NOT EVEN NOMINATED, PART TWO
THE YEAR IN FILM MUSIC: 1981
By Scott Bettencourt
In the first
installment of this series, inspired by a letter from Marc Levy, we
looked at the scores of 1980. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
had recently dropped their practice of picking ten "finalists" for the
technical categories (including Score, Song and Music Adaptation) before
announcing the nominees, and we (well, I) surmised what the five additional
Best Score finalists might have been for that year, as well as discussing
other great scores and the film music year in general. Here we go again--
THE REAL NOMINEES
CHARIOTS OF FIRE - Vangelis (the winner)
DRAGONSLAYER - Alex North
ON GOLDEN POND - Dave Grusin
RAGTIME - Randy Newman
RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK - John Williams
ARTHUR - Burt Bacharach
This old-fashioned romantic comedy, the only film directed by writer
Steve Gordon (he died a mere eight months after Arthur won its two
Oscars), opened modestly but word of mouth turned it into an enormous sleeper
hit, grossing a staggering (for 1981) 95 million dollars. Bacharach's first
major film score since the infamous musical version of Lost Horizon
eight years earlier, this peppy score featured two main themes, both of
which were also used as songs -- the largely forgotten "Poor Rich Boy,"
performed by Ambrosia (though this catchy melody is one of the most distinctive
elements of the score), and of course the immensely popular "Arthur's Theme
(Best That You Can Do)" which won the Oscar for its four songwriters (allegedly,
Peter Allen's contribution consisted entirely of the phrase "caught between
the moon and New York City"). The cast and Bacharach were reunited 17 years
later for a flop sequel, Arthur 2: On the Rocks. (Arthur
received 3 Oscar nominations)
EYE OF THE NEEDLE - Miklos Rozsa
For his penultimate score, Rozsa was given the kind of film he used
to compose for 40 years earlier, a romantic World War II spy thriller,
with Kate Nelligan as an unhappy wife who unwittingly falls for a Nazi
assassin (Donald Sutherland). Along with giving Rozsa what I must assume
was his first opportunity to score onscreen fornication (unless there's
an expanded European cut of The Golden Voyage of Sinbad I've never
seen), he gave the film a typically lush symphonic score with a propulsive
main title, thrilling action music and gorgeous romantic cues. Unfortunately,
the filmmakers (especially, reportedly, producer Stephen Friedman) found
the score a little too old fashioned and dialed some of it out, including
the lovely "English Wedding." At the time of the film's release, Varese
released a rerecording with the Nuremberg Symphony, which they later paired
with Rozsa's Last Embrace as a CD Club release.
FOR YOUR EYES ONLY - Bill Conti
I know, it's alarming to think that this score had a shot at an Oscar
when not a note of John Barry's Bond music even made it to the finalists
level of the Academy's nominations system (not counting the Barry pastiches
featured in Hamlisch's nominated score for The Spy Who Loved Me),
but Conti was at his peak of popularity in 1981, scoring smash hits and
Best Picture nominees alike, and the title song was an Oscar nominee and
deservedly so -- it's one of the most romantic songs in the Bond series,
and free of the cheap sexual innuendo of the overrated "Nobody Does It
Better." Conti scored the film in a variety of styles, from 80s pop in
the action scenes to tense orchestral cues for the suspenseful finale.
