was a brilliant composer, arranger and conductor, whose tuneful
music reached the furthest corners of the world. Fortunately
he was a prolific recording artist, so future generations
will also be able to enjoy his music that has so enriched
all our lives during the second half of the 20th
born in Plymouth, Devon, on 17 February 1925, the son of a
policeman. The family moved to London, and Ron was educated
at Pinner County Grammar School. He showed a keen interest
in music from an early age, and while at school he learned
to play the trumpet. After a half-hearted attempt to build
a career in the insurance business, Ron soon realised that
his future was with his first love, music, and at the age
of 18 he went to work with the famous publishers Campbell,
Connelly & Co. as a music copier. At the same time he
pursued his studies on the trumpet and arranging at the Guildhall
School of Music, and he began to play trumpet professionally
with Harry Gold and his Pieces of Eight the talented
group of musicians which also included Norrie Paramor and
Geoff Love, both like Ron destined to become
major EMI conductors.
he was appointed head of the arranging department at Bron
Associated Publishers, where he was involved in working with
the top British bands such as Ted Heath, Geraldo and the BBC
Dance Orchestra. The discipline involved in producing high
quality work at short notice has been cited by many successful
arrangers and composers as the best grounding that one could
hope for in the cut and thrust of the music business.
case he learned quickly, and his talents were noticed by the
top people in the business. He started accompanying stars
such as Petula Clark and Jimmy Young on their hit recordings,
and this led to a particularly fruitful association at Parlophone
with producer George Martin (later to be knighted for his
services to the music industry, especially as the Beatles
Goodwin and his Concert Orchestra soon became a familiar
name through recordings and broadcasts. As his records started
selling well overseas (especially in North America), his name
came to the attention of the people who mattered in the movie
business. From the outset, Parlophone allowed him to record
some of his own compositions, so his credentials as a composer,
as well as an accomplished arranger, were soon firmly established.
his most popular LPs included Film Favourites (1954),
Music To Set You Dreaming (1956), Out of this World
(his first stereo album in 1958), Serenade (1961),
Adventure (1966), Legend of the Glass Mountain (1968)
Excitement (1970), Ron Goodwin in Concert (1971),
Ron Goodwin Plays Burt Bacharach (1972), and Spellbound
(1972). He also worked with Peter Sellers on his best-selling
comedy albums (notably Goodness Gracious Me with Sophia
Loren in 1960), and soundtrack albums were released from several
of his films.
Rons work in the film industry was at Merton Park Studios
on documentaries, but in 1958 his big chance came with a commission
to write his first score for a major feature film "Whirlpool".
The film itself did not make the gigantic ripples that its
title might have suggested, but Goodwins music received
a favourable reaction. Two years later he was signed by MGM
British Studios to compose and conduct for most of their British
Goodwin worked on some 60 films, and it is hard to recall
any of his scores that were not memorable in some particular
way. He had a gift of being able to write themes for the situations
or characters that so perfectly suited what was happening
on-screen. And he could take the bones of those themes and
rework them in such a melodious way that even the sequences
requiring what might be termed bland background music, barely
audible in the cinema, were revealed in their full beauty
when heard on the accompanying soundtrack albums.
had dreamed of composing for films ever since he saw Albert
Lewin's The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945) as a young
man. The mainly black-and-white movie went into colour when
the portrait was shown, and Goodwin was particularly impressed
by the contribution made to those sequences by the music.
"The colour would have made an impact," he said, "but
the music tied the whole thing together. I used to love to
see things like that. I thought how I would get that sort
of forceful effect when I write for films: what sort of sounds
and what sort of harmonies, musical instruments, I would use."
soon displayed his ability for adding appropriate musical
colour to any genre. His early work included Invasion Quartet
(1961); The Day of the Triffids (1962); eerie harmonies
for the chillers Village of the Damned (1960)
and its sequel Children of the Damned (1964), and his
attractively spirited "Miss Marple" music, inspired by the
casting of Margaret Rutherford as Agatha Christies famous
amateur sleuth and first written for Murder She Said (1962).
