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May 09, 2009


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Well, he did compose "additional music" for Reds. Sondheim wrote most of the score, but I don't remember anything bad in the film.

That's all I got.

Funnily, I remember way back when The Firm came out and a friend was complaining about Grusin's score afterwards.


I was going to defend him, but then realized I was confusing him with David Shire, whose scores for conspiracy thrillers like All the President's Men and Zodiac are actually quite good.


Now you got my mickey up. Gruisin's music might not always work in certain films but when it does, it's rather perfect, particularly his early 70's scores like PLAY T AGAIN SAM (Gruisin's jaunty keyboard theme for Woody is my favorite) and I love his theme for the unseen ADAM AT SIX AM from 1970, not to mention lovely work in MY BODYGUARD.

The defense rests.


No argument from me. My hatred of Grusin's film scoring work once even made it into my Facebook status update. Though I will say that his score for THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR is The Ecstasy of Fucking Gold compared to his score for THE FIRM.

It actually took me half an hour to write that last sentence because I fell asleep halfway through it.

Brad W

I agree with almost everything you say about Grusin, especially his years with GRP, but as a fan of 70s era movie score funk I have to say the 3 Days Of The Condor soundtrack has some really lovely moments (as well as a couple of painful ones). But if anyone wants to curse him for facilitating the slide from soul jazz to smooth jazz I won't stop them.


I remember getting some enjoyment out of Grusin's score for THE GREAT NORTHFIELD MINNESOTA RAID, and his renditions of the standards in THE FABULOUS BAKER BOYS--he does Jeff Bridges's piano playing--are actually quite good. (His score for that film is also not too bad, a likable pastiche of 80s Miles Davis, although Grusin's attempts at straight jazz "sound," in Pauline Kael's apt description, "like colored lights on waterfalls.") Such praise aside, Grusin must be a strong contender for the worst film composer in history. Crucial pieces of evidence: the wretched 70s suspense music he wrote for THE NICKEL RIDE (the EDDIE COYLE score is probably very similar); the crooning saxophone in TEQUILA SUNRISE; A DRY WHITE SEASON; FALLING IN LOVE, which features what might be called Hallmark piano; RACING WITH THE MOON (more "pleasant," "bittersweet" music); and THE BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES, through which runs a tootling soprano saxophone line that sounds as if it were a special contribution made by Kenny G.

Owain Wilson

Yeah, but his theme for The Goonies is fantastic.

Pete Apruzzese

Dave Grusin will *never* be the 'worst film composer in history' as long as James Horner is still around writing his tin-eared, derivative (not to mention plagiarizing), poorly-structured scores. And for anybody who says, 'Yeah, but Horner's early stuff was good," you're wrong. It stinks too. In addition to having the dreadful traits I noted above, the early stuff is marked by Horner's amateurish & indifferent conducting along with some of the worst studio musician performances ever. Grusin is freakin' Bernard Herrmann compared to a hack like Horner.

Matthias Galvin

I enjoy "Ray's Blues" from the soundtrack to The Firm. That is all.

Dylan P.

Dave Grusin > Marvin Hamlisch.


Sorry Dylan P, but them's fightin' words on Marvin H.

Tom Carson

Seeing "Music by Dave Grusin" in any movie's credits was always my tipoff that either the director got nervous or the studio did. But I object to lumping Fielding and Goldsmith in together. Jerry G. had a shameless streak (cf. "Patton") that Jerry F. never did.

Pete Apruzzese

Goldsmith...shameless? Patton? One of the best scores of the era, bar none.

Account Deleted

Pete Apruzzese: Can't agree with your dissing of Horner.

Defence evidence 1: The main title of WRATH OF KHAN.

Defence evidence 2: The first major action cue in ALIENS when Ripley takes control of the APC and drives into the Alien nest to rescue the marines.

Defence evidence 3: The entire score of THE ROCKETEER.

And when was the last time you heard a rousing score like BRAVEHEART in the cinema?

Fingers crossed for his AVATAR score.

Pete Apruzzese

1 - TWoK - Main Title - poorly played with odd competing music lines that never gel (the few seconds prior to the main title). A theme in search of something. Thin, weak orchestrations throughout. Best music moment was Amazing Grace which, ironically, Horner hated that they made him do.

2. Aliens - not familiar enough with that piece. Though I seem to remember the whole thing sounds a lot like Trek II & III's action music plus some of his Commando score. Some of the action stuff at the end was decent.