The soundtrack LP was augmented in its Ryko CD release in 2000 with a lengthy
selection of additional cues. (1 Oscar nomination)
THE FRENCH LIEUTENANT'S WOMAN - Carl Davis
Though Carl Davis was born in the U.S., virtually all of his scores
have been written for British film and television. His highest profile
project was this acclaimed adaptation of the John Fowles novel, which gave
Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons their first movie leads, and provided Davis
with the opportunity to write a sweepingly romantic score, dominated by
an impassioned main theme. The film alternates between a period romance
and the story of modern actors filming that romance, and for the modern
scenes Davis provided fittingly 80s style source cues, arranged by Brian
Gascoigne. DRG released the score on LP and, many years later, on CD. (5
OUTLAND - Jerry Goldsmith
Reuniting with Capricorn One director Peter Hyams, Goldsmith
returned to the bleak interstellar terrain of Alien but managed
not to repeat himself, writing a thrilling score that perfectly matched
Philip Harrison's cold, impressively convincing production design, highlighted
by an intense action cue, "Hot Water," which builds stunning momentum as
it accompanies Hyams' expertly staged foot chase. Goldsmith tried to inject
some much needed warmth with his subtly emotional cue, "The Message," for
the scene where beleaguered marshal Sean Connery learns his wife has left
him, but though Hyams dropped the piece from the score Goldsmith wisely
included it on the Warner Bros. soundtrack LP, which GNP Crescendo released
on CD in 1993, paired, naturally enough, with Capricorn One. Goldsmith
also provided an entertainingly odd source cue, "The Rec Room," for a scene
featuring erotic dancers in a nightclub (it sounds like music for robots
having sex), but Hyams replaced it with a cue by Michael Boddicker and
Richard Rudolph. The cue for the final fight scene outside the mining station
was actually written by Goldsmith's longtime colleague Morton Stevens,
who collaborated with Goldsmith on the mini-series Masada around
the same time (the piece does sound distinctly different from the rest
of Goldsmith's score). Hyams was reportedly (and inexplicably) disappointed
with Goldsmith's score and never worked with him again, but despite projects
with such ace composers as Michael Small, David Shire and Bruce Broughton,
Hyams' films would never again reach such a high standard of scoring. (1
FIVE MORE OUTSTANDING SCORES OF 1981
BODY HEAT - John Barry
This stylish, clever homage to Double Indemnity was the first
film directed by screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, who showed remarkable assurance
for a first-timer. One of the film's strongest elements was the John Barry
score, arguably the finest of his career. Continuing the neo-noir trend
of scores like Chinatown, Farewell My Lovely and Taxi Driver,
Barry gave the film a marvelously sinuous main theme as well as a wide
variety of melodic material including the thrilling "I'm Frightened." Southern
Cross released limited edition LPs and CDs of the score, but only when
Joel McNeely re-recorded the score (with extra cues) for Varese Sarabande
in 1998 was this classic music available to the wider audience it deserved.
CLASH OF THE TITANS - Laurence Rosenthal
Ray Harryhausen's work had inspired filmmakers and especially special
effects men for decades, but by 1981 it had inspired them too well -- thanks
to the technical breakthroughs that ILM had created in the wake of Star
Wars (like the remarkable "go-motion" of 1981's Dragonslayer),
Harryhausen's effects had come to seem comparatively primitive and old
fashioned. But despite opening the same summer as Raiders of the Lost
Ark, Harryhausen's final film managed respectable business, helped
by an unusually prestigious cast -- Claire Bloom, Burgess Meredith, Maggie
Smith, and even Laurence Olivier -- as well as Laurence Rosenthal's lively
and varied score. John Barry was the filmmakers' original choice (based
on his Lion in Winter score) but left the project early on, and
Rosenthal proved an ideal replacement, providing a great variety of themes
including a rousing theme for the hero Perseus, a moving love theme for
Andromeda, and a suitably creepy cue for Medusa, Harryhausen's final great
creation -- and proved to be a worthy follower in the tradition of great
Harryhausen composers like Herrmann, Rozsa and Moross. The short-lived
Pendulum CD label re-released the old soundtrack album on CD plus four
THE FINAL CONFLICT - Jerry Goldsmith
Having won the Oscar for his score to The Omen, Goldsmith was
an obvious choice for its inevitable sequels (the producers at one point
had planned to make it a series of four films, but eventually shortened
it to a trilogy -- one producer complained that there was nothing much
an adolescent Damien could do except play with himself). For Damien
Omen II, he reworked his original Omen score, omitting the "Piper Dreams"
family theme while giving the Satan material a bracing jolt of energy.
