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FOREVER YOUNG – Jerry Goldsmith

January 12, 2023 Leave a comment Go to comments


Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Forever Young was a romantic drama with a fantasy-science fiction twist, written by a young J. J. Abrams (credited as ‘Jeffrey’), and directed by Steve Miner. It was envisaged as a vehicle for Mel Gibson to establish himself as a romantic leading man; he plays Daniel McCormick, a test pilot with the US Army Air Corps in 1939. When his fiancé Helen (Isabel Glasser) falls into a coma after a car accident, and not wanting to watch her die, Daniel volunteers for a top-secret government program where he will be cryogenically frozen and placed into suspended animation for a year. However, when Daniel is finally woken up, he is shocked to discover that it is now 1992; with the help of an inquisitive 10-year old boy named Nat (Elijah Wood) and his charming mother Claire (Jamie Lee Curtis), Daniel resolves to find out what happened – but is soon presented with another problem, as he finds himself ageing rapidly. The film was a modest success at the box office and with critics, who enjoyed its old fashioned charm, unusual time-travel plot, and warm lead performances.

The score for Forever Young was by the great Jerry Goldsmith, and was the second collaboration between himself and director Miner, after the horror movie Warlock in 1989. Despite excelling in pretty much every genre he ever attempted, one thing that Goldsmith was not especially well known for was traditional romance, and so the fact that he got the chance to explore that side of his personality here was a welcome change of pace for the man, especially considering that his previous half dozen or so films had all been genre pictures and thrillers like Total Recall, Gremlins 2, The Russia House, Sleeping with the Enemy, and Basic Instinct, among others. Forever Young was the last of the eight projects Goldsmith worked on in 1992 to be released (two of which, Gladiator and The Public Eye, actually ended up being rejected), and finished his year on a pleasant, romantic high.

Goldsmith’s score is anchored by two recurring themes, both of which address the two main loves of Daniel’s life: Helen, and flying. The love theme for Daniel and Helen is introduced in the opening cue, the “Love Theme from Forever Young,” a specially arranged concert piece orchestrated by Brad Dechter in a light jazz style, featuring soprano saxophone solos by Joel Peskin, and lush pianos performed by the late great Mike Lang, backed by the full orchestra. I honestly believe that this is one of Goldsmith’s all-time great love themes, a sweeping, sentimental affair that has its stylistic roots in the Golden Age sound of the late 1930s, when composers like Victor Young, Franz Waxman, and Alfred Newman were at the peak of their careers. Some may find the jazz arrangement in this opening cue to have that desperately saccharine, terribly dated ‘Kenny G’ sound that so many people find unpalatable these days, but personally I love it – it has the right amount of warmth and sincerity, and a clear sense of unashamed romanticism, something that is too often missing from contemporary scores.

The love theme appears throughout the score, centering the narrative driving force of the whole film around Daniel’s love for Helen, and his desire to be reunited with her across time. It’s chord structure and melodic line anchors much of “The Experiment” because, even though the visual imagery on screen is of science and technology, as Daniel is placed into his cryo-freeze, his thoughts are constantly with Helen. Goldsmith performs it here in a slightly subdued manner, and adds a level of mystery and subtle danger with the moody music that surrounds it, but the central idea remains the focus.

The other primary element of the score is, as I mentioned, Daniel’s love of flying, and Goldsmith successfully captures that sense of adventure and freedom with a recurring Flying Theme that is full of bold orchestral heroism. Goldsmith had worked on movies about pilots and flying before – notably The Blue Max in 1966, as well as tangentially in efforts like Night Crossing, and later in his music for the Disney theme park ride Soarin’ Over California – but very rarely did Goldsmith go for broke and write something as straightforward and celebratory as this. The Flying Theme is introduced in the wonderful “Test Flight,” which is simply magical, a glorious festival of music and positive emotion that tries to capture the essence of what it feels like to soar among the clouds. Throughout the piece there are stylistic references to Goldsmith’s Star Trek music, as well as to some of the bolder and more fulsome action material from scores like Total Recall and Basic Instinct (which preceded it), and The Shadow and First Knight (which followed it), which should give you an idea of its general tone. The synth pulse which runs throughout the piece even gives it a slight flavor of Basil Poledouris’s work for Paul Verhoeven, which is another feather in its cap.

The Flying Theme is perhaps expressed even better in the subsequent “Tree House,” which underscores a scene where Daniel teaches young Nat the basics of aviation while the pair play together in the latter’s tree house hideaway, using little more than the power of imagination to send them wheeling through the sky. Dark, throaty brasses initially add a level of danger to their imaginary takeoff in the middle of a thunderstorm, but these are quickly replaced by wonderful, magical adventures in the air, all set to statements of Goldsmith’s stirring theme. A slightly more restrained, but nevertheless poignant, statement of the Flying Theme also runs through “The Air Show,” often in conjunction with the Love Theme, before a set of frantic action licks foreshadow the score’s large-scale finale.

Two cues of delicate lyricism, “Kitchen Aid” and “The Diner,” underscore some of the warmly familial scenes between Daniel, Nat, and Claire, in the latter’s home, and the tender relationship that develops between them; Goldsmith’s pretty style of gentle, piano-led homespun Americana is a throwback to his sound from the 1960s and scores like A Patch of Blue, which uses this sound extensively, and when that style offsets against the string chords and flute accents of the main love theme, it’s just delightful.