3. Sounds just like Willow and Field of Dreams mixed with Cocoon and Glory.

Braveheart was effective, but I never felt it helped the film. Starship Troopers is rousing. :)

Glenn Kenny

@TC: Yes, Goldsmith was capable of laying on the tonal ham, for sure, but any guy who gave us the theme from "Chinatown" and the entire "Planet of the Apes" score (a staggeringly deft translation of a lot of modernist techniques into movie music) can't be all bad.

What a nice thread for a Saturday! Clearly, movie music is an under-blogged topic.

walter trale

isn't anything coming close to redeeming in the rocketeer just jacked from randy newman? randy newman is one of the genuises of the the last 50 years so there are worse places to steal from; but when your third bit of evidence is that he is smart enough to steal from one of the best it is perhaps a tip towards intelligence not genuine talent.

also, the crimes against the impulse! catalog are the worst of his misdeeds. esp may have screwed over their artists but at least there were a million different (though many of them shoddy) versions of albums on cd. though they have still bizarrely hidden archie shepp's "three for a quarter, one for a dime" (one of his best) on live in san francisco without making it clear that this has been done.

Tony Dayoub

Horner is a plagiarist, even ripping off himself. Can't remember the "Aliens" score? No problem, play the "Klingon Theme" from "Star Trek III."

BUT... I do love the Star Trek II score, I'm ashamed to admit. and the opening seconds of his theme for "A Beautiful Mind."


If we're going to nail composers for "ripping off" [sic] themselves, then you might as well forget about Morricone, Philip Glass, and Bernard Herrmann, too.


@Christian: Billy Goldenberg composed the score for PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM. Oscar Peterson also wrote and performed a little music for the movie.

I like Grusin's score for HEAVEN CAN WAIT.


Pete, thanks for standing up for Patton - it really is a fantastic score or at least a fantastic theme.


Griff, thanks for that. Why the hell did I think it was Gruisin? I have the actual LP soundtrack (which sadly does not feature the actual cues but portions from the movie replete with laughing audience).

And I think Horner's score for ST:WOK is just fantastic. The themes may be familiar but they're scored with such operatic vigor. How could the best movie of the series be considered so with "bad" music? The music propels much of the emotion from Khan's rage and Spock's death.

I also think the ALIENS score is pretty bitchin'. And A BEAUTIFUL MIND is one of the loveliest film scores ever.


Griff, I was actually thinking of HEAVEN CAN WAIT! A terrific wistful theme that I always wished was available.

Pete Apruzzese

@Christian - The theme from HEAVEN CAN WAIT was released on one of Grusin's GRP albums called "Cinematic". It's not the film original, but a pretty nice version nonetheless. Henry Mancini also covered it on one of his albums called "The Theme Scene". Again, a very nice version. Seek them out, until Paramount opens the vaults and the original gets a release.

Chris B.

Gruisin's scoring works really well in only one film I know of - Fabulous Baker Boys. But then again, his musical sensibilities are rather appropriate for a movie about two piano playing brothers who've never had a day job, largely because they've never had any qualms about musical taste or, really, any idea of music being anything other than background music.

I'd call Gruisin parsely, but parsely has never been that overwhelming offensive as far as I can tell.

Account Deleted

@Pete Apruzzese: Starship Troopers is a fantastic score, love me some Basil Poledouris (especially Conan The Barbarian).

Looks like we'll have to disagree on Horner though.


The music cues at the beginning of Aliens - when Ripley's shuttle is floating through space and discovered by the salvage crew - are really quite haunting and lovely.

unreliable narrator

Wow, you guys are ICY COLD. Betcha all hate Elmer Bernstein and John Barry too.

But Lalo Schifrin? No bad words for Lalo?


"Wrath of Khan" is a superb score. Gripe about it from a technical standpoint all you want, and Horner certainly shows a dismaying degree of self-copying sometimes, but what matters in film is the ultimate effect, and "Khan"'s score gels seamlessly with the film, getting the exact emotional effect needed for each scene.

I was disappointed with Michael Giacchino's "Star Trek" score, while we're on the topic. There are flashes of wit, and the finale piece is pretty damn neat, but overall it was suprisingly bland, although I'm glad he didn't fall back on his talent for mimicry for the most part.

As for Grusin, I don't know the name, but I'm glad our host braced those of us who haven't seen it for the score, and Japanese New Wave has largely convinced me jazz doesn't generally work for film scores. The film scores that have most hurt my soul and ear lately have been David Arnold's for Bond. Arnold seems to be chafing within the confines the producers have set for him; really, they should give up chasing top 40 gold, especially after how hard "Another Way to Die" was on the ears of small children and dogs, and just let John Barry have his way.

Larry Aydlette

So, what did you think of CONDOR, Glenn?

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