For the final film of the series (not counting a lame TV movie follow-up
in 1991), Goldsmith composed an entirely new score, dominated by a powerful
main theme, first heard over the opening credits and given an especially
rousing rendition in the superbly scored fox hunt sequence, a truly glorious
mix of image and music. The film was wildly uneven, helped by the slick
cinematography of Phil Meheux (GoldenEye) and Robert Paynter (Superman
II), but marred by a disappointing performance by Sam Neill as the
adult Damien -- in theory he seemed to be an ideal choice but his line
readings were flat and unconvincing (not helped by a weak American accent),
especially in his big speeches (I know he's supposed to be playing the
Prince of Lies, but his lies should sound more convincing). Surprisingly,
he was more effective in his creepy, homoerotic relationship with the female
lead's young son (played by Ian Holm's son Barnaby). Goldsmith fans had
to wait five years for a soundtrack release of this powerful score, on
Varese Sarabande, and in 2001 the label treated us to an expanded version
with greatly improved sound.
HEARTBEEPS - John Williams
Once Star Wars made Williams the most in-demand composer in Hollywood,
a position he's held for a quarter of a century, he began to choose his
projects with much greater care, departing projects like Meteor
and Inchon when they appeared to become commercially or aesthetically
unsound. Which makes it more mysterious that Williams would follow up the
blockbuster Raiders of the Lost Ark with this insipid comedy about
two robots (Andy Kaufman and Bernadette Peters) who fall in love. (The
behind-the-scenes story of this film is far more interesting than what
occurred onscreen -- according to one Kaufman bio, the studio actually
considered putting prostitutes on the payroll to keep Kaufman happy, but
realized they couldn't quite justify that as a budgetary expense) Despite
the film's limited ambition and even more limited quality, Williams gave
it a charming score, using an unusual amount of electronics (fittingly
for a story about robots) highlighted by an effervescent main theme. MCA
announced a soundtrack LP but quickly canceled it (they had done the same
a few months earlier with Goldsmith's Raggedy Man), but a lengthy
CD of the score was finally released by the Varese CD Club twenty years
HEAVY METAL - Elmer Bernstein
A year earlier, director Stanley Donen dialed out much of Bernstein's
score for the ill-fated Saturn 3, eliminating the love theme completely.
Bernstein reused this melody as "Taarna's Theme" for Heavy Metal,
but this was just one of several terrific melodies he provided for what
is one of his greatest scores. He also wrote a heroic theme for Dar, an
eerie motif for the "Green Ball" which links all the film's stories, light-hearted
faux-noir for the "Harry Canyon" segment, and a thrilling action cue for
the B-17 sequence, unfortunately omitted in the final film so they could
include a song written for a scene that was cut. Unexpectedly, a score
LP was released soon after the film came out, but unfortunately has yet
to be released on CD.
THE REST OF THE YEAR IN FILM MUSIC:
Besides his classic Body Heat, John Barry scored the poorly
received THE LEGEND OF THE LONE RANGER, giving it a relaxed adventure
score dominated by an overused narrative ballad, "The Man in the Mask."
John Beal wrote a first-rate orchestral horror score for Tobe
Hooper's THE FUNHOUSE, but the film did little business and Beal
has scored barely any features since, ultimately becoming a top composer
for movie trailers.
Including Heavy Metal, Elmer Bernstein had a total of
six films released in 1981. For his third film with John Landis, Bernstein
supplied only seven minutes of music for AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON,
but each short piece was deftly spotted and scored. Continuing his typecasting
as a comedy composer, he scored the obscure Tony Danza comedy GOING
APE as well as writing one of his most popular comedy scores for STRIPES,
highlighted by a terrific light march, but 22 years later there's still
no sign of a soundtrack release. He and George Martin provided the
music for the expensive flop comedy HONKY TONK FREEWAY (directed
by John Schlesinger, of all people), and he wrote a powerful symphonic
score for the Oscar winning Holocaust documentary GENOCIDE.
Reuniting with the makers of The Wild Geese, Roy Budd
gave THE SEA WOLVES a light-hearted score partly based on Richard
Addinsell's classic "Warsaw Concerto."
Geoffrey Burgon reteamed with Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
director John Irvin for Irvin's first feature, a terrific adaptation of
Frederick Forsyth's THE DOGS OF WAR, with Christopher Walken in
a rare leading man role as a mercenary. Burgon's score was sparse and discreet,
largely eschewing the overt heroics of most manly adventure films.
John Carpenter collaborated with Alan Howarth on two scores
-- ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK showed the influence of Carpenter fave Ennio
Morricone, while HALLOWEEN II had more variety than the original
score but lacked its spooky simplicity.
