John Williams’s 50-Year Collaboration With Steven Spielberg Stems From A Shared Love Of Hollywood History

It is nothing less than a gift that Spielberg and Williams are still collaborating at the ages of, respectively, 76 and 90. The latter has won three Academy Awards in association with the former (“Jaws,” “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” and “Schindler’s List”), and if you cant believe that Williams lost for “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” blame Vangelis for writing the undeniably catchy main theme for “Chariots of Fire,” which topped the Billboard Hot 100 for one week in 1982.

But if you’re wondering how Spielberg and Williams have stuck together for 50 years, it’s all about a shared love of old movie music. As Williams explained this week at the American Cinematheque’s “Spielberg/Williams: 50 Years of Music and Movies:”

“Steven grew up loving the great past of the film industry. And he had the kind of psychology to ask, ‘Can we be as good as the people who came before us?’ He loves the old composers, he loves [Erich] Korngold and [Max] Steiner … He was listening back into the accomplishments of these people before him. Not that he isn’t a forward-moving force, but he’s connected to the past. And one of the things I wanted to do with music was write as well as Korngold. In a way, I wasn’t looking ahead to what’s next. I was looking in the same direction Steven was.”

While Coppola and Scorsese gravitated to classical composers like Nino Rota and Bernard Herrmann, they were 20th-century artists. Korngold and Steiner were both born in the 19th century. They were adults when the motion picture industry took off. They pioneered film scoring. Spielberg takes heat for being a sentimentalist, but his affinity for these old masters instilled in many a Gen X-er an appreciation of classical music. And this is all due to the indelible work of John Williams.

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