On this day in Film History: A composing legend was born

(still a day behind, will have to catch up one of these days lol)

On this day in film history, Jerry Goldsmith was born in 1929. He began studying piano at the venerable age of six, but didn’t begin to pursue music as a possible profession until he was eleven. Goldsmith studied theory and composition under respected composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (who also taught Henry Mancini and John Williams, amongst others) and became inspired to write film music after seeing the 1945 film Spellbound (featuring a score by Miklos Rozsa).

One might sum up his career in film music by asking “What type of film DIDN’T Goldsmith work on?” That’s how prolific this man was.


Credit to bmi.com

Jerry Goldsmith began his career by writing music for CBS radio shows in the 1950s. His feature film score debut came in 1957 when he wrote the score for the Western Black Patch. For my part, the earliest work of Goldsmith that I came to love were his scores for the James Bond parodies Our Man Flint (1966) and In Like Flint (1967) (eat your heart out Austin Powers). Goldsmith achieved huge recognition in 1968 with his score for The Planet of the Apes (starring Charlton Heston), which earned him an Academy Award nomination (though sadly he did not win).


In the 1970s Goldsmith composed the score for Patton (1970), Papillon (1973) and Chinatown (1974). But it was only his score for The Omen (1976) that finally earned Goldsmith his first (and sadly only) Academy Award win. In 1979 Goldsmith created two epic film scores: one for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, beginning his longstanding association with that franchise (he would go on to score Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989) and the last three Star Trek: The Next Generation films (First Contact (1996) through Nemesis (2002)); and the other for Alien, the terrifying thriller directed by Ridley Scott. With Star Trek, Goldsmith had quite a task because he had to create a notable theme that did NOT automatically remind the audience of Star Wars (released two years prior).

Jerry Goldsmith talks about Alien

In 1982, Goldsmith composed for his first animated film The Secret of NIMH (and he referred to it later as one of his favorites). He also composed the music for First Blood (the first Rambo movie); Poltergeist; Rambo: First Blood Part II and Rambo III (among others, the full list of film scores is daunting to say the least.)

In the 1990s, Goldsmith wrote a number of noteworthy scores, particularly Air Force One (1997), which he completed in only twelve days; Basic Instinct (1992); Mulan (1998); Small Soldiers (1998) and The Mummy (1999). Goldsmith also composed the theme for the television series Star Trek: Voyager in 1995.


By the turn of the 21st century, Goldsmith’s health had begun to decline, though he never made a big deal about it. In his last few years he composed the scores for Hollow Man (2000); The Sum of All Fears (2002); Star Trek: Nemesis (his penultimate work in 2002) and finally, his last finished score was for Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003). Not long before his death Goldsmith had been working on a score for the 2003 film Timeline, but it was ultimately rejected and replaced by a score written by Brian Tyler.


At the age of 75, Jerry Goldsmith died of colon cancer on July 21st, 2004 (coincidentally, film composer Elmer Bernstein would pass away less than a month later).

Goldsmith was an amazing and very well-respected composer. The story goes that when the orchestra finished recording the score for Star Trek: Nemesis in 2002, they gave Goldsmith a standing ovation because the music was that good. Though there are a number of outstanding film composers at work today, there will never be anyone even close to the level of Jerry Goldsmith.

What is your favorite Jerry Goldsmith score? Tell me about it in the comments, I’d love to hear about it! (My collective favorite would have to be his work on Star Trek). That’s all for now! Have a great rest of the day (and if you live in the Midwest U.S.A like me, stay warm!) -Bex

*All posters are the property of their respective studios, they are only being used here for illustration

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4 thoughts on “On this day in Film History: A composing legend was born

  1. Ron W

    Quick correction: last THREE Trek: NextGen movies.
    In terms of early Goldsmith, he did plenty of scoring for the original Twilight Zone. Later, he also scored the 1983 feature film version of TZ. His material for the last segment of that resurfaced in Gremlins a year later.
    Sure, Poltergeist is a popular score of his, but so is his equally involving score to that movie’s sequel.
    Alien has become a classic behind-the-scenes score story, a somewhat tragic tale of studio interference and mandates. The film has some of his actual score, but also has many snippets of his earlier score, Freud (1962), before ending with a Hanson piece.


    1. Film Music Central Post author

      thank you for the correction, sometimes I forget that he didn’t score Generations. It is a shame about the score for Alien, but even though the studio mangled it somewhat, I feel it is an amazing work nonetheless.


      1. R Willson

        Oh, I love the ALIEN score, both his intended score, and the mixed version that ended up in the film. The joys of having TWO isolated scores on both the original 1999 DVD and (I think) on the Blu-Ray. Alien / Freud makes a great case study of the effects of such music editing.

        Liked by 1 person

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