman or Commissioner Gordon (Neil Hamilton), her father.

Craig also appeared in various 1960s spy shows and movies. She had a supporting role in The Brain Killer Affair, a first-season episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., as a woman whose brother is the key to a plot hatched by villain Dr. Dabree.

The actress was brought back to appear in extra footage for movie versions of U.N.C.L.E. episodes. Her biggest such role was in One Spy Too Many, where she played Maude Waverly, niece of U.N.C.L.E. chief Waverly (Leo G. Carroll). None of her scenes appeared in the television version, Alexander the Greater Affair.

Craig also had a supporting role in In Like Flint, the second Derek Flint film starring James Coburn.

You can CLICK HERE to view a very brief Q&A with the actress done in the late 1990s.

Finally, here’s a 1974 public service announcement with Craig again playing Batgirl. Adam West declined to participate, so Dick Gautier played Batman instead. The video isn’t very good, unfortunately.

1964: Flint before there was Flint

Publicity still from The Americanization of Emily (1964)

Publicity still from The Americanization of Emily (1964)

Fifty-one years ago, James Coburn played a suave, womanizing character.

However, it wasn’t Derek Flint from Our Man Flint. That film wouldn’t be released until January 1966. Rather, it was a publicity still for The Americanization of Emily, which came out in 1964.

The ’64 movie was a light movie that took on heavy topics, thanks to screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky. James Garner and Julie Andrews were the leads but Coburn made a big impression in a secondary role.

In the publicity still for the movie, Coburn evokes the Flint character he’d soon portray. Take a look for yourself.

Jerry Goldsmith and the 1954 Casino Royale

Barry Nelson in 1954's Casino Royale

Barry Nelson in 1954’s Casino Royale

UPDATE (March 22): Jon Burlingame’s research indicates Casino Royale was all “tracked” music, with Jerry Goldsmith just selecting previously recorded musical cues. See below in the original post where Goldsmith describes the process. Meanwhile, the post has been re-titled.

ORIGINAL POST: As we’ve noted before, the 1954 television broadcast on CBS of Casino Royale doesn’t get a lot of respect from James Bond fans. But did that first adaptation of an Ian Fleming story include music by a future superstar movie composer?

The composer in question is Jerry Goldsmith (1929-2004). In 2002, Goldsmith gave an interview to journalist Jon Burlingame about his career. One of Goldsmith’s first efforts was on the CBS series Climax!, a series of one-hour live television dramas.

BURLINGAME: How did you get Climax!? Did they feel you were ready?

GOLDSMITH: No, they did’t know anything. This was the very early days of television. Music was even more infantile. Music was the bastard child…it was a necessity but it was the most unimportant necessity…At that point, CBS, they had me sort of on staff. They said they were going to put me under contract and I’m going to be responsible for the music on Climax! Basically, it was going to be recorded music.

BURLINGAME: So you were supposed to be picking cues?

GOLDSMITH: Yeah.

BURLINGAME: Just as you had done on (CBS) radio?

GOLDSMITH: Yeah.

At this point, it sounds like Goldsmith was more of a music supervisor for Climax! and wasn’t doing original work. Yet there are more details in the interview.

To avoid union penalties, “Whatever I wrote for CBS would immediately be recorded in Europe as track music,” Goldsmith told Burlingame in 2002. “I actually wrote music for the (CBS) library.”

At the same time, directors wanted music tailored for the Climax! episodes, Goldsmith said in the interview. According to Goldsmith, there’d be a mix of some new music (with very few instruments) with the track music.

Here’s the key thing. Burlingame pressed Goldsmith about the first Climax! episode he wrote music for. “I remember it was the second broadcast. We had an alto flute, and me playing the piano and organ. That was it.”

Burlingame asked again what the show was. Goldsmith didn’t specify. “I did three years…I did 36 a year…It became mostly original after a while.” Later, Goldsmith says “the first show I did” was The Long Goodbye. Goldsmith doesn’t mention this but The Long Goodbye was was the first episode of Climax! (One of that episode’s highlights, Goldsmith says, is an actor whose character was supposed to be killed gets up and walks off.)

The Climax! adaptation of Casino Royale, with Barry Nelson as an American Bond, was the show’s third broadcast, ON OCT. 21, 1954. While there are copies of the broadcast out there, some have shortened end titles, which don’t include complete end titles. The IMDB.com entry for the broadcast credits Goldsmith with the music, but IMDB.com relies on volunteers to enter information.

Goldsmith did indeed get music credits for later Climax! broadcasts, including Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, in which he received a “special music composed and conducted by” credit. In Keep Me in Mind, he’s listed as musical director.

Here’s the 2002 interview. The part about Climax! starts around the 16:00 mark, with the reference to The Long Goodbye around the 28:00 mark. The interview lasts almost two hours:

1967: Dick Tracy vs. spies

Dick Tracy by Chester Gould

Dick Tracy by Chester Gould

Producer William Dozier had a hit with 1966’s Batman television series and sold a second series with The Green Hornet, based on a radio show. So, in 1967, he tried to extend his streak with a pilot for a Dick Tracy series.

