Legacy Conversations: Remembering Alexander Courage
A tribute to the legendary award-winning composer, arranger and orchestrator who collaborated with John Williams on many projects over the years, as remembered by his stepdaughter Renata Pompelli
Featuring Special Guest Mike Matessino
Hosted by Maurizio Caschetto and Tim Burden
Among the collaborators who worked with John Williams during his long and distinguished career, Alexander Courage (1919-2008) certainly holds a very special place. Composer, arranger, orchestrator and conductor of rare skill and incredible bravura, Alexander Courage (affectionately named "Sandy" by his family and closest friends) is considered one of the best and most revered musicians who ever worked in Hollywood at least since the 1940s.
His association with John Williams started way back in the mid-1950s, when Courage requested a young man named Johnny Williams to perform as pianist for the soundtrack of the 1957 film musical Funny Face starring Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn. Courage recommended Williams to Deutsch for orchestration duties on Some Like It Hot. Williams often spoke of Courage's importance as an arranger and orchestrator for the great MGM musicals of the 1950s, comparing him to great arrangers like Robert Russell Bennett and Conrad Salinger for his uncanny ability in creating a unique orchestral sound.
Courage's collborations with John Williams continued also throughout the following decades. In 1970, Courage joined Williams as an orchestrator on Fiddler On The Roof, for which the composer won his first Academy Award (and thanked Courage during his speech). Courage also contributed orchestrations for The Poseidon Adventure (1972), The Cowboys (1972) and also some of Williams' blockbuster scores of the era including Superman and Return of the Jedi. One of their key collaborations was for the 1987 film Superman IV: The Quest For Peace, the last starring the beloved Christopher Reeve as the Man of Steel. Among his orchestration credits for John Williams are also major blockbuster scores including Home Alone, Hook and Jurassic Park.
We're very honoured to have Alexander Courage's stepdaugher Renata Pompelli as the special guest of The Legacy of John Williams podcast to honour and celebrate Sandy's memory and legacy on the day of his 102nd birthday (December 10). Renata is the family's custodian of memories and historian In this conversation, she shares many affectionate memories of Alexander Courage, both as a man and as a musician, offering an intimate, caring and lovely portrait of one of Hollywood's true (and perhaps lesser-known) musical geniuses, including his long-standing friendship and working relationship with John Williams.