Composer Brian Tyler (The Fate of the Furious, Avengers: Age of Ultron) penned more than two hours of music for Universal’s remake of The Mummy, including a massive orchestra and choir recorded earlier this year at London’s Abbey Road. I interviewed Brian for Variety, which asked me to place the new Mummy score in the context of previous musical efforts along these lines — which gave me a chance to link to excerpts from past scores by James Dietrich, Hans J. Salter, Franz Reizenstein and Jerry Goldsmith. And not only did Back Lot Music gave us an exclusive four-minute track, but Tyler clued us in to an “Easter egg” of a hat-tip to Goldsmith that he quietly inserted into his own score.
From 1960 to 1962, horror-movie legend Boris Karloff hosted an hour-long anthology of tales of terror titled Thriller, produced by Revue (later Universal Television) and aired on NBC. Jazz great Pete Rugolo scored many of the first-season episodes and even released a wonderful LP of those themes in 1961. When a change in producers led to a fresh musical approach, Jerry Goldsmith succeeded Rugolo, composing 16 remarkable scores for some of the best, and scariest, episodes — a worthy followup project to his classic Twilight Zone scores for CBS. Producer James Fitzpatrick supervised a reconstruction and re-recording of six of these, and the result is a Thriller album of classic Goldsmith. I was pleased to recount Jerry’s history with the series — along with considerable musical detail about the scores — in a 2,200-word essay for the booklet (printed in glorious, and appropriate, black-and-white).
Oscar-winning composer Jerry Goldsmith finally received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame today, May 9, 2017. For a section in this week’s Variety, I asked composers who knew him and directors who worked with him for a little perspective on the man and his career. Goldsmith, whose filmography included The Sand Pebbles, Patton, Chinatown, Planet of the Apes, five Star Trek films and more than 100 others, was among the most respected composers in the history of Hollywood. Directors Joe Dante, Paul Verhoeven and Fred Schepisi contributed thoughts, as did composers David Newman, Christophe Beck and Charles Fox. Goldsmith died way too early, in 2004, and the star is not only overdue but well deserved. Here is the main story and here is a sidebar discussing 10 of his greatest scores. Finally, here is a complete rundown of the ceremony, who attended and what was said.
This was another really fun project. Filmmaker Daniel Griffith (with whom I worked on the Twilight Zone box) asked me to participate in his documentary on the making of an obscure 1960s TV series called The Loner. I was delighted to accept, because composer Jerry Goldsmith’s theme and two scores for this Western starring Lloyd Bridges are among my favorites from the Goldsmith canon. But it so happens that I am also a fan of the series itself, which was created (and often written) by the great Rod Serling. CBS unfortunately scheduled it in an out-of-the-way Saturday-night timeslot in 1965, and it lasted only a single season. I had seen many of the episodes and I knew much of the unhappy backstory of the series, so in this case — unlike most of my DVD appearances — my comments cover more than just the music.
The upcoming L.A. stop on the national tour of Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage, a two-hour concert of Trek music commemorating the franchise’s 50th anniversary, offered an opportunity to examine the long history of Star Trek scores and the many composers who contributed along the way, from Alexander Courage to Jerry Goldsmith. Comments by veteran composers Gerald Fried, Dennis McCarthy and Jay Chattaway, along with concert conductor Justin Freer and even William Shatner himself, are included in this Sunday Los Angeles Times piece.
As many of you know, I have often written about music for spy films and TV. This story combines both. English composer Daniel Pemberton has scored Guy Ritchie’s new feature-film adaptation of the classic 1960s series The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which opens on Aug. 14. Pemberton finds a new musical signature for the movie by incorporating all kinds of classic ’60s spy sounds from harpsichord to cimbalom and mandolin. It’s great fun, so I interviewed Pemberton about his musical choices and the unusual recording techniques he employed. (There’s also a hint about precisely where fans will discover the original Jerry Goldsmith TV theme. But just a hint.)
One of my favorite year-end tasks is compiling a list of what I think were the best albums of classic film and TV music to be released during the previous 12 months. First-time-ever releases (like Leonard Bernstein’s original On the Waterfront tracks), re-recordings (John Barry’s The Betsy), reissues on CD (Jerry Goldsmith’s Our Man Flint and In Like Flint LPs), expanded classics (Michel Legrand’s The Thomas Crown Affair) and box sets of great film and TV music (Elmer Bernstein’s Ava LPs, Star Trek: Enterprise) are all included. I chose 20, and had to drop five or six more that I really liked because of limited space. Thanks to all the producers and label execs who work so hard to keep us film-music buffs happy.
On Saturday, I took part in “The Golden Anniversary Affair,” a celebration of the 1960s spy-series classic The Man From U.N.C.L.E. in Culver City, Calif. I moderated the afternoon music panel, featuring Lalo Schifrin and Gerald Fried (Robert Drasnin was unable to attend), and both produced and hosted a special, one-time-only evening concert of music composed for the series.
I chose 14 tunes (Jerry Goldsmith and Schifrin music from the first season, Fried and Drasnin from the second and third seasons), found most of the original charts from the 1964-66 recording sessions, and worked with six great L.A. jazz musicians in two rehearsals to get the music just right. Their rendition of Goldsmith’s romantic theme, “Meet Mr. Solo,” gave me chills, and their performance of Lalo’s Latin tunes like “Roulette Rhumba” were lively and colorful. Fried’s noirish “Lament for a Trapped Spy” and Drasnin’s cool-jazz number “Basic Black” were other highlights for me. It was an unforgettable night (the audience of 100 dyed-in-the-wool U.N.C.L.E. fans really loved it). My old friend Bob Short prodded me to do this and I’m so glad we did.
The Academy’s musical choices were all fine in its first staged concert of Academy Award-nominated music. The problems were the host and the interviewer, neither of whom came off well. My editors chose to leave out my recitation of the more ludicrous moments. This is what didn’t make it into the Variety story:
Film critic Elvis Mitchell, enlisted to interview the composers between segments, was hit-and-miss, getting one of the Arcade Fire composers’ names wrong (“William Phillips”? It’s William Butler) and drawing head-scratching and irrelevant parallels with his favorite Western scores (Ennio Morricone for Gravity, Williams’ obscure The Missouri Breaks for The Book Thief, which could not be farther afield from one another).
Jerry Goldsmith’s thrilling score is the reason I agreed to come aboard for this one. Producer Nick Redman, writer Julie Kirgo and I spent a fun morning talking about the making of this World War I movie starring George Peppard, Ursula Andress and James Mason. It’s a surprisingly good action film, looking and sounding great thanks to Twilight Time’s remastering.
I uncovered a good deal of new information in preparation for the commentary (much of which is not in any of the liner notes for the various LP or CD incarnations of the score). I was able to pinpoint the London recording dates as Friday, Saturday, and Monday, March 25, 26 and 28, 1966. And the concertmaster, interestingly enough, was David McCallum Sr., first violinist of the Royal Philharmonic and the London Philharmonic at the time. His son had achieved worldwide stardom as Illya Kuryakin on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. — which had a theme by none other than Jerry Goldsmith.