Tag Archives: Steve McQueen

Jerry Goldsmith talks The Sand Pebbles (1966)


Credit to Howard Terpning

Jerry Goldsmith talks The Sand Pebbles (1966) Part 1

Jerry Goldsmith talks The Sand Pebbles (1966) Part 2

Jerry Goldsmith talks The Sand Pebbles (1966) Part 3

Jerry Goldsmith talks The Sand Pebbles (1966) Part 4

Video interviews of Jerry Goldsmith (who died in 2004) are few and far between, so when I saw that he gave an interview in 1989 for The Sand Pebbles (released in 1966), I knew I had to share it with you.

The Sand Pebbles was directed by Robert Wise and stars Steve McQueen, Richard Attenborough and Richard Crenna, and tells the story of the (fictional) gunboat USS San Pablo as it patrols the rivers in 1920s China. The people refer to the boat as “The Sand Pebble” and its crew as “Sand Pebbles” (hence the name of the film).


The plot follows Holman (McQueen), a machinist’s mate who joins the San Pablo. After an offscreen incident, tensions between the boat, the crew, and the Chinese grow tenser than ever. The boat is ordered to leave the river and return to the coast, but the commander disobeys in order to rescue two American missionaries, who will surely be killed by the Communists if they are not taken away.


It’s been a long time since I saw this movie, but I remember the ending (I won’t tell you how it ends, you’ll have to see for yourself), had me very upset (but in a good way). Enjoy this interview from one of the masters of film music.

See also:

Jerry Goldsmith talks Chinatown (1974)

Jerry Goldsmith talks about Alien (1979)

Jerry Goldsmith talks Lionheart (1987)

Film Composer Interviews A-H

Film Composer Interviews K-Z

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"Overture" from The Magnificent Seven by Elmer Bernstein

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Many consider this 1960 film to be the greatest Western ever made. Adapted from The Seven Samurai by Akira Kurosawa, The Magnificent Seven tells the story of 7 gunfighters who join forces to protect a poor Mexican village from a gang of bandits led by the murderous Calvera (Eli Wallach). Led by Chris (Yul Brynner), the other gunfighters consist of:

  • Vin Tanner (Steve McQueen)
  • Bernardo O’Reilley (Charles Bronson)
  • Lee (Robert Vaughn)
  • Harry Luck (Brad Dexter)
  • Britt (James Coburn)
  • Chico (Horst Buchholz

The task is one step above thankless, as the only pay is a $20 gold piece and whatever food they eat while they’re in the village. And while the group barely tolerates each other at first (as they’re all in it for various reasons, be it money, fame or simply an excuse to relieve boredom), they slowly come together to help the villagers learn to defend themselves from Calvera’s gang.

Elmer Bernstein’s overture to the film has been praised for defining not only this film, but the Western genre as a whole. I posted this theme in particular because a remake of this film is due out next year (with a posthumous score by the late James Horner) and it will be interesting to see how the music has changed from 1960 to 2016. Until the remake comes out, enjoy a classic piece of film music!


From left to right: Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Horst Buchholz, Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn, Brad Dexter and James Coburn.

As a quick update: while Horner’s score does include the classic overture at the very end, the film itself does not live up to the high standard set by this 1960 classic. If given the choice, always go with this one.

See also: Film Soundtracks A-W

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