The final product ended up being influenced by ’60s spymania.

To write the pilot, Dozier hired Hal Fimberg, who wrote or co-wrote the two Derek Flint movies starring James Coburn. Rather than use an established member of Tracy’s gallery of villains, Tracy’s foe in Fimberg’s script was Mr. Memory (Victor Buono).

Mr. Memory is kidnapping various ambassadors as part of a plot to disrupt NATO on behalf of an unspecified froeign power. They’re being abducted in Washington and taken to Tracy’s unnamed city. In the comic strip, the city wasn’t specified either, but seems like Chicago. Cartoonist Chester Gould, Tracy’s creator, lived near the Windy City. Gould’s successors, on occasion, drew the city to closely resemble Chicago.

The Tracy of the pilot was influenced by Dozier’s Batman show. While there was no “Tracy Cave,” the detective has a sophisticated lab in the basement of his house, accessible only by a secret entrance. Evidently, the city’s police lab wasn’t up to Tracy’s standards.

Besides Mr. Memory’s plot and the presence of writer Fimberg, there are other influences of 1960s spy entertainment.

One of Mr. Memory’s goons is played by Tom Reese, who played Ironhead in the Matt Helm movie Murderers’ Row. Fimberg’s script also lifts a bit from The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

In that spy show’s second episode, The Iowa Scuba Affair, Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) is locked in while poison gas is being pumped into his hotel room. Solo gets out by setting fire to a container of shaving cream and blowing the door open. In the pilot, Tracy ends up in a hotel room. Mr. Memory injects poison gas and Tracy pulls the same trick.

Actor Ray MacDonnell certainly had the Tracy look. If you ever seen Victor Buono playing a villain, you know what to expect. The proceedings aren’t subtle but they’re not as campy as Batman was.

Dozier’s failure to secure a buyer for this was an indicator his hot streak was coming to an end. Also in 1967, ABC canceled The Green Hornet after one season. The network also cut Batman back to a single episode weekly as it limped into its final season.

The pilot is embedded below (though there’s always the risk the video will get yanked). There’s a snappy theme song from The Ventures.

One oddity in the closing credits: There’s a credit the show is “based on and idea and characters created by” Gould and Henry G. Saperstein. Saperstein owned the UPA cartoon studio that made some bad Tracy cartoons in the early ’60s. All of the primary characters (Tracy, Sam, Lizz, Junior, Chief Patton) in the pilot are from Gould’s comic strip. Also, at the very end, you can hear Dozier in his best “Desmond Doomsday” voice.

TCM to have an evening of the Other Spies on Jan. 24

Turner Classic Movies is having an evening of the “other” spies on Jan. 24, emphasizing lighter fare.

The evening starts at 8 p.m. New York time with In Like Flint (1967), the second of two James Coburn outings as Derek Flint. The intrepid adventurer shows off his ability to talk to porpoises, infiltrates the Kremlin and ends up in outer space.

Next up at 10 p.m. is Where The Spies Are (1966) with David Niven, once Ian Fleming’s preferred choice to play James Bond in what amounts to a warmup for the 1967 Casino Royale spoof. Midnight brings Agent 8 3/4 (1964) with Dirk Bogarde. At 2 a.m. (actually on Jan. 25, of course), TCM is scheduled to telecast 1966’s The Silencers, the first of four films with Dean Martin performing a spoof version <a.of Donald Hamilton’s counter assassin, Matt Helm.

TCM’s final spy entry at 4 a.m. is Salt and Pepper (1968), with Sammy Davis Jr. and Peter Lawford. The duo had done an episode of The Wild, Wild West together (The Night of the Returning Dead) and liked how director Richard Donner operated. Thus, Donner was hired to direct Salt and Pepper, one of Donner’s first theatrical films.

Ray Aghayan, costume designer of Flint movies, dies at 83

Ray Aghayan, who designed costumes and wardrobe for Our Man Flint and In Like Flint, has died at 83.

The New York Times, in an obituary you can read BY CLICKING HERE, says Aghayan had a noteable career.

Mr. Aghayan was nominated for the Academy Award three times, and in 1967 he and (his partner Bob) Mackie shared the first Emmy ever awarded for costume design, for their partnership in the TV movie “Alice Through the Looking Glass.”

The partners received Oscar nominations for the 43 ensembles worn by (Diana) Ross in “Lady Sings the Blues,” the 1972 Billie Holiday biopic, and for the 1930s-style dresses, hats, gloves and shoes worn by Ms. Streisand in “Funny Lady,” the 1975 sequel to “Funny Girl.” Mr. Aghayan received his first Oscar nomination for “Gaily, Gaily,” a 1969 comedy set in Chicago in 1910.

Some of Aghayan’s costume design work can be seen in the trailer for Our Man Flint: