Richard Markowitz’s wild wild TV scoring career

A sampling of Richard Markowitz's title cards.

A sampling of Richard Markowitz’s title cards.

Another in a series about unsung heroes of television.

Composer Richard Markowitz, over more than three decades, produced one of the most memorable television themes and contributed to many series.

Yet, more than 20 years after his death, Markowitz is far from a household name. With each passing year, Markowitz passes further into obscurity, save for those few (led by writer Jon Burlingame) who follow the careers of television composers.

Markowitz’s primary legacy is the theme to The Wild Wild West. The composer scored the pilot to the 1965-69 series’ pilot. Originally, CBS hired Dimitri Tiomkin (who earlier wrote the theme song to the network’s Rawhide series) to write the show’s theme song.

According to a Markowitz audio interview that’s an extra on the season one set of The Wild Wild West, producer Michael Garrison didn’t want the Tiomkin theme (which Markowitz described as a ballad). Markowitz, according to this account, was a last-minute hire. Markowitz, in the interview, says he was paid considerably less than Tiomkin.

Regardless, Markowitz came up with a classic theme. During the run of the show, Markowitz only received a credit (“Music Composed and Conducted by”) for episodes he scored. (According to his IMDB.COM ENTRY, that was 29 of the show’s 104 episodes). He wasn’t credited for the theme.  Thus, when other composers did scores for the show, there was no mention of Markowitz.

It wasn’t until 1979’s The Wild Wild West Revisited TV movie that Markowitz an on-screen credit for his greatest creation. The theme showed up in a scene in the 1999 Wild Wild West theatrical movie, but the composer yet again didn’t get an on-screen credit.

Also, according to that same audio interview, Markowitz had clashes with Morton Stevens, who took charge of CBS’s West Coast music operation in the spring of 1965. That contributed to Markowitz not being around when the show concluded with the 1968-69 season.

Despite that, Markowitz had too much talent for other television productions to ignore.

Quinn Martin’s QM Productions hired him frequently (including 16 original scores for The FBI, an episode of The Invaders and some episodes of The Streets of San Frnacisco). He scored nine episodes of Mission: Impossible, including the show’s only three-part story. Universal’s TV operation was another frequent employer, including 71 episodes of Murder, She Wrote.

Markowitz died on Dec. 6, 1994 at the age of 68.

Don Medford, versatile TV director, dies

Don Medford, a versatile television director whose credits included the pilot for The Man From U.N.C.L.E., has died at age 95, according to THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER.

Don Medford directed The Man From U.N.C.L.E.'s pilot.

Don Medford directed The Man From U.N.C.L.E.’s pilot.


Medford helmed The Vulcan Affair, the U.N.C.L.E. pilot made in late 1963 and which aired on Sept. 22, 1964, as the first episode of the televisions series. An expanded version was released as the theatrical movie To Trap a Spy.

Besides that pilot, Medford directed at least 32 episodes of the Quinn Martin series The FBI, including at least two two-part storylines. One of them, which aired in the 1966-67 season, was release outside the U.S. as Cosa Nostra, Arch Enemy of the FBI.

Medford also directed episodes of a number of other Quinn Martin shows, including Twelve O’Clock High, The Invaders and The Fugitive, including the final two-part story where Dr. Richard Kimble finally caught up with the one-armed man who killed his wife. You can view his full IMDB.com bio by CLICKING HERE.