I am a big 1950’s sci-fi film fan and aficionado of the scores of these classic and occasionally not so classic B-movies. The fact is, more often then not, the music will be oddly brilliant. Another inevitable universal truth is the lower the budget, the better the soundtrack. Some of the very best ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ scores were composed by Irving Gertz. He died on November 14th in Los Angeles at the age of 93.
The youngest of eight children, Gertz was born in 1915, in Providence, Rhode Island, where he learned to play the piano, clarinet, upright bass and tuba as a kid. He studied composition at Providence College of Music and privately with composer Walter Piston. In 1938 Gertz was hired by the music department of Columbia Pictures, but left to serve during the Second World War. After his tour of duty, he studied with legendary composers Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco and Ernst Toch before returning to the industry.
Throughout the 1950’s and until his retirement in 1968, Gertz contributed music to more than 200 films, often without screen credit. One of his most recognized early works is the music for the 1955 western Top Gun, but his most notable musical efforts are in the Sci-fi world. Some of his soundtrack work includes The Alligator People, The Leech Woman, The Curse of The Undead, and The Creature Walks Among Us. Gertz also worked extensively with Jack Arnold, the first certified genius of the low budget 1950’s sci- fi genre, scoring films like It Came from Outer Space, The Monolith Monsters and The Incredible Shrinking Man. Gertz also worked extensively in television, composing for Land of the Giants, The Invaders and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.