The Dave Grusin Archive
Music for the Screen
3 Days Of The Condor

Stars:  Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway, Cliff Robertson, Max Von Sydow, John Houseman

Director:  Sydney Pollack
Producer:  Stanley Schneider
Released:  Paramount 1975

Story:  A CIA reader (code name Condor) is on the run from a mass slaughter in his CIA office. Reporting the massacre to his superior, he suddenly finds himself the target of both his employers & the unknown killers of his associates. He abducts a random woman in a shop, and seduces her into helping him.

Inspired by a film which he describes as "terrific,"Dave Grusin's task was to evoke the predicament of a man with a complex and inventive mind whose every decision was one of life or (his own) death.

The result was a score many people - both fan and critic alike - rank as one of his top five, for the way it uses jazz, not only to achieve this cerebral effect, but also to reflect the surrealistic circumstances which are at the heart of “Three Days of the Condor” itself.  Condor had this kind of dark atmosphere to it," notes Dave Grusin, and he tied this aspect together with the contemporary setting via rhythm and blues.

There are three principal themes in the motion picture:  main title “Condor,” which describes the lifestyle of the hip protagonist, Joe Turner, “Goodbye for Kathy,” the love theme, and “Yellow Panic,“ an eerie piece of music which is often interlaced with “Condor” to denote not only terror but also uncertainty.

In all the music for this score, Dave Grusin has inventively managed to reflect both the locale and mental state of the characters while simultaneously projecting the bizarre circumstances in which Condor can't be sure who is friend and who is foe.

“Condor” has all the cool jauntiness of the protagonist who is a bit of an iconoclast.  Ultra bright, with a warm heart and an incomparable sense of self-preservation, the theme not only reflects his actions on screen, but also exudes a hint of the confusion which is about to turn his world upside down.  According to the film's director Sydney Pollack, in this theme, and for that matter, all the music in the film, Dave Grusin "wrote a sound which was very much on the cutting edge in those days," adding, "and it still is.  It doesn't sound dated."

He feels that the theme generated much of the energy needed to drive the picture.  Referring to the R&B element, he states “from the first cue, when the main title comes on, there's a pulse.”  Sydney Pollack adds that Dave Grusin “pushed the picture,” something the director was extra keen to do to maintain momentum.  (In this vein