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IRVING GERTZ, 1915 - 2008

Composer for sci-fi films in 1950s and TV series in '60s

November 20, 2008|Dennis McLellan | McLellan is a Times staff writer.

Irving Gertz, a film and television composer who contributed music to 1950s science-fiction films such as "It Came From Outer Space" and "The Incredible Shrinking Man" and to 1960s TV series such as "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea," has died. He was 93.

Gertz died Friday at his home in West Los Angeles, said David Schecter, a record producer and film-music historian who was a close friend. No specific cause of death was given.

From the late 1940s to the late '60s, Gertz wrote music for about 200 movies and television episodes. Among his film credits are "Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy," "Francis Joins the WACS," "The Alligator People," "The Monolith Monsters," "The Creature Walks Among Us," "Overland Pacific," "To Hell and Back," "The Thing That Couldn't Die" and "Flaming Star."

Among his TV credits were "Daniel Boone," "The Invaders," "Land of the Giants," "Peyton Place" and "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea."

"He had a tremendous dramatic sense of writing the appropriate music for a picture; he was just a superb composer," said Schecter, noting that most of the work Gertz did at Universal-International in the 1950s was uncredited.

As was customary at the time, he said, the studio used multiple composers on the same picture, such as Henry Mancini, Hans Salter and Herman Stein, but only the head of the music department received screen credit.

Gertz also composed concert works, including "Boutade for Orchestra," "Leaves of Grass," "Liberty! Liberte!" and "Salute to All Nations."

The youngest of eight children, Gertz was born May 19, 1915, in Providence, R.I. He played a variety of instruments at an early age and went on to study at the Providence College of Music.

Although his classical compositions were being performed by the Providence Symphony Orchestra, Schecter said, Gertz had developed an interest in film music and landed a job in the music department at Columbia Pictures in Hollywood in 1938.

With his fledgling career in Hollywood put on hold by World War II, he served as an artillery gunner and then as an officer in the Army Signal Corps.

He returned to Columbia after the war and began composing for films. After leaving Columbia and writing music for one-hour plays based on current movies for NBC Radio, he joined Universal-International in the early 1950s.

He was hired by 20th Century Fox in 1960 and spent the decade working there as a composer and music director.

Gertz is survived by his wife of 64 years, Dorothy; two daughters, Susie Anson and Madeleine Herron; and four grandchildren.

Services were held Monday at Los Angeles National Cemetery.

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dennis.mclellan@latimes.com

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