Ernest Gold (Ernst Siegmund Goldner) was born in Vienna,Austria on July 13, 1921. He began composing little tunes at the age of five, and at eight began taking piano
lessons. He was the son of an accomplished violinist and the grandson of a gifted amateur composer who was a student of Anton Bruckner. His grandfather gave the young Ernest his collection of over 500
miniature orchestra scores, which Gold read through as if they were comic books. Although his parents thought his dream of becoming a composer was just “a childish dream,” the young man felt “it was just a question of being discovered.”
He originally planned on becoming an operatic composer, sketching a first act of an opera by the age of 16, but he was also enchanted with film music and musicals at an early age, often seeing the same motion
picture four or five times just to listen to the music.
He studied at Vienna’s State Academy of Music under Professor Grete Hinterhofer and others, but in 1938, with the rise of the Nazis in Austria, his family emigrated to New
York. Gold had many popular songs published during WWII, including “Practice Makes Perfect,” “Accident’ly on Purpose,” “Slowly But Surely,” “Boogie Woogie to
You,” “The Bull Frog Serenade,” and “They Started Somethin’ (But we’re gonna end it!),” which was written right after the attack on Pearl Harbor and was recorded by Kate
Smith. His songwriting credits sometimes used the pseudonym Olga Phillips.
Gold used his songwriting income to further his music studies under Otto Cesana (composing) and Leon Barzin (conducting), and in 1942 his “Pan American Symphony” was
performed over the NBC Radio Network. His piano concerto was premiered at Carnegie Hall in 1945, but when the work was lambasted by critics for sounding like “movie music,” Gold took that as a cue to move to Tinseltown. He arrived in Hollywood with a letter of introduction to Columbia Pictures, played a recording of his Piano Concerto for the head of the music department, and within two weeks was scoring his first film, The Girl of the Limberlost.
For the next decade Gold wrote for a number of “B” pictures, Republic serials, and other small projects, and he did orchestration work for many scores, including Knock on Any Door, Sands of Iwo Jima, and In a Lonely Place. Gold also orchestrated for Stanley Kramer’s Not
as a Stranger and The Pride and the Passion, both featuring George Antheil scores, the latter of which Gold also conducted. Antheil told him, “You are enormously talented, but don’t
know anything about composition,” and Antheil taught his protégé at no charge from 1948 to 1950.
Gold soon graduated to bigger pictures, including Too Much, Too Soon and Kramer’s The Defiant Ones, for which the composer wrote some rock ‘n’ roll
music. Kramer then hired him for On the Beach, and Gold received his first Academy Award nomination for this 1958 score, which was based upon the folk song “Waltzing Matilda.”
The composer’s stock soon hit its zenith when he won the 1960 Best Original Score Academy Award for Otto Preminger’s Exodus. Exodus also rewarded Gold with two Grammy Awards for
“Best Soundtrack Album” and “Song of the Year,” the “song” being the main theme from the motion picture. Pat Boone then added words to the theme, and various instrumental and
lyric versions of the song were covered by artists including the Duprees, Ferrante and Teicher, Connie Francis, Mantovani, and Edith Piaf.
Gold was now Stanley Kramer’s composer of choice, so he also scored the producer’s/director’sInherit the Wind, Judgment at Nuremberg, A Child Is Waiting, and
he received further Oscar nominations for Kramer’s It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and The Secret of Santa Vittoria. Other movies scored by the composer include Affair in Havana,
Battle of the Coral Sea, Cross of Iron, Dreams of Gold, Gore Vidal’s Lincoln, The Last Sunset, Man on the Prowl, Pressure Point, Running Target, The Screaming Skull, Smooth as Silk, Tarzan’s Fight for
Life, Tom Horn, The True Story of the Civil War, Unidentified Flying Objects, Unknown World, Wallenberg: A Hero’s Story, and The Young Philadelphians.
A learned man, Gold wrote articles for many music journals, gave lectures, served as Music Director of the Santa Barbara Symphony Orchestra, and founded and conducted the Los Angeles
Senior Citizens Orchestra. Even while working in Hollywood, he continued to write concert works for large and small ensembles, including “Boston Pops March,” “Concerto for Viola and
Orchestra,” “Seven American Miniatures,” “Songs of Love and Parting,” “Symphony for Five Instruments,” as well as for the stage (“I’m Solomon,” “Lady
Natasha Bocca, Detective”).
Gold was married from 1950-1969 to Marni Nixon, who was the most famous off-screen singer in Hollywood, having dubbed the singing voices for such actresses
as Audrey Hepburn, Deborah Kerr, and Natalie Wood. The couple had three children, including the late Andrew Gold, a multi-talented pop musician (“Lonely Boy,” “Thank You for Being a
Friend”); when Ernest dabbled in electronic music, Andrew helped educate him in this area. Given the musical heritage of Gold and Nixon, it’s not surprising that Andrew’s three daughters all
show musical talent, with daughter Emily being a songwriter and performer in the L. A. scene. Ernest Gold married actress Jan Keller in 1975, and the couple remained together until the composer died in Santa
Monica,California on March 17, 1999.