Paul Chihara gave Sidney Lumet's superb PRINCE OF THE CITY
(a huge improvement over his overrated Serpico) a moody, neo-noir
score. Because of a musician's strike, the score was recorded in Europe
and conducted by Georges Delerue.
Bill Conti wrote scores in 1981 that represented the composer
at both his best and his worst. His rousing music for VICTORY, an
odd hybrid of The Great Escape and a soccer movie, remains one of
his most popular scores, even though none of it has ever seen an LP or
CD release. On the other hand, his replacement score for NEIGHBORS
was comedy scoring at its nadir, fatally sabotaging an already wildly uneven
Ry Cooder cemented his relationship with director Walter Hill
with his fittingly creepy and Cajun flavored music for SOUTHERN COMFORT.
Though none of his films were especially successful at the boxoffice
that year, Georges Delerue had an aesthetically impressive 1981.
His score for Truffaut's penultimate film THE WOMAN NEXT DOOR was
emotionally rich, highlighted by an impassioned main theme. He wrote one
typically lovely score for George Cukor's final film, RICH AND FAMOUS
(Delerue seemed an ideal composer for the director) and another for the
little seen drama RICHARD'S THINGS (whose announced soundtrack LP
never materialized, and it's never been released on CD either). His weakest
score of the year was for the 40s mystery TRUE CONFESSIONS -- though
his music was skillfully composed as always, the heaviness of his approach
helped weigh down an already slow film, which lacked the energy and bite
of the John Gregory Dunne source novel (a fictionalization of the Black
Frank De Vol and Robert Aldrich had their sixteenth collaboration,
ALL THE MARBLES, a female wrestler comedy that the studio had such
high hopes for that they announced a sequel, The California Dolls Go
to Japan, to begin filming immediately after the first film's release.
Alas, the skimpy boxoffice of All the Marbles, clearly didn't warrant
a sequel, and the California Dolls never left the States (a year later,
the same thing happened with Megaforce's planned instant sequel,
Deeds Not Words). More tragically, it would prove to be the final
feature for both the director and the composer -- Aldrich died in 1983,
De Vol in 1999.
Barry De Vorzon's pop-oriented synth music for Michael Crichton's
LOOKER was a far cry from Goldsmith's work for the director, but
the score worked on its own terms helped by a catchy title song. He wrote
a more traditional orchestral thriller score for TATTOO.
Pino Donaggio wrote his fourth score for Brian DePalma, BLOW
OUT, substituting the orchestral sheen of Dressed to Kill for
a more eclectic approach, beginning with a parody of low-budget slasher
scores and climaxing with a tragic love theme. He wrote a lively but familiar
score for Joe Dante's THE HOWLING, and gave the glossy, star-laden
slasher film THE FAN a wry, catchy main theme.
Rocker Keith Emerson wrote an enjoyably trashy score for the
Sylvester Stallone cop thriller NIGHTHAWKS, highlighted by a lively
For the George Hamilton comedy ZORRO, THE GAY BLADE, Ian Fraser
adapted one of the greatest of all swashbuckler scores, Max Steiner's Adventures
of Don Juan.
Jerry Goldsmith worked in an unusual variety of styles this year.
Along with the Satanic chorus of The Final Conflict and the steely
sci-fi thrills of Outland, he wrote a gentle, intimate score for
RAGGEDY MAN (though director Jack Fisk ultimately dialed much of
it out), climaxing with some jarring suspense cues for the chilling finale;
and a lively, Latin-flavored adventure score for the barely released, misbegotten
Casablanca homage CABOBLANCO.
Along with Best Score nominee On Golden Pond, Dave Grusin
provided the music for two other major Oscar contenders in 1981. He gave
ABSENCE OF MALICE an effective score highlighted by a snappy main
title, but didn't submit his score for Oscar consideration. REDS,
surprisingly for a historical romantic epic, was sparsely scored in
the extreme, accompanied by an original Stephen Sondheim love theme
(later he added lyrics and turned it into the song "Goodbye For Now") and
some discreet mood setting cues by Grusin.
