7 lesser-known movie and TV scores composed by John Williams
Hear just a couple bars of his iconic scores, and you could probably identify them as Williams’ immediately. But the prolific 84-year-old composer also has a resume peppered with lesser-known credits. As we await Oscars Sunday — when we’ll find out if Williams’ 50th Oscar nomination (yes, 50th!) will garner him a win for The Force Awakens — check out this list of seven film and TV scores you may have forgotten Williams scored.
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‘Lost in Space’
Star Wars may be Williams’ most famed musical venture into outer space, but it’s not his first. He wrote the Lost in Space’s opening and closing credits themes and some other music for the series, when he was credited as Johnny Williams.
‘The Sugarland Express’
Williams’ collaboration with Steven Spielberg goes back a long way, all the way to Spielberg’s directorial debut, The Sugarland Express. The neo-noir’s main theme opens with a soft harmonica — that was the first sound audiences heard of over 40 years of collaboration between these two Hollywood legends.
‘Goodbye, Mr. Chips’Photo Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
The sound of this 1969 Peter O’Toole musical wasn’t made by Leslie Bricusse’s songs alone. Williams wrote the underscore for the film. The movie did earn an Oscar nomination shared by Bricusse and Williams.
‘The Witches of Eastwick’
Williams is best known for his scores for epic adventure and dramatic films, but he also had an ear for comedic movies, and not just Home Alone. Comedy fantasy movie The Witches of Eastwick gave Williams a chance to be playful with his music, setting the tone for both the campy and the sinister elements of the 1987 film.
Horror is another genre that doesn’t immediately come to mind when you think of John Williams (Jaws being the major exception). Though this 1978 movie tends to be overlooked in both Williams’ and Brian De Palma’s catalogues, critic Pauline Kael called the music “as elegant and delicately varied a score as any horror film has ever had.”
Oliver Stone’s JFK opened in the same month as Hook, and it was Williams’ commitment to both films that had the composer working in a unique way on Stone’s controversial conspiracy theory film. He wrote six musical sequences for JFK that were recorded in full before he had seen the entire film. Stone and his editors then cut the film to Williams’ music.
‘Memoirs of a Geisha’
2005 was a big year for John Williams fans — they got not one but two new Spielberg-directed films composed by Williams (War of the Worlds and Munich), another journey to a galaxy far far away (Revenge of the Sith), and a new Harry Potter film (Goblet of Fire, which featured a score by Patrick Doyle using Williams’ themes from the first three films). Overshadowed that year by the sounds of alien invaders, Jedi, and wizards was period drama Memoirs of a Geisha. Williams collaborated with celebrated cellist Yo-Yo Ma for the elegant score. Oscar voters did remember the Rob Marshall-directed, Spielberg-produced movie come awards season, when they nominated Williams twice that year, both for Geisha and Munich.