×

Composer Goldsmith dead at 75

Academy Award winner scored landmark films

This obituary was updated at 5:31 p.m.

Jerry Goldsmith, an Oscar and multiple Emmy winner, and one of the most respected composers in film, died July 21 at his home in Beverly Hills after a long battle with cancer. He was 75.

Goldsmith’s music accompanied such landmark films as “Chinatown,” “Patton,” the original “Planet of the Apes,” “The Sand Pebbles” and “A Patch of Blue” as well as more recent hits including “Basic Instinct,” “L.A. Confidential” and “Air Force One.” His final score was for last year’s Warner Bros. comedy “Looney Tunes: Back in Action.”

He was long associated with the “Star Trek” franchise, scoring five of the bigscreen features beginning with “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” in 1979. The movie theme became, at creator Gene Roddenberry’s insistence, the theme for TV’s “Star Trek: The Next Generation” in 1987. He also composed the theme for TV’s “Star Trek: Voyager” in 1995.

Goldsmith’s sole Oscar win was for his orchestral-and-choral score for the 1976 horror classic “The Omen.” He received 17 nominations between 1962 (“Freud”) and 1998 (“Mulan”). He also won five Emmys for his TV scores, including the miniseries “QB VII” and “Masada,” telepics “The Red Pony” and “Babe” and the “Voyager” theme.

He was born in Los Angeles and attended L.A. City College and USC; at the latter he took classes with Miklos Rozsa, whose music for “Spellbound” he had so admired. He also studied music privately with Jakob Gimpel and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco.

In the early 1950s Goldsmith landed a job at CBS — first typing scripts, but eventually composing music for live radio and TV programs.

Goldsmith’s early credits include such legendary TV dramatic anthologies as “Climax!” and “Playhouse 90.” He went on to compose music for filmed TV skeins including “The Twilight Zone,” “Perry Mason” and “Thriller.”

He wrote the themes for more than a dozen TV series, including “Dr. Kildare” (which, in a vocal version by star Richard Chamberlain, was a top-10 hit in 1962), “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,” “Room 222,” “The Waltons,” “Barnaby Jones” and “Police Story.”

Goldsmith’s first film score was for the 1957 Western “Black Patch.” His first major studio assignment was for Universal’s “Lonely Are the Brave” in 1962. By the time he won his Oscar for “Omen,” he was one of the busiest composers in the business, scoring four or five films a year.

He wrote more than 170 motion picture scores, establishing long professional relationships with such directors as Franklin Schaffner (“Planet of the Apes,” “Patton”), Robert Wise (“The Sand Pebbles,” the first “Star Trek” pic), John Frankenheimer (“Seven Days in May,” “Seconds”), Joe Dante (both “Gremlins” pics, “Innerspace”), Paul Verhoeven (“Total Recall,” “Basic Instinct”), Michael Crichton (“Coma,” “The Great Train Robbery”), Fred Schepisi (“The Russia House,” “I.Q.”), David Anspaugh (“Hoosiers”) and others.

He became well known as an action-adventure specialist, scoring “The Mummy” (1999) and all three “Rambo” films, beginning with “First Blood” in 1982, although he often said he preferred scoring smaller personal dramas like “A Patch of Blue” (1965), “Islands in the Stream” (1977) and “Rudy” (1993).

Goldsmith was an acknowledged master of science fiction and fantasy scores, beginning with “Planet of the Apes,” whose Bartok- and Stravinsky-inspired approach is widely admired and even studied at the university level. The music of “Alien” (1979) was even more complex, dissonant and frightening.

When his charming, buoyant score for “Legend” (1985) was thrown out by Universal execs during re-editing, the music itself became a cause celebre, spawning a CD and ultimately reinstatement on the DVD (along with the Tangerine Dream score that replaced it). His other acclaimed genre scores include “Poltergeist” (1982) and “Twilight Zone: The Movie” (1983).

He also penned music for 20 TV movies and miniseries and more than 100 episodes of various small-screen series (mostly in the late ’50s and ’60s).

