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Composer Richard Markowitz was born September 3, 1926 and passed away December 6, 1994. He studied music with two maestros: Arthur Honegger and Arnold Schoenberg, and started his career as a jazzman. He had a collaboration with director Irvin Kershner for feature films as the cult classic Stakeout on Dope Street (1958), The Young Captives (1959), Hoodlum Priest (1961), Face in the Rain (1963) and the western series The Rebel (1959-1961), starring Nick Adams as Johnny Yuma.
 
 
“Markowitz said that he tried combining Jazz with Americana”.
Culled from page 16 of “The Wild Wild West, The Series”.
 
 
 The Wild Wild West (1965-1969) and Robert Conrad
He was the music originator of the western-espionage series: The Wild Wild West and its two leading characters theme music: James West (played by Robert Conrad) and Artemus Gordon (played by Ross Martin)—CBS never mentioned his name for the theme music during the end credits (meaning no onscreen “Theme by”) because of a canceled commission with Dimitri Tiomkin. It was during the first season he had carte blanche, wrote the greatest amount of scores and set the tone. At the start of season 3, he only fashioned one score (“The Night of Jack O’Diamonds”)—that included an updated and hip rendition of his notorious James West theme—and left the series after a professional clash with Morton Stevens, the new head of the CBS music department who reshaped the music leaning from season 2. In a way, Richard Markowitz was the western equivalent of Lalo Schifrin for this series owing to his fresh, contemporary and jazz-laden approach. For the anecdote, Robert Conrad was a good friend of Nick Adams and invited him twice on his series: see "The Night of the Two-Legged Buffalo" and "The Night of the Viper". In 1966, he wrote the television western movie score Scalplock that turned into the series The Iron Horse and, as in the previous series The Wild Wild West, the leading man owns a train but, on a private and unfinished railroad. He participated in an ABC Movie of the Week with again Robert Conrad: Weekend of Terror (1970).
 
 
James West selects his weapons in “The Night of the Inferno” (1965).
 
 
James West climbs down a mountain in “The Night of Jack O’Diamonds” (1967).
 
 
 The Invaders (1967-1968): a QM Production!
Markowitz also worked for television producer Quinn Martin (see The F.B.I., The Invaders, The Streets of San Francisco, Barnaby Jones, Panic on the 5:22, Brinks: The Great Robbery). For the first season of The Invaders, he conceived a noteworthy semi-atonal score with weird electric guitar riffs entitled “Quantity: Unknown” (1967) that was so expressive that it was tracked from season 1 to season 2. The same year, he wrote the score for director Monte Hellman’s indie and New Wave western: The Shooting, starring Jack Nicholson and Warren Oates.
 
 
Two alien security guards hijack a truck in “Quantity: Unknown” (1967).
 
 
 Mission: Impossible (1966-1973), Stanley Kallis and Steve Ihnat
After The Wild Wild West, Markowitz collaborated with writer-executive producer Bruce Geller and added his input in another legendary espionage series: Mission: Impossible. His season 3 score for “The Bunker” (1969) modeled his season 4 scores of Mission: Impossible and highlit the grim and abstract Eastern Europe feel produced by Stanley Kallis and written by Paul Playdon (see “The Mind of Stefan Miklos”, “Live Bait”, “The Bunker, Part 1”, “The Falcon, Part 1”). To conclude, the C.I.T. (which stands for Cerebral IMF Troika) consists of three artisans: Stanley Kallis, Paul Playdon, Richard Markowitz. He already knew producer Kallis as a writer because of three feature films that he scored: The Hot Angels (1958), Operation Dames and Roadracers (1959) and later, with the televison movies: Beg, Borrow and Steal (1973), written by Paul Playdon, Cop on the Beat (1975) and Kiss Me, Kill Me (1976). By coincidence, Markowitz composed semi-experimental scores in 1969 for actor Steve Ihnat twice: “The Mind of Stefan Miklos” (season 3) from Mission: Impossible (season 3) and “End Game” (season 2) from Mannix.
 
 
Stefan Miklos interrogates Walter Townsend in “The Mind of Stefan Miklos” (1969).
 
 
Korean war veteran Gus Keller hits Joe Mannix in “End Game” (1969).
 
 
 The Links
There's an ominous jangle pattern in three of his various television scores: “The Night of the Green Terror” (from The Wild Wild West), “Quantity: Unknown” (from The Invaders) and “The Bunker” (from Mission: Impossible). In 2009, Film Score Monthly officially released one score (“The Search”) by Markowitz in the second disc (see track #9) of the multi-set of Dr. Kildare.
 
 
“Forty years later, The Wild Wild West can be enjoyed again, thanks to DVDs that also pay homage to one of TV's forgotten musical geniuses: Richard Markowitz.”
—Jon Burlingame
 
 
 The Books
“The Wild Wild West, The Series”
by Susan E. Kesler
(Arnett Press, 1988, 250 pages, ISBN 0-929360-00-1)
> Read “The Theme Music” chapter from page 15 to page 18!
http://www.thewildwildwestbook.com/
 
"The Complete Mission: Impossible Dossier"
by Patrick J. White
(Avon Books, 1991, 456 pages, ISBN 0-380-75877-6)
 
"TV's Biggest Hits: The History of Television Themes from Dragnet to Friends"
by Jon Burlingame
(Schirmer Books, 1996, 342 pages, ISBN 0-02-870324-3)
> Read from page 93 to page 96!
 
 The Online Documents
Interview with Richard Markowitz about the theme of The Wild Wild West.
http://www.thewildwildwestbook.com/sound_byte/markowitz.mp3
 
“The Wild Wild West Scores! Composer Markowitz recognized, heard on new DVDs”
by Jon Burlingame
http://www.filmmusicsociety.org/news_events/features/2006/061206.html?IsArchive=061206
 

 

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Comments (4):Log in or register to post your own comments
Once again, a brilliant rundown of the works of a master film composer with well researched data. Thanks, Thomas.

Richard Markowitz is another unsung hero of 1960s-70s TV. I'm glad the first Wild, Wild West DVD set dedicated some time to him with the audio interview and the studio material. You talk about a composer who deserves some kind of release of his music, but so much is CBS/Paramount and Universal.

Great work as always, Thomas. :)

Thanks, too, for this informative article. I was surprised to learn he had composed that second theme, played while James West descends from the rockface. I had always assumed Morton Stevens or Richard Shores had composed that. Still wish we could lobby CBS for a WWW CD release. What a great CD that would be!

Check out RIchard Markowitz's theme music to the fifties tv show Philip Marlowe. Very hip for it's time, and pre Schifrin vibe to it. Some samples on youtube.

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