The finale of the score sees Daniel discovering that Helen is actually still alive, all these years later, and he resolves to find her at her remote home on the New England coast. To this end, Daniel and Nat commandeer a plane and fly off in it – with the added issue of Daniel’s increasingly rapid ‘aging spurts,’ and the fact that he is being pursued by the FBI, who want their top secret cryogenic test subject back. “She’s Alive” is filled with a sense of energetic optimism and dynamic positivity, as both of the score’s primary themes combine with more of Goldsmith’s exhilarating action music. The darting string runs, staccato percussion hits, powerful brass lines, and almost whimsical electronic textures are classic Goldsmith, and then when they melt into lyrical statements of the Love Theme – reminding us of what Daniel’s quest is all about – the effect is sublime. The first half of “Let’s Go” is warm and tender, a gorgeous, swooning reprise of the Love Theme for Golden Age strings, piano, and glittering harps, but then it switches in its second half into something more ominous and militaristic, a sign that the authorities are hot on their trail.

The 8-minute conclusion, “Reunited,” is for me the score’s high point, and yet again it sees Goldsmith reprising the Flying Theme, the Love Theme, and the action material, again with equally tremendous results. The action music here has a slightly breathless sense of desperation to it, as if time is running out, and the way Goldsmith arranges the Flying Theme with many of the action music’s trills and embellishments is superbly exciting. The emotional rush of the Love Theme that accompanies an aged Helen and a now similarly-aged Daniel embracing, fifty years after they parted, is outstanding, and the cue ends with a sense of warmth, a tender acknowledgement that, after so many years apart, these two young lovers have finally been reunited, and can now spend the twilight of their lives together, as they always dreamed they would. It’s just magnificent.

The original soundtrack album for Forever Young was released by Big Screen Records in 1992, and combined just over half an hour of score with a period song, Billie Holliday’s “The Very Thought of You,” which was Daniel and Helen’s ‘song’ in the film. In 2011 an expanded archival edition of the score was released by La-La Land Records, increasing the album’s running time to well over an hour, including various bonus cues and alternates. The expanded album includes a couple of additional action cues – the excellent “Thawed Out” being the pick of them – as well as some slightly spooky cues for the scenes where Nat first discovers Daniel’s cryogenic capsule, and some more references to the FBI Military theme. Most notable, however, is the fact that the synth percussion that underpinned a great deal of the action music is reduced significantly. It turns out that Goldsmith added those textures specifically for the original album, in contrast to the more purely orchestral sound that appears in the final mix of the film, and the expanded release reverts to the actual in-context versions. Your opinion of which is the best version will depend on your taste, but the fact that we have the opportunity to compare them both is a good thing.

Forever Young is a really outstanding score, but it is often curiously overlooked by his fans, who often point to other works written around the same period as being better and more rewarding scores. Personally, I think more people should turn themselves on to this one. The action music is bold and punchy, classic Jerry, and stylistically fits in nicely with many of the other action scores he was writing at the time. The Love Theme is one of Goldsmith’s all time best, a sweeping romantic classic that pulls no punches when it comes to depicting a life-defining love, and then the Flying Theme is just magical, an adventurous celebration of everything related to the act of soaring majestically through the skies.

Buy the Forever Young soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Love Theme from Forever Young (arranged by Brad Dechter, performed by Joel Peskin and Mike Lang) (4:02)
  • Test Flight (3:40)
  • The Experiment (3:12)
  • Tree House (3:04)
  • Kitchen Aid (2:41)
  • The Dinner (1:57)
  • The Air Show (2:29)
  • She’s Alive (3:28)
  • Let’s Go (3:01)
  • Reunited (7:42)
  • The Very Thought of You (written by Ray Noble, performed by Billie Holiday) (2:44)
  • Test Flight (3:42)
  • Will You Marry Me?/Never Leave Me (1:10)
  • Hit and Run/Breaking Down the Door (2:52)
  • The Experiment (3:17)
  • The Warehouse (0:48)
  • The Deep Freeze (2:05)
  • Thawed Out (2:34)
  • The Lighthouse (0:40)
  • Time to Leave (0:24)
  • The Wrong Man (0:18)
  • The Air Show (1:18)
  • Kitchen Aid (2:10)
  • The Diner (2:00)
  • I Was Wrong (1:45)
  • The Jacket (1:31)
  • The Tree House (3:07)
  • Good News (0:52)
  • Getting Away (1:20)
  • Best Friends (1:54)
  • She’s Alive (3:44)
  • Nat’s Missing (0:26)
  • Reunited (7:45)
  • Love Theme from Forever Young (arranged by Brad Dechter, performed by Joel Peskin and Mike Lang) (4:06) BONUS
  • Will You Marry Me? (Alternate Version) (0:35) BONUS
  • Time to Leave (Alternate Version) (0:25) BONUS
  • The Jacket (Alternate Version) (1:27) BONUS
  • Test Flight (Album Version) (3:41) BONUS
  • Kitchen Aid (Album Version) (2:42) BONUS
  • The Air Show (Album Version) (2:30) BONUS
  • Let’s Go (Album Version) (3:02) BONUS
  • Reunited (Album Version) (7:43) BONUS
  • The Very Thought of You (written by Ray Noble, performed by Billie Holiday) (2:44) BONUS

Running Time: 38 minutes 00 seconds – Original
Running Time: 74 minutes 37 seconds – Expanded

Big Screen Records 9 24482-2 (1992) – Original
La-La Land Records LLLCD-1182 (1992/2011) – Expanded

Music composed and conducted by Jerry Goldsmith. Orchestrations by Arthur Morton and Alexander Courage. Recorded and mixed by Bruce Botnick. Edited by Ken Hall. Original album produced by Jerry Goldsmith. Expanded album produced by MV Gerhard and Matt Verboys.

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