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Ernest Gold; ‘Exodus’ Score Won Oscar

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Ernest Gold, whose soaring musical scores brought him an Academy Award in 1960 for “Exodus” and several Oscar nominations, has died.

Gold died at age 77 on Wednesday of complications from a stroke, his daughter Martha Gold Carr said Thursday. In a prolific 30-year career, Gold’s credits included music for films such as “Witness for the Prosecution,” “The Pride and the Passion,” “Too Much Too Soon,” “The Defiant Ones,” “Inherit the Wind,” “Judgment at Nuremberg,” “A Child Is Waiting,” “Ship of Fools,” “Fun With Dick and Jane,” “Cross of Iron,” “The Runner Stumbles” and “Lost in America.”

Besides an Academy Award, Gold won two Grammy Awards for “Exodus.” The theme song for the film became a popular success, going to No. 2 on the pop charts, with various versions selling briskly.

Gold said he was surprised by the success of the theme, saying that he had considered the music “too serious and too longhair for popular appeal.” His other nominations came in 1963 for best score and best song for the film “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World,” and in 1959 for the score for “On the Beach” and in 1969 for “The Secret of Santa Vittoria.”

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The son of a Viennese lawyer who played the violin, Gold began studying violin and piano at age 6. Within two years he was putting together his own compositions. At 13, he wrote a full-length opera and later studied music at the State Academy of Music in Vienna.

After the Nazis took control of Austria in 1938, Gold’s family immigrated to New York.

Some years ago, Gold told a Times reporter that his parents were worried that his goal of being a composer was just a childish dream. They felt that “most composers seemed destined to live and die in poverty,” Gold said, “but I felt it was just a question of being discovered.”

In America, he was quickly discovered. His first symphony was performed and broadcast by the NBC Orchestra in 1939.

He was also writing popular songs, and one number, “Practice Makes Perfect,” made the hit parade for a 17-week run. Another song, “They Started Something,” was a hit for Kate Smith during World War II.

In the mid-1940s, Gold moved to Hollywood. Armed with a letter of introduction to Columbia Pictures, he was signed to write the music for “Girls of the Limberlost,” a low-budget film. This led to more opportunities in small-budget films, which helped sharpen his composing skills. In 1955, he got his first work in a major film doing the orchestrations for “Not as a Stranger.”

Gold, a thoughtful, introspective man who admitted that he drove himself mercilessly when composing, described the role of a soundtrack to a Times reporter:

“What is visible should not be duplicated in the soundtrack,” he said. “Music can demonstrate inner processes taking place in the characters, elucidate relations between them and--most important--throw its weight with or against a character in order to sway the point of equilibrium of a scene.”

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In addition to his film scores, Gold continued his symphonic and chamber work. He was, at one time, the music director of the Santa Barbara Symphony Orchestra. He was also the founder-conductor of the Los Angeles Senior Citizens Orchestra.

Of artists who abandon their goals, he once said, “I know it’s easy to grow discouraged. Somehow, I was lucky enough to escape that particular affliction. Even as a child I was carried along by the conviction I’d be successful in a musical career.”

Gold is survived by his wife, Jan Keller Gold, stepson Robert Light Jr., and three children, Martha Carr, Andrew Gold and Melanie Gold.

Funeral arrangements were pending.

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