In his third year of scoring features, James Horner scored his
first four major studio films. His most popular score of the year was for
WOLFEN (replacing Craig Safan's colder, more brooding score), giving
the film a Goldsmithian sound with a lot of energy and genuine warmth.
The Goldsmith influence was much more prominent in Wes Craven's DEADLY
BLESSING, the score dominated by Omen-style choral work but
benefiting from lovely melodic passages. A pretty main title theme highlighted
Oliver Stone's underrated, uneven THE HAND, while THE PURSUIT
OF D.B. COOPER featured a folksy, twanging score, two cues of which
actually managed to make it onto the Polydor soundtrack LP (alas, 22 years
later, none of these scores have been released on CD).
Maurice Jarre wrote a pleasingly lush and epic score for the
Arabian war drama LION OF THE DESERT, and wrote an extremely sparse
score for the Timothy Hutton vehicle TAPS, which is better remembered
for providing both Tom Cruise and Sean Penn with their first major roles.
Trevor Jones scored his first major movie, EXCALIBUR,
but the film was dominated by familiar classical themes, and it wasn't
until the following year that he was able to show his true skill at epic
fantasy with The Dark Crystal.
Michel Legrand scored one of the year's finest films, the John
Guare-Louis Malle comedy-drama ATLANTIC CITY, which gave Burt Lancaster
his last great role and Susan Sarandon her first Oscar nomination, but
Legrand's score consisted mostly of source cues.
For his first film in ten years without Jerry Goldsmith, Franklin J.
Schaffner hired Michael J. Lewis to score the Robin Cook thriller
SPHINX, and Lewis' music was suitably lively and Egyptian-flavored,
maintaining a consistent if somewhat exhausting level of energy and drama.
Henry Mancini gave the camp classic MOMMIE DEAREST an
impressively restrained and moody score -- allegedly, the project was first
offered to Miklos Rozsa, who probably would have written something a bit
more robust. Mancini's umpteenth score for Blake Edwards, S.O.B.,
consisted largely of variations on the song "Polly Wolly Doodle." He scored
an ill-fated Disney attempt at an original superhero, CONDORMAN,
and reunited with Molly Maguires director Martin Ritt for the forgotten
romantic comedy BACK ROADS, which teamed Sally Field and Tommy Lee
Jones fresh off their respective triumphs with Norma Rae and Coal
Miner's Daughter, and provided a melancholy theme song, "Ask Me No
In the tradition of Ry Cooder's The Long Riders, David Mansfield
(barely out of his teens) gave the much-maligned but spectacularly filmed
HEAVEN'S GATE an authentic, folk-based score, and even appeared
onscreen playing a fiddle while rollerskating across the eponymous rink.
Though as usual his international output included a variety of genres,
in the U.S. Ennio Morricone was represented, oddly enough, by comedies
-- LA CAGE AUX FOLLES II and Andrew Bergman's misguided directorial
debut, SO FINE.
John Morris scored his sixth Mel Brooks film, HISTORY OF THE
WORLD PART 1, and while the film didn't provide a great scoring opportunity
like Young Frankenstein or Silent Movie, Morris gave it a
lively march theme.
Jack Nitzsche wrote his finest score for the character-based
mystery CUTTER'S WAY, supplying a suitably drugged-out sounding
main theme as well as making effective use of the "glass harmonica."
WHOSE LIFE IS IT ANYWAY? was the first high profile feature score
for Arthur B. Rubinstein, as well as the first of seven movies he
would score for his old Yale classmate John Badham. Though his score didn't
always mesh perfectly with the intimate drama, it was musically vivid and
highlighted by a terrific horn cue for the climactic scene where the paralyzed
hero's fate is decided.
Fresh off his Oscar nomination for Tess, Philippe Sarde
scored his first American film, the beautifully mounted but disappointing
adaptation of Peter Straub's GHOST STORY for Dogs of War
director John Irvin. The score was inventively orchestrated by Peter Knight
and was often quite pretty (incorporating a love theme from Sarde's score
to L'Adolescente), but at times his music seemed to work at odds
with the movie.
