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.