Rons catchy theme was an instant success that was to
be repeated during several more films in the series.
Squadron" (1964) was his first big blockbuster. True,
the film had a good story in the heroic aerial exploits against
the Nazis in occupied Norway, but it might have been less
well-remembered today had it not been for Goodwins brilliant
main theme. The following year Ron hit the jackpot again,
this time also up in the clouds but in humorous vein with
"Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines".
The story of an international air race in the early days of
aviation, afforded numerous opportunities for different styles
of comic and romantic themes to suit the wild antics of the
participants, and Goodwins score (including the catchy
main theme) was a masterpiece.
of Britain (1969) was to prove something of an embarrassment
for the composer, who was brought in to provide a new score
after its American distributors, United Artists, displayed
an attitude akin to the barbarians of the middle ages, and
decided to jettison the one written for the film by William
Walton. Walton was furious at what he described as "a bloody
snub" and many in the industry were shocked that so distinguished
a figure should be treated so shabbily. The film's star, Sir
Laurence Olivier, told the producers he would insist on his
name being removed from the credits unless they used at least
part of Walton's score. UA agreed to keep five minutes of
Walton's music near the end of the film.
years Goodwin explained that he had deliberately avoided hearing
Waltons score when he worked on the film. He said that
he would have found it extremely difficult to compose something
different. The producers required a 50-minute score in three
weeks; Goodwin responded with two major themes that are now
regarded among his best - "Battle of Britain" main
theme and "Aces High", the Luftwaffe March which
so perfectly captures the spirit of German military music
of that period.
for The Trap (1966) has for many years been used by
the BBC for its annual coverage of the London Marathon. The
original film, starring Oliver Reed as a trapper in 19th-century
British Columbia, has been largely forgotten.
One of Goodwin's
most prestigious assignments was Frenzy (1972), directed
by Alfred Hitchcock, whose earlier work had memorable scores
by composers such as Franz Waxman and Bernard Herrmann. "First
of all I was asked to go to Pinewood Studios to meet him and
I was a bit nervous, but he was very relaxed and humorous
and told me some funny stories. He made me feel welcome, but
he was very, very meticulous about what kind of music he wanted
Bernard Herrmann's name didn't come up." The celebrated
Hollywood composer Henry Mancini had already prepared a score
for the film, but Hitchcock really wanted something with a
more English feel, so he turned to Goodwin. The films
opening theme bears no relationship to the grisly storyline
of a murderer stalking the streets of London. As the camera
travels along the Thames, taking in many of Londons
most famous monuments, Goodwins "London Theme"
could hardly be more magnificent or English. Soon afterwards
the Walt Disney Studios commissioned Goodwin for One of
our Dinosaurs is Missing (1975).
Goodwin was asked to conduct a charity concert called Filmharmonic
with the Royal Philharmonic at the Albert Hall and it was
the start of another career. For the following 30 years he
toured the world as a conductor performing classics and pops
along with film scores, and he delighted in the fact that
these reached beyond normal concert audiences. He also composed
several major works for his concerts, including his "Drake
400" and "New Zealand" suites.
last film score was for Valhalla (1985), an animated
film made in Denmark, but barely shown outside Scandinavia
because the production company went bankrupt. He then gave
up film composition because, he said, producers were unwilling
to invest the appropriate time or money. "There's no
way you can write a good film score in two weeks. I prefer
when somebody brings me in and says: You get five or
six weeks to write, two or three days to record it and the
money you need. But the whole business has changed.
Also, I'm enjoying what I do."
champion of young musicians, he worked with the Hampshire
County Youth Orchestra and was president of the City of Birmingham
Schools Concert Orchestra. In 1994 his talents were recognised
when George Martin presented him with the Ivor Novello Award
for Lifetime Achievement in Music.
died at his home in Brimpton Common, Reading, on 8 January
2003, aged 77.