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Alexander Courage (10 December 191915 May 2008; age 88) was an Academy Award-nominated, Emmy Award-winning composer, arranger, conductor, and orchestrator who wrote several scores for Star Trek: The Original Series, among them the main title theme. He even made the "whoosh" sound heard as the USS Enterprise flies past the screen during the music. (Music Takes Courage documentary) This theme was adapted and used in all of the Star Trek films and its opening bars can be heard at the beginning of Jerry Goldsmith's theme for Star Trek: The Next Generation.

It was Jerry Goldsmith who recommended Courage to Gene Roddenberry. Roddenberry asked Goldsmith to score "The Cage", but he had to decline due to other commitments. He thus suggested Courage (who was mostly an arranger at the time) be given the job instead. (Star Trek: The Motion Picture (The Director's Edition) audio commentary)

After his work on "The Cage", Courage was rehired to score the second pilot, "Where No Man Has Gone Before". He also contributed scores for two first season episodes, "The Man Trap" and "The Naked Time" (and some cues for the trailer of "Mudd's Women", which also ended up in the episode itself). His commitment (as arranger) to the feature film, Doctor Doolittle prevented him in writing music for more episodes. (Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, p 185)

During this time, Courage discovered that producer Gene Roddenberry wrote (unused) lyrics to his Star Trek theme, in order to get half the royalties for each episode (or other usage of the main theme). This resulted in a long feud between the two men, and (despite efforts by Robert H. Justman to re-hire him) Courage refusing to work on the series any further. (Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, 1997, pp 178, 185) He only returned in the third season, to score two more episodes, "The Enterprise Incident" and "Plato's Stepchildren", as a courtesy to Justman. In his twilight years, mellowed over time, Courage downplayed the incident to some extent, "There wasn't any rift, really, with Gene. What happened with Gene was a I got a phone call once… it was Gene's lawyer, [Leonard] Maizlish. He said, "I'm calling you to tell you that since you signed a piece of paper back there saying that if Gene ever wrote a lyric to your theme that he would split your royalties on the theme." Gene and I weren't enemies in any sort of way. It was just one of those things… I think it was Maizlish, probably, who put him up to doing it that way, and it's a shame, because actually if he'd written a decent lyric we could have both made more money." [1]

Courage also composed cues for Star Trek: The Motion Picture at the request of Goldsmith, who wrote the film's main score. Courage later orchestrated Goldsmith's scores for Star Trek: First Contact and Star Trek: Insurrection.

Outside of the Star Trek franchise, Courage's Star Trek Fare can be heard in the films Wayne's World, Muppets from Space, and RV. It was also played in "They Saved Lisa's Brain," a tenth season episode of The Simpsons.

Early life and career[]

Alexander Courage was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but moved to New Jersey as a child. He began playing the piano and the horn, and in 1941, he received his degree from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. After graduation, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps and became a band leader at various bases in California and Arizona.

Following the war, Courage worked for CBS Radio, where he composed and sometimes conducted such popular programs as The Screen Guild Theater, The Adventures of Sam Spade, and Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar. In 1948, Courage began working at MGM, and over the next twelve years, he orchestrated, conducted, or arranged music scores for such films as Annie Get Your Gun, Show Boat, Singin' in the Rain, The Band Wagon, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Bad Day at Black Rock, Oklahoma!, Guys and Dolls (starring Jean Simmons), Funny Face, Raintree Country (featuring DeForest Kelley), Gigi, The Big Country (also starring Jean Simmons), Porgy and Bess (1959, featuring Brock Peters and Nichelle Nichols), Some Like It Hot (1959), and Bells Are Ringing (featuring Frank Gorshin).

Also during the 1950s, Courage composed the scores for a number of films, including the drive-in B-movie Hot Rod Girl (featuring the aforementioned Frank Gorshin) and Arthur Penn's Billy the Kid biographical western, The Left Handed Gun. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, however, he composed primarily for television. Besides Star Trek, he also scored episodes of The Untouchables, Wagon Train, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, and Lost in Space. In 1967, Courage wrote the original score for the pilot of Land of the Giants, however his entire score (including his series theme) was thrown out and replaced with a score by Joseph Mullendore, which was also thrown out and replaced with a score by John Williams. Thus, his theme for the 1967-68 legal drama Judd for the Defense remains the only other television theme he composed besides Star Trek.

While composing for television, Courage did continue conducting and orchestrating for films, notably the musicals My Fair Lady and Hello, Dolly! and the acclaimed comedies Irma la Douce and The Americanization of Emily. He received his first Academy Award nomination as a composer on the 1964 musical comedy, The Pleasure Seekers. A few years later, he earned a second Academy Award nomination, this time as conductor and orchestrator on the classic 1967 family film Doctor Dolittle. Both nominations were shared with composer Lionel Newman.

Later life and career[]

In 1973, Courage was nominated for his first Emmy Award, for composing the "Cycle of Peril" episode of the CBS series Medical Center. He was again nominated by the Emmy Awards in 1987 for arranging the music of the TV special, Liberty Weekend. The following year, he received a third Emmy nomination – and his only win – as the principal music arranger of Julie Andrews: The Sound of Christmas.

Courage, Jerry Goldsmith and Arthur Morton alternated scoring duties on The Waltons during the show's entire run, from 1972 through 1981. Courage scored over 100 episodes of this series, in addition to five Waltons TV specials – one in 1980, three in 1982, and one in 1993. The latter, A Walton Thanksgiving Reunion, featured Steven Culp in the cast.

In 1979, at the request of Jerry Goldsmith, Courage created several "Captain's Log" cues for Star Trek: The Motion Picture using a subdued version of his Star Trek Fanfare. [2] Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Courage continued to collaborate with Goldsmith, orchestrating his scores for films like Legend, Gremlins 2: The New Batch, and Matinee – all featuring Robert Picardo – as well as films such as Basic Instinct, First Knight, Stuart Baird's Executive Decision and U.S. Marshals, Air Force One, L.A. Confidential, Mulan, and The Mummy. Courage succeeded Arthur Morton as primary orchestrator for Goldsmith in the 1990s. [3]

Courage also conducted and orchestrated John Williams' scores for films such as the 1971 musical Fiddler on the Roof, The Poseidon Adventure (1972), Superman (1978), Return of the Jedi (1983), Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), Empire of the Sun (1987), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), Hook (1991), and Jurassic Park (1993). Courage also adapted Williams' Superman themes and wrote some original cues for Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987). In addition to their many film collaborations, Courage wrote many orchestral arrangements for the Boston Pops during Williams' 1980-93 tenure as conductor.

After working with Jerry Goldsmith one last time on the 2000 film Hollow Man, Courage retired from show business. In 2005 – the same year Courage's third wife, the former Shirley Pumpelly, died – Courage's health began to decline. Three years later, he died at the Sunrise assisted-living facility in Pacific Palisades, California. He was 88 years old.

Star Trek credits[]

Star Trek interviews[]

  • Alexander Courage and the Music of "Star Trek", Randy & Jean-Marc Lofficier, Starlog, issue 107, June 1986, pp. 16-18
  • The Music of Star Trek, Hans Siden, Cinefantastique, Vol 17 #2, 1987, pp. 35, 54
  • The Music of The Next Generation, Randall Larson, Cinefantastique, Vol 19 #3, 1989, pp. 46, 60

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