Following his eclectic output in 1980, Lalo Shifrin concentrated
on comedy in 1981, with a suitably goofy score for the low comedy CAVEMAN,
and a replacement score for Billy Wilder's misbegotten final film BUDDY,
BUDDY. (In my research, I have not been able to determine with any
certainty who wrote the original, rejected score for Buddy Buddy,
but my best guess would be Pete Rugolo -- when the film's credit list was
changed to add "Music by Lalo Schifrin", they also gave Rugolo a credit
for arranging one of the songs. If anyone has any more definitive information
on this topic, I would appreciate hearing from them.)
David Shire wrote what is probably the finest score ever written
for a Neil Simon movie, his delicate, restrained score for ONLY WHEN
I LAUGH. He also scored two movies undeserving of his great talents
-- the film version of THE NIGHT THE LIGHTS WENT OUT IN GEORGIA
(okay, I haven't seen this one, but how good can a movie based on a Vicki
Lawrence song be?), and the Burt Reynolds comedy PATERNITY, whose
main title was comprised of the sounds of babies crying -- yikes!
Howard Shore wrote a typically brooding score for SCANNERS,
his second project with David Cronenberg, which mixed orchestral elements
with electronics, and though his score was effective in the film, it showed
little sign of the tremendous musical range he would later demonstrate.
New York theater composer Stanley Silverman wrote an unusually
sparse score for the romantic mystery EYEWITNESS, one of the briefest
scores I can remember hearing in a big-studio commercial project.
Michael Small wrote one of his all-time finest scores for Bob
Rafelson's remake of THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE, a somber and
moving work highlighted by a first-rate end title. He scored yet another
paranoid thriller for Alan J. Pakula, ROLLOVER, but the music lacked
his usual elegant assurance and, except for the economic apocalypse at
the finale, the film was immensely forgettable. He also took a rare venture
into romantic comedy with CONTINENTAL DIVIDE, with pleasant but
Four years after Sorcerer, Tangerine Dream returned to
scoring American films with Michael Mann's debut feature THIEF,
which prominently featured Dream's distinctive style of high-powered synthesizer
music. Craig Safan also contributed a cue, which was featured on the American
Ken Thorne adapted John Williams' beloved Superman music
adequately for SUPERMAN II, but brought disappointingly little imagination
or personality to the task.
Acclaimed Broadway orchestrator Jonathan Tunick, known for his
outstanding work for Stephen Sondheim, wrote two disappointing feature
scores -- the cop drama FORT APACHE THE BRONX, and the unintentionally
hilarious teen romance ENDLESS LOVE, whose score naturally was largely
based on the film's Oscar-nominated title song.
BUDDY BUDDY (by Pete Rugolo?)
NEIGHBORS (by Tom Scott)
WOLFEN (by Craig Safan)
These are all the score LPs from 1981 movies produced
around the time of their films' release:
Arthur, Atlantic City, Chariots of Fire, Clash of the Titans, Escape
From New York, Eye of the Needle, For Your Eyes Only, The French Lieutenant's
Woman, Ghost Story, Halloween II, Heaven's Gate, Heavy Metal, The Howling,
The Legend of the Lone Ranger, Lion of the Desert, Nighthawks, On Golden
Pond, Outland, Prince of the City, Ragtime, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The
Sea Wolves, Superman II, Thief, True Confessions, The Woman Next Door.
FROM: "Randy Derchan"
SUBJECT: 1980 memories
What a wonderful trip down memory lane. Those were interesting
times for me, and I distinctly remember seeing half of those films when
they came out. Some of the films mentioned I saw for the first time, when
I was actually old enough and confident enough to see them all by myself,
This was also the year I started to become severely interested in film
music. Also noted that Goldsmith, although writing and recording that year,
had no releases to mention, and I can't believe that no one was arrested
for the "Oscar going to Fame scandal."
I was recently thinking about the great filmmusic year--from 1980
to 1983. A lot of great new talent popped up, and there was still a lot
of the golden age composers still around working.
Those were times when we still had Alex North, Miklos Rosza, George
Delerue, Hank Mancini, Maurice Jarre, John Barry, Phillipe Sarde and others
all writing music. We also saw the rise of composers like Horner, Poledouris,
Broughton. Soundtrack releases were a bit low, but the music was better.
