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Soundtrax 2023-1a
Special Edition:

  • Remembering Gerald Fried
    by Randall D. Larson

Veteran film music composer Gerald Fried died Friday at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Bridgeport, CT, at the age of 95.

Born in February, 1928 in the Bronx, Gerald Fried’s incipient interest in music found its first fruition at the High School of Music & Art in New York City. He then attended The Juilliard School of Music as an oboe major, graduating in 1945. Among his earliest friends was a bright kid named Stanley Kubrick. The two of them used to hang around Greenwich Village and talk about their budding interests—Fried’s in classical music and Kubrick’s in filmmaking.

Their interests merged when Kubrick began filming DAY OF THE FIGHT, an 18-minute short about boxing. Knowing Fried was a music major, Kubrick asked him if he could write the score for his boxing picture. Fried agreed, then spent months going to the movies to learn how film scores worked, there being no schools or courses on film music in those days. Fried wrote an effective score, and Kubrick sold the film to RKO Pathé. Fried rejoined Kubrick to score four more of his films, including THE KILLING and PATHS TO GLORY, where the young filmmaker first gained his reputation.

After the success of THE KILLING in 1956, Kubrick moved to Los Angeles, shortly followed by Fried, who was immediately hired to compose and arrange music for several films, including  United Artists’ THE VAMPIRE (1957; MARK OF THE VAMPIRE on television), THE RETURN OF DRACULA (1958), Roger Corman’s MACHINE GUN KELLY and I, MOBSTER (both 1958), Albert Band’s I BURY THE LIVING (1958), and Jacques Tourneur’s TIMBUKTU (1959). By the 1960s, Fried moved into television, as so many other film composers of the ‘50s did, scoring episodes of such seminal shows of the decade as GILLIGAN’S ISLAND, THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E., MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, IT’S ABOUT TIME, SHOTGUN SLADE, and particularly STAR TREK. Fried’s efforts on the latter included three of the show’s most popular episodes: “Shore Leave,” “Amok Time,” and “Catspaw.”

By the 1970s Fried was composing music for numerous made-for-TV movies. His best-known score of the decade was for the 1977 miniseries ROOTS, which he took over scoring from Quincy Jones; Fried composed the main title theme and seven of the episode scores; both Jones and Fried won Emmy Awards for their musical efforts on the series (Fried also received four Emmy nominations during his long career). He went on to compose the follow-up series, ROOTS: THE NEXT GENERATIONS, in 1979 and numerous made-for-TV movies. Fried received the only Oscar nomination ever given for a documentary score, 1975’s BIRDS DO IT, BEES DO IT.  The energetic composer continued to score films as recently as 2020 (the sci-fi comedy UNBELIEVABLE!) and 2021 (the short film 20 WAYS).

Gerry was a welcoming friend to many film music journalists and fans who have had the opportunity to chat with and interview Gerry Fried. We’ve found him always easy-going and welcomed discussing his life in music performance and scoring. Gerald Fried was a one of a kind. He will be missed, and very fondly remembered.