No matter how much you try to summarize John Willliams’ contribution to the movie world via his music, it would always be an understatement. His movie scores are as iconic as the very films that are now part of Hollywood legend: Jaws, Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Superman, ET, Indiana Jones, Home Alone, Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List, and the first three installments of Harry Potter. He is the second most nominated person after Walt Disney for an Academy Award at fifty nods, and he has won five, along with twenty-three Grammys, seven BAFTAs, and four Golden Globes. Much of the magic of movies is hearing the symphonic sound track, which is that much more dramatic in the theatre, along with the shared experience. I remember the original Star Wars in the theatre, but for that amazing adrenaline “movie rush” reeling, Raiders of the Lost Ark did it for me.
The advantages of having older brothers is you becoming indoctrinated in watching Star Trek, action movies, and TV shows with lots of car chases and explosions – stuff I personally may not have gravitated to on my own. My older bro, Jackie (Jon) was obsessed with Raiders of the Lost Ark, and whenever he called home to check in from New York where he was based, he went on and on and ON about this movie, proudly stating he’d seen in 17 times in the theatre. He also pointed out if you look carefully, you can see the glass separating Harrison Ford from the snake (here’s a shot from that scene, though you can’t see any reflection here).
I saw the movie of course, and have watched it several times since – it’s considered one of the greatest films ever made.
In this scene below, Indiana Jones decides the the Golden Idol with disastrous results for his compadre. I chose this scene specifically because there isn’t any discernible theme, anything familiar or heroic. Instead, you hear the orchestra used in a nuanced manner – sounds to suggest nervousness, fear, panic, and courage. This is the power of orchestra music – the ability to suggest (let alone outright state) and when it’s composed with the mastery of John Williams, you don’t really notice what you’re hearing, because you’re too busy being swept away.
Warning: gory visuals in this clip.
John Williams was born February 8, 1932 in Floral Park, New York.