Sunday, June 1, 2008

Two Veterans from Star Trek Pass On

Two men who worked on the original Star Trek, one who composed the series' famous theme and the other who directed several of the best loved episodes of the show, recently passed.

Alexander Courage, who composed the theme song to Star Trek and incidental music for a few episodes of the show, died on May 15, 2008. He was 88 years old.

Courage was born on December 10, 1919 in Philadelphia. His family moved to New Jersey while he was still very young. He learned to play the piano when he was only five years old. He later took up the French horn and cornet. In 1941 he graduated with a bachelor's degree from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. In 1942 he enlisted in the Army Air Corps, where he served as a band leader.

Following World War II Courage found a job with CBS Radio. He composed music for show ranging from Broadway is My Beat to This Is Hollywood to The Adventures of Sam Spade, Detective. In 1948 he found a job as an orchestrator and arranger for MGM. Among the films upon which he worked were Annie Get Your Gun, Singin' in the Rain, The Band Wagon, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Guys and Dolls, Funny Face, and My Fair Lady.

His first work on television was on the series M Squad, which aired from 1957 to 1960. He would also work on the TV shows Riverboat, National Velvet, and Bus Stop. It was in 1966 that Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry asked Courage to compose the theme for the show. Roddenberry's only request was that he wanted no "space music," and instructed him not to use electronics. Courage would also write incidental music for the show. He went onto write the theme for Judd for the Defence, as well as incidental music for The Waltons, Land of the Giants, and Medical Center, among other shows. He continued to work as an orchestrator and arranger in movies, working on such films as Fiddler on the Roof, Legend, Hook, and L.A. Confidential.

Alexander was a co-founder of the Composers and Lyricists Guild of America. He was also an accomplished photographer whose pictures had appeared in Life, among other magazines.

In writing the Star Trek theme, Alexander Courage wrote one of the most recognisable themes in the history of television. There are those who argue that the theme's four note fanfare at the beginning are second only to those of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony when it comes to music. While he may not have been prolific when it came to writing TV theme songs (his theme for Judd for the Defence was the only other one he wrote), he will certainly be remembered.

Joseph Pevney, who directed many episodes of Star Trek and other shows, died May 18 at the age of 96.

Joseph Pevney was born in New York City on September 15, 1911. He entered show business while still young, performing on vaudeville as a boy soprano. He left vaudeville to become a stage actor. He made his debut on Broadway in a role in the play Battle Hymn in 1936. He would go into perform in such plays as The World We Make, Lily of the Valley, and Home of the Brave. In 1946 he directed the play Swan Song on Broadway. He served in the Army during World War II.

Pevney moved to Los Angeles in 1946, where he had a small acting career in film. He appeared in such films as Nocturne, The Thieves Highway, Body and Soul, and Shakedown. Shakedown would also mark Pevney's debut as a movie director. For the next many years he would direct several movies, among them Meet Danny Wilson, Tammy and the Bachelor, Man of a Thousand Faces, The Plunderers, and Cash McCall.

The TV series Johnny Staccato marked his debut as a television director, in 1959. He would go onto direct episodes of The New Breed, Ben Casey, Wagon Train, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, and The Munsters. It was in 1967 that he directed the first of fourteen episodes he would direct for Star Trek. Among the episodes he directed were some of the best loved from the series: Amok Time, The City on the Edge of Forever, The Devil in the Dark, The Trouble with Tribbles, and Wolf in the Fold. He was tied with Marc Daniels for having directed the most episodes of Star Trek. Pevney would go onto direct episodes of Bonanza, The Virginian, Marcus Welby, Adam-12, The Rockford Files, and Trapper John M.D.. He retired in 1985.

Joseph Pevney was a prolific and talented director. From 1950 to 1966 he directed over 35 movies. The sheer number of hours of television he directed are staggering. In fact, he directed episodes of some of the most significant shows in the history of television, including The Fugitive, Mission Impossible, Bonanza, and Bewitched. The quality of his work can be seen in the episodes of Star Trek he directed. While many of his episodes benefited from good scripts, it is safe to say that they would not have been nearly as good were it not for Pevney's talent.


Bobby D. said...

the creative people are dropping like flies... it's very sad!

Jim Marquis said...

Mercurie- I wanted to send you a link to a great power-pop video by Rooney...can I get your e-mail address?

Terence Towles Canote said...

There's a little mail graphic in the right column that has a mail to link!