David Fuller, producer of soundtrack albums such as THE BIG COUNTRY, KRONOS, HUK, TOKYO FILE 212, and others, has reported to me the death of composer Ralph Ferraro (1929-2012).
Although most of Mr. Ferraro‘s work was as an orchestrator on films like CONGENIALITY 2: ARMED AND DANGEROUS (2005), SHANGHAI KNIGHTS (2003), STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME (1986), MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE (1987), GETTYSBURG (1993), BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES (1970), and many others, he did compose scores for TV series such as THE VIRGINIAN, IT TAKES A THIEF, and THE NAME OF THE GAME. He also scored a handful of motion pictures including THE KING’S PIRATE (1967), SHE BEAST (1966) and, perhaps most famously, the Flash Gordon spoof FLESH GORDON (1974).
Born in Waterbury, Connecticutt, Ralph Ferraro pursued a career as a percussionist following his musical education at the Manhattan School of Music. He married his boyhood sweetheart, Manuelita (Mani) and following a tour of duty in the Navy relocated to Rome, Italy where he worked in the Italian cinema for many years.
From musician he became an arranger when he was asked to work on an American soundtrack album for THE CHAPMAN REPORT. His prowess as an arranger attracted the attention of other composers, especially Piero Piccioni who frequently utilized Mr. Ferraro‘s talents in the films IL MOMENTO DELLA VERITA, THREE FACES OF A WOMAN, and MINNESOTA CLAY. It was during his stint in Italy that Mr. Ferraro was given the opportunity to score the Barbara Steele film SHE BEAST.
With his wife and two daughters, Francesca and Claudia, Mr. Ferraro returned to the U.S. and began working in Hollywood. While in Italy, Mr. Ferraro had worked with Peter Tevis, an American singer known for his vocal renderings of the themes “A Gringo Like Me” from GUNFIGHT AT RED SANDS (1963), and “Lonesome Billy” from BULLETS DON’T ARGUE (1964). Also back in the U.S., Tevis was working on a low budget film as music producer. When he needed a composer he turned to Mr. Ferraro. The film was the pornographic film spoof of the Flash Gordon serials, FLESH GORDON.
Despite its origins, FLESH GORDON became a quite ambitious film. The production design, costuming, and props were well above the norm seen in the adult film industry. The special effects, in particular, became the primary reason to see the movie, attracting the talents of both established and soon-to-be pros, names like Jim Danforth, Rick Baker, Jim Aupperle (a frequent contributor on this board), Greg Jein, Doug Beswick, Dave Allen, and Dennis Muren, among others.
Also above the norm was Ralph Ferraro’s score. He blended comedy with the thrilling melodramatic music of old-time serials, his score musically “winking” at the audience and spelling out the playfulness of the proceedings. It was not only a highly effective score but fun, too, and greatly enhanced the movie. But Mr. Ferraro’s achievement was overshadowed by the other more obvious elements presented and the film‘s notoriety.
Ralph Ferraro also spent a sojourn with Carroll O’Connor’s production company, scoring three pilots for the ALL IN THE FAMILY star. The Disney Company called upon Mr. Ferraro for a new musical work incorporating the melodies of the song-writing Sherman brothers, Richard and Robert, the latter recently deceased in March, 2012. This work, titled “Imagination,” played throughout Disney’s Epcot Center.
Eventually, Ralph Ferraro moved from composing to orchestrating and worked with some of the biggest names in the film industry. Leonard Rosenman worked with him several times and Mr. Ferraro eventually fell into an almost exclusive relationship orchestrating the films of Randy Edelman.
Among friends and family, Mr. Ferraro was known for his wonderful stained-glass creations. He will be missed by all, especially by his beloved wife and two daughters who survive him.