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Artwork copyright (c) 2005 Game of their Lives Productions; review copyright (c) 2005 James Southall



Wonderful, inspirational sports movie score


When the great Jerry Goldsmith passed away in 2004, it left director David Anspaugh needing to find a new composer to score The Game of their Lives, his third sports movie (after the excellent Hoosiers and Rudy, both of which were of course blessed with great Goldsmith scores).  The director turned to William Ross, still probably best-known as an orchestrator, but who has been scoring various films himself in recent years.  Anspaugh and Goldsmith ended up being good friends, so it was always going to be a difficult decision to make.  He went for Ross and inspired him to write what is probably the composer's most impressive score so far.  Ross's career so far has resulted in a variety of scores, but rather unfortunately those which have been released on CD (which are mostly from the films of Jay Russell) have been afflicted by temp-track love; in particular, the fact that My Dog Skip is virtually a set of variations on Goldsmith's theme from Rudy led many to suspect that Ross had been hired because he would be able to mimic the style of Goldsmith for the film.

This is not the case at all.  Ross may bring a similar spirit and feel to the music as Goldsmith may have done, but this is certainly no straight imitation.  It is probably important to dispel the widely-reported notion that Ross's score is actually based around themes Goldsmith wrote for the film before passing - this is not the case.  Reportedly, Goldsmith did write a preliminary theme for the film, but this has only ever been heard by himself and Anspaugh and it's safe to assume that it will always remain that way.  If following in the great composer's footsteps must have been daunting for Ross, at the same time perhaps it was a singularly inspiring situation for the composer - it certainly seems that he responded in that way based on the music.

The film is about one of the greatest upsets in the history of sport, when the great English football team of 1950 was beaten by the United States at the World Cup.  (I'm not talking about some pansy version of football in which the players take breathers every four seconds and wear shoulder pads that may have made Joan Collins think twice, either - I'm talking about the real thing.)  Unfortunately, the people who stumped up $20m to pay for the film failed to take into account that nobody in America actually likes "proper" football, and the film ended up grossing about 3% of its original budget.

The score is beautifully wistful, based around a very lovely main theme, vaguely reminiscent of Rudy in a notional way - perhaps with a bit of Thomas Newman thrown in.  This produces a number of highly-attractive, often moving tracks.  Along with these, Ross puts in an almost spiritual-sounding piece, "Joe's Beliefs", as well as an inspirational, moving piece for just before the start of the big game itself ("Uniforms").  Alongisde this comes, of course, the music underscoring the football matches, and it is probably in these that Ross really comes into his own.  "First Soccer Game", "Americans vs British" and the two halves of "Final Game" are outstanding pieces, graceful yet powerful and, in the end, very moving.  Of course, these will be compared with Goldsmith's wonderful game music from Rudy and, of course, they come up short, but I can't think of a single sports movie score which doesn't, so that is hardly anything to be critical about.

This is a very impressive score which, sadly, hasn't been released, presumably because of the failure of the film to find an audience.  Hopefully some day it will see the light of day because it's fine music which deserves to be heard.  It is graceful and classy in a way which is rarely heard in film scores today and I can only hope that Ross is able to move on to other films which allow him to write such beautiful music.


  1. Story of the Hill (1:13)
  2. Funeral Escape (1:34)
  3. First Soccer Game (3:34)
  4. Gino Wants to Play (1:22)
  5. St Louis vs East Coast (2:05)
  6. Bocce Ball (:53)
  7. Train Station Goodbyes (1:40)
  8. Brookhatten's Practice (1:54)
  9. Joe's First Practice (1:16)
  10. Americans vs British (1:50)
  11. Rain (2:52)
  12. Joe's Beliefs (1:51)
  13. Uniforms (3:51)
  14. Final Game - First Half (3:26)
  15. Final Game - Second Half (6:31)