Movies were better, also. (sigh) Good times!
Thanks for the memories.
FROM: "Louis Latzer"
I enjoyed your review of 1980. It is amazing how few soundtracks
were released. Believe it or not, I actually have the LPs from FINAL COUNTDOWN,
BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS and THE STUNT MAN (wonderful!).
I know this isn't the year you were interested in, but I still remember
how disappointed I was that THE BLUE MAX wasn't nominated. If I remember
correctly the mid-60's were very much into "pop" when it came to nominations.
But THE BLUE MAX is the very first Goldsmith album I ever purchased (thanks
to my love for THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.) Now there was a great score! Thankfully,
a lot of other people agree, and it has been released on CD (a couple of
Looking forward to the next installment.
FROM: "Jeff Commings"
Scott, I always enjoy your thorough Oscar columns, and
think they are more than gratuitous.
However, in your discussion of the 1980 scores, I had hoped to learn
something about the five that actually received a nomination. Did Michael
Gore really compose original music, or did he submit adaptations from his
songs? Was there any flak over part of The Empire Strikes Back consisting
of previously composed themes? And what the hell did the sheet music for
the frenetic Altered States look like? Was there consideration for a category
for adapted scores?
These questions, and many others, I hope will be answered in the
In 1980, the Original Score category included songs, so Fame
was perfectly eligible (if undeserving). As far as I know there was no
flak over Empire Strikes Back reusing Star Wars themes --
that's a whole new wrinkle in Oscar confusion.
And for information about the adaptation category in 1980, go to my
column on that topic at this
What, did Goldsmith take the year off?
After having his Alien score butchered and then spending
a whopping six months on Star Trek--The Motion Picture, he certainly
would have been entitled to a year off, but I believe he spent 1980 working
on Masada, Caboblanco, and possibly Raggedy Man and Inchon
(which was released long after it was finished, with major characters and
subplots cut out)
FROM: "Ian Smith"
I can't WAIT till you get to 1984 and the ultimate Oscar
fiasco - the non-nomination of Morricone's masterful ONCE UPON A TIME IN
AMERICA. Ever since I can never take the Oscars seriously.
FROM: "George Werner"
Great column on the ignored film scores of 1980. Musically,
I still find the films of that year to be more rich and diverse than any
other year in the last 25 (with the possible exception of the blockbuster
year of 1989, which witnessed at least one memorable score from almost
every major composer still active). Somehow, the orchestral scores of that
year all seem to have a deeply reflective lyricism about them which seem
to give themselves away as 1980 film music.
One question, and two additions: My DVD of "The Fog" says it was
produced in 1979. Would you consider Carpenter's score still a 1980 one,
with Carpenter/Shirley Walker following up in 1981 with "Escape From New
York"? Or was "The Fog"'s score LP not released until 1980?
If so, that brings us to my additions: "The Black Hole" and "Superman
II." The first score ever to be recorded digitally, John Barry's contribution
to the (largely forgettable) library of Disney live-action films was the
most memorable element of an otherwise, again, largely forgettable film.
The film was released domestically ten days before the end of 1979, but
it did premiere internationally in 1980.
The reverse was true for Ken Thorne's marvelous (for their time)
adaptations of John Williams' themes in "Superman II"--the film was released
in the United Kingdom and other European countries in late 1980 but did
not premiere in the U.S. until 1981. The score LP was released, however,
to all markets in 1980. I assume it came out too late for Academy consideration
Both scores, like several others you pointed out in your column,
don't have a great deal to work with in their films but still manage to
elevate them to a higher level than they deserved. It is a crime that Thorne
seems to be no longer active in scoring music for movies, particularly.
Any thoughts? If not, thanks and congratulations again on a definitive
survey of one of the greatest years in film music history.
The Fog was "produced" (meaning "filmed") in 1979, but released
in early 1980. The soundtrack LP was not released until the mid-1980s.
(Also, Shirley Walker collaborated with Carpenter on Escape From L.A.,
not Escape From New York.)
Since The Black Hole was released in the U.S. in 1979 (and this
is a U.S. based website), I consider it a 1979 film. Similarly, Superman
II didn't come to the U.S. until mid-1981, despite its earlier European