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Jerry Goldsmith Receives a Star on the Walk of Fame

When Joe Dante was asked about supporting the effort to secure a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Jerry Goldsmith, the director – who had worked with the respected composer on nine films over 20 years – said he was “flabbergasted” to realize Goldsmith didn’t already have one.

On May 9, the Oscar- and Emmy-winning composer of such classics as “Chinatown,” “Planet of the Apes,” “Patton” and dozens more will receive his star, posthumously, on Hollywood Boulevard just east of Highland Avenue. Goldsmith died in 2004.

Dante, for whom Goldsmith scored “Gremlins,” “Explorers,” “Innerspace” and other films, cited “his brilliance and versatility. Any film he scored was automatically improved tenfold.”

Few filmmakers would disagree. Paul Verhoeven, who did “Total Recall,” “Basic Instinct” and “Hollow Man” with Goldsmith, recalls: “Every film was a new adventure, as Jerry was able to adapt to the most diverse narratives and styles. He never repeated himself, always looking for new, innovative ways to give my movies a heart.”

Goldsmith was nominated for 18 Oscars, starting in 1962 with John Huston’s “Freud” and ending in 1998 with Disney’s “Mulan.” He won just once, for his frightening choral score for “The Omen,” but many observers believe that his powerful music for other films, especially those of director Franklin Schaffner (“Planet of the Apes,” “Patton,” “Papillon,” “The Boys From Brazil,” all nominated), were equally deserving.

“He is a towering figure in movie music and his body of work is unmatched in the history of cinema,” says “Frozen” composer Christophe Beck, who studied with Goldsmith in the early 1990s.

“He taught me the value of a great melody and how important it was to have that melody form the basis of every single piece of music in a score, no matter how obliquely,” adds Beck. “In his ability to make a lot out of very little, he was second only to Beethoven.”

Goldsmith always wanted to set music to imagery. He studied with Miklos Rozsa (“Spellbound”), then found a job in the music department at CBS in the early 1950s, eventually scoring such TV shows as “The Twilight Zone” and, at Universal, “Thriller.” He eventually earned five Emmys for such landmark TV projects as “QB VII” and “Masada” and scored a top-10 hit with his theme for “Dr. Kildare” in 1962.

He was adept at every genre, including dramas (“Lilies of the Field,” “L.A. Confidential”), Westerns (“Rio Conchos”), war films (“The Blue Max,” “In Harm’s Way”), science fiction (“Alien,” “Total Recall”), period adventures (“The Wind and the Lion,” “The Mummy”), action films (the “Rambo” trilogy, “Air Force One”), Americana (“Hoosiers,” “Rudy”), comedy (“Gremlins,” “The Burbs”), love stories (“The Russia House”), suspense (“Seconds,” “Coma”), even animation (“The Secret of NIMH”).

Composers of his generation, and the next, revered Goldsmith for his ability to get inside the drama and find a unique musical approach for every project. For him, the process was instinctive. As he once told the BBC: “I can’t give you intellectual reasons why I write what I write. I just feel it.”

Goldsmith’s score for 1976’s “The Omen” earned the composer his only Oscar, out of 18 total nominations. COURTESY OF 20th Century Fox

Composer David Newman, who has often conducted Goldsmith music in concert (notably with the L.A. Philharmonic in 2005), played violin on several of the composer’s late ’70s and early ’80s scores including “Star Trek: The Motion Picture.” He recalls that “when you were performing on the session, there was a quality of magic. You knew that something great was happening. The way Jerry orchestrated and developed the music was nothing short of extraordinary.”

Widely praised for his effective blending of orchestra and electronics, Goldsmith eventually scored five of the “Star Trek” films. His 1979 movie theme later became the signature for the “Next Generation” TV series, and he won a 1995 Emmy for his “Star Trek: Voyager” theme.

Director Fred Schepisi, who did five films with Goldsmith (including “The Russia House” and “Six Degrees of Separation”) says that the composer “understood, like no other, that the musical score should be used to express information and emotions that could not be expressed any other way. It was there to make you think as well as feel, to support and add to the drama or comedy or action and give it other, richer dimensions.”

Adds Dante: “It was a given that if I did a movie, I would ask Jerry to do it. There got to be a standing joke on the set: If we were having trouble with a scene or something didn’t work, we’d just say, ‘Don’t worry, Jerry will save it.’ And he always did.”

In the days following his death from cancer in July 2004, writer-director Michael Crichton (who collaborated with him on four films including “The Great Train Robbery”) said of the composer: “He always struck me as a little bit like Picasso in the sense that ideas just constantly flowed out of him – movie scores and TV scores and fanfares, an unstoppable stream. I think, in a way, he was at the mercy of it. He wasn’t avoiding his life; he was honoring his gift.”

Among that stream were several concert works, including a collaboration with Ray Bradbury (the cantata “Christus Apollo”), a celebratory piece for the L.A. Philharmonic (“Fireworks”) and a complex serial composition (“Music for Orchestra”) for the St. Louis Symphony.

Fellow composer Charles Fox (“9 to 5”), who has fond memories of playing classical piano with Goldsmith just for fun, goes so far as to assert that “Jerry was more than one of the greatest film composers – he was one of the great American composers of any era, in any field of music. Jerry was a singular voice, a singular legend in both music and film, and his legendary status only grows with time.”

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