- Composed by Jerry Goldsmith
- Intrada Special Collection Volume 115 / 2010 / 43:22
It is often noted that Jerry Goldsmith scored a large number of films which were, to say the least, beneath his vast talents; but even by his standards, Players was a wretched film (only six of his films are rated beneath it at the IMDB). It was intended as a mix between Love Story and Rocky, with romantic shenanigans playing out against the backdrop of the Wimbledon tennis championships, but didn’t manage to capture fans of either. It’s remembered mostly today for the number of tennis stars who appeared in it, including the veteran Pancho Gonzalez in one of the leading roles.
Later on, Goldsmith would attract much acclaim for his scores for Hoosiers and Rudy; presumably because – until 2010 – Players hadn’t been released as an album, it was rarely mentioned in the same breath. In fact, it is likely to be very fondly received by fans of either of those scores. Goldsmith was going through a period at the time (in the late 1970s) of writing dense, dark scores – and this is the very antithesis, as the exceptional opening theme demonstrates. The lavish fanfare which opens it hints at the fox hunting music from what is surely the greatest of all unreleased Goldsmith scores, The List of Adrian Messenger; and the cue’s mix of energy, excitement and romance is a definite winner.
As is often the case with sports movies, much of the actual tennis action is left unscored until the finale; but in the mean time, between the opening titles and that, there’s a lot of great material. It’s mostly focused on the romances (there are three different love themes!) and is warm, rich and charming. The loveliest of the themes is that heard in “The Promise”, a really beautiful track. There’s even a disco version too (this was 1979, remember!) suggesting Goldsmith had planned to release an album, maybe scuppered after the film’s poor performance. Some splendid Spanish guitar writing adds another sheen.
The sports action begins again in “Winning Streak”, reprising a lot of the material from the opening track – it’s so exhilirating, so atypical (it couldn’t be further removed from the Bill Conti prototype for sports scoring), so Goldsmith! The sound quality is great (thankfully we can all throw away those wretched bootlegs now); sadly the limited edition pressing sold out very quickly and so once again the score is no longer available, but those who were able to get their hands on a copy are in for a treat. A delightful, uplifting score. ****