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Alexander "Sandy" Courage 1919 - 2008

Posted by Whitmore, May 30, 2008 09:29am | Post a Comment


Alexander "Sandy" Courage, composer of the original 1960’s Star Trek television theme has died in Pacific Palisades. He was 88.

Born Dec. 10, 1919, in Philadelphia, Courage graduated from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., before enlisting in the Army Air Force in 1942, a month after Pearl Harbor, serving as a band leader on California military bases during the Second World War.

His career as a composer started at CBS Radio in the mid 1940’s; eventually Courage moved over to MGM as an orchestrator/arranger in 1948.

Over the next decade or so, he worked as an orchestrator on a string of classic movie musicals, including Annie Get Your Gun, Singing in The Rain, Show Boat, The Band Wagon, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Kismet, Oklahoma, and Gigi. But by the late 1950s, Courage was scoring soundtracks, including two classic westerns-- The Left Handed Gun and Day of the Outlaw, as well as some early rock and roll exploitation films-- Shake, Rattle and Rock!, Hot Rod Girl and Hot Rod Rumble.

He began composing for television in 1959, writing themes and incidental music for hundreds of television shows including The Untouchables, Laramie, Daniel Boone, M Squad, Lost in Space, Land of the Giants, The Waltons, Falcon Crest, and Flamingo Road.

But his greatest claim to fame came with the theme and eight-note brass fanfare opening to Star Trek, the legendary sci-fi series which ran from 1966 to 1969. Originally using electronic/orchestral sounds for the arrangement, Courage later used a wordless melody line for the second and third seasons, sung by soprano Loulie Jean Norman. The Star Trek theme has since then become one of the most recognizable melodies ever in film and television history. One interesting note -- in those halcyon disco days in the early 1970’s, Nichelle Nichols, who played the role of Uhura in the original series, recorded a dance version -- a must have for record and sci-fi geeks everywhere!

Alexander Courage continued working into his eighties as an orchestrator for films such as The Poseidon Adventure, The Haunting, Mulan, L.A. Confidential, Rudy, Malice, The Shadow, Jurassic Park, Basic Instinct, Hook and The Mummy.

During his long career, Courage shared Oscar nominations with Lionel Newman for their adaptation/scores for The Pleasure Seekers in 1966 and for Doctor Dolittle in 1968. Eventually he would share an Emmy win in 1988 as a principal arranger for the ABC special Julie Andrews: The Sound of Christmas.

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Star Trek (14), 1960's (84), Obits (63), Sci-fi (44), Classic Movies (13), Alexander "sandy" Courage (1), Nichelle Nichols (2)