In addition to his Oscar and Emmys, Goldsmith racked up nine Golden Globe and seven Grammy nominations. He received performing-rights organization BMI’s lifetime achievement award in 1986, the career achievement award of the Society for the Preservation of Film Music in 1993 and Daily Variety‘s first American Music Legend Award in 1995.

Goldsmith’s nonfilm assignments include “Fanfare for Oscar,” commissioned by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences in 1998, which now heralds every Oscar telecast; and music for a theme park ride, Soarin’ Over California, for Disney’s California Adventure in 2001.

For the concert hall, he composed cantata “Christus Apollo,” with a text by Ray Bradbury, in 1969; “Music for Orchestra,” debuted by the St. Louis Symphony in 1970 and performed by the L.A. Philharmonic in 1998; and “Fireworks: A Celebration of Los Angeles,” which he conducted at the Hollywood Bowl in 1999 as part of his 70th-birthday celebration. He recorded all three works with the London Symphony Orchestra for a Telarc CD in 2000.

In recent years, he conducted concerts of his music in venues around the world, including Carnegie Hall in 1998. He also conducted the National Symphony in Washington, D.C.; the Pittsburgh Symphony; and orchestras in London, Spain and Japan. Beginning in 1992, he taught master classes at UCLA.

Survivors include his wife of 32 years, Carol; sons Aaron and Joel, a composer; daughters Ellen, Carrie and Jennifer; six grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.

Donations may be made to the Jerry Goldsmith Scholarship Fund for Film Music Composition, UCLA School of the Arts, Dean’s Office, Box 951427, Los Angeles, CA 90095, or to the Jerry Goldsmith Memorial Fund for Cancer Research, Tower Cancer Research Foundation, 9090 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90212.

Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. Friday, July 23 at Hillside Memorial Park.

More Film

  • FX's 'Snowfall' Panel TCA Winter Press

    John Singleton Hospitalized After Suffering Stroke

    UPDATED with statements from John Singleton’s family and FX Networks John Singleton, the Oscar nominated director and writer of “Boyz N’ the Hood,” has suffered a stroke. Sources confirm to Variety that Singleton checked himself into the hospital earlier this week after experiencing pain in his leg. The stroke has been characterized by doctors as [...]

  • 'Curse of La Llorona' Leads Slow

    'Curse of La Llorona' Leads Slow Easter Weekend at the Box Office

    New Line’s horror pic “The Curse of La Llorona” will summon a solid $25 million debut at the domestic box office, leading a quiet Easter weekend before Marvel’s “Avengers: Endgame” hits theaters on April 26. The James Wan-produced “La Llorona,” playing in 3,372 theaters, was a hit with hispanic audiences, who accounted for nearly 50% [...]

  • Jim Jarmusch in 'Carmine Street Guitars'

    Film Review: 'Carmine Street Guitars'

    “Carmine Street Guitars” is a one-of-a-kind documentary that exudes a gentle, homespun magic. It’s a no-fuss, 80-minute-long portrait of Rick Kelly, who builds and sells custom guitars out of a modest storefront on Carmine Street in New York’s Greenwich Village, and the film touches on obsessions that have been popping up, like fragrant weeds, in [...]

  • Missing Link Laika Studios

    ‘Missing Link’ Again Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Annapurna Pictures claims the top spot in spending for the second week in a row with “Missing Link.” Ads placed for the animated film had an estimated media value of $5.91 million through Sunday for [...]

  • Little Woods

    Film Review: 'Little Woods'

    So much of the recent political debate has focused on the United States’ southern border, and on the threat of illegal drugs and criminals filtering up through Mexico. But what of the north, where Americans traffic opiates and prescription pills from Canada across a border that runs nearly three times as long? “Little Woods” opens [...]

  • Beyonce's Netflix Deal Worth a Whopping

    Beyonce's Netflix Deal Worth a Whopping $60 Million (EXCLUSIVE)

    Netflix has become a destination for television visionaries like Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy, with deals worth $100 million and $250 million, respectively, and top comedians like Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle ($40 million and $60 million, respectively). The streaming giant, which just announced it’s added nearly 10 million subscribers in Q1, is honing in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content