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Jerry Goldsmith’s 10 Most Indelible Scores

In honor of Jerry Goldsmith’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Jon Burlingame offers ten scores that best capture the late composer’s genius.

1. A Patch of Blue (1965) For the tender relationship between a blind white girl (Elizabeth Hartman) and the kindly black man (Sidney Poitier) she befriends, Goldsmith wrote a haunting, delicate score featuring piano and harmonica.

2. The Sand Pebbles (1966) Goldsmith’s first epic score, for director Robert Wise’s film about a U.S. gunboat in Chinese waters in the 1920s starring Steve McQueen. He evoked an Asian atmosphere with exotic instruments, and his love theme (“And We Were Lovers”) was recorded by artists from Andy Williams to Shirley Bassey.

3. Planet of the Apes (1968) A landmark in film-music history, this unearthly, Bartok- and Stravinsky-influenced soundscape strongly implied that Charlton Heston and his fellow astronauts were marooned on a far-off planet… when, in fact, they were on Earth all along.

4. Patton (1970) Goldsmith’s music illuminated the character of the World War II general (famously portrayed by George C. Scott), cleverly employing echoing trumpets to suggest his conviction that he had been present at every great battle in the history of warfare.

5. Papillon (1973) A virtual tone poem, this alternately gorgeous and harrowing score is a forgotten masterpiece of ’70s cinema music: beginning with a charming French waltz, ending with a crashing man-against-the-sea coda. Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman played inmates in the notorious Devil’s Island penal colony.

6. Chinatown (1974) Producer Robert Evans often said that Goldsmith “saved” Roman Polanski’s noirish drama set in 1930s L.A. Goldsmith wrote and recorded it in 10 days after an earlier score was discarded; his modernist ensemble included four pianos and four harps, and that sexy solo-trumpet theme is indelible.

7. The Omen (1976) Goldsmith’s sole Oscar winner was a choral-and-orchestral score for a summer popcorn movie about the Antichrist as a child, complete with Latin lyrics praising Satan. The composer’s music for Gregory Peck being attacked by dogs in a darkened cemetery is among the scariest of the decade.

8. Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) Perhaps the most familiar of all Goldsmith themes (used in many of the Enterprise crew’s subsequent film and TV appearances), this score established the heroic, symphonic sound of Kirk, Spock and company still in use today.

9. Poltergeist (1982) This Steven Spielberg-produced haunted-house movie about a little girl abducted into another dimension contains one of Goldsmith’s most brilliant musical ideas: a lullaby as its main theme, designed to remind listeners that a frightened child was at the story’s heart.

10. Basic Instinct (1992) Goldsmith’s most provocative and sensual score, for Paul Verhoeven’s infamous erotic thriller starring Sharon Stone, uses both orchestra and electronics to create moods of intense passion and edge-of-seat suspense.

 

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