Ronald Alfred “Ron” Goodwin (February 17, 1925–January 8, 2003) was an English composer and conductor known for his film music, who scored over 70 films in a career lasting over fifty years with his most famous works including Where Eagles Dare, Battle of Britain, 633 Squadron, and Operation Crossbow. Goodwin was born on February 17, 1925, in Plymouth, Devon, England, to James Goodwin (died 1952), a policeman with the Metropolitan Police Force and Bessie Violet Goodwin née Godsland (died 1966). The family originally came from London, but had moved to Devon due to James being assigned to security work at the naval dockyard in Devon. Goodwin learned to play the piano by the age of five and returned to London four years later, where he attended Willesden county grammar school. While there, he learned to play the trumpet and performed regularly in the school band. When he was nine, upon the outbreak of World War II, the family moved to Harrow, London, and Goodwin attended Willesden County School and Pinner county grammar school in Middlesex. It was here that he formed his own band – Ron Goodwin and the Woodchoppers. He later studied the trumpet in London at the Guildhall School of Music.
In 1943 after a brief spell as an insurance clerk, Goodwin joined Campbell, Connelly and Company, a music publisher. His job was a copyist and arranger and went on to work in that role for the BBC. He entered the world of movie music through documentary films, which he said was very good training. He worked as a ghostwriter for Phil Green, Stanley Black, Geraldo and Peter Yorke among others. From 1949 Goodwin conducted for the Polygon company, arranging and conducting recordings of Petula Clark and Jimmy Young, including the latter’s 1951 U.K. no. 1 hit “Too Young.” In the 1950s he joined Parlophone, and worked alongside George Martin. He accompanied Peter Sellers on his Goodness Gracious Me album, and began to broadcast and make records with his Ron Goodwin Concert Orchestra.
In 1953 Goodwin began arranging and conducting more than 300 recordings for over fifty artists, which resulted in more than 100 chart successes. He simultaneously made his own series of recordings and broadcasts as Ron Goodwin and his Concert Orchestra, and in addition began to compose scores for documentary films at Merton Park Studios. In 1958, Goodwin wrote his first feature film score, Man with a Gun, which was quickly followed by The Witness and then Whirlpool with screenplay by Lawrence P. Bachmann a year later. After Bachmann became executive producer at MGM British Studios in 1959, Goodwin composed and conducted the music for most of its productions, as well as working for other film studios. His singles work included recordings with jazz and calypso singer Frank Holder.
Goodwin is primarily known for his film music and worked on more than 70 scores during his career. Early minor film success followed with several films until 1961 when he composed scores for the first of four Miss Marple films starring Margaret Rutherford, entitled Murder, She Said (1961). He later went on to compose for the remaining three Miss Marple films Murder at the Gallop (1963), Murder Most Foul (1963) and Murder Ahoy (1964). He scored two horror films, Village of the Damned (1960) and its sequel Children of the Damned (1964). His war films are particularly well remembered. These include 633 Squadron (1964), Operation Crossbow (1965), Where Eagles Dare (1968), Battle of Britain (1969), for which he (mostly) replaced William Walton, and Force Ten from Navarone (1978). After requests from the RAF military band, the opening from Battle of Britain, originally titled Luftwaffe March, was retitled Aces High and is now regularly played by military bands in the U.K.
Goodwin wrote the scores for Of Human Bondage (1964), Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (1965), Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy (1972, replacing Henry Mancini), two movies featuring Morecambe and Wise, and the Norman Wisdom film, The Early Bird (1965). Goodwin’s score for the 1966 film The Trap is now used by the BBC as the theme to the London Marathon coverage. A 30-second variation of his 1969 composition for the film Monte Carlo or Bust is used as the intro for the BBC Radio Four panel game I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue. In 1972, he recorded Somebody Named Ron Goodwin Plays Somebody Named Burt Bacharach and recorded internationally, winning gold and platinum discs awarded by EMI. Goodwin wrote several Disney film scores during the 1970s, including the one used for One of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing (1975). He also composed the music and lyrics for a series of animated films. These included The Selfish Giant (1971), The Happy Prince (1974), and The Little Mermaid (also 1974). Goodwin was nominated for the Golden Globe award for best original score for the movie Frenzy (1972). Goodwin’s last film score was for the Danish-made animation film Valhalla in 1986. He composed the Yorkshire Television start up music used from their launch in July 1968 to the early 1980s before ITV had breakfast television. Goodwin wrote the television advertising jingles such as Noddy’s chant, “I like Ricicles: they’re twicicle as nicicles”, and the “Mr. Sheen shines umpteen things clean” song, inspired by Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines.
By 1987, Goodwin had begun concentrating on live orchestral performances which included his “Drake 400 Suite” in (1980) and “Armada Suite” in (1988). His “New Zealand Suite” in (1983) marked a long association with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Goodwin appeared as guest conductor with many symphony orchestras at home and abroad including the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Hallé Orchestra, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Ulster Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Singapore Symphony Orchestra, Australian Pops Orchestra, Danish Radio Orchestra and the BBC Concert Orchestra. Goodwin was guest conductor at the Royal Academy of Music’s Festival of British and American Film Music in June 1996.
Goodwin was married twice and had a son, Chris. Goodwin was enthusiastic about work with young people and was heavily involved with the Hampshire County Youth Orchestra, Worthing Youth Orchestra, City of Leeds College of Music and the City of Birmingham Schools’ Concert Orchestra. In December 2002, he completed his 32nd consecutive year of Christmas concerts in packed venues across the South of England. However, he had suffered from asthma for many years and the condition had worsened with age. On January 7, 2003, having completed conducting Christmas concerts with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, he returned home and died in his sleep at Blacknest Cottage, Brimpton Common, Berkshire, on January 8, 2003, aged 77. His body is buried at St Paul’s Churchyard, Ashford Hill, Kingsclere, Hampshire, England.
My collection includes the following work by Ron Goodwin:
633 Squadron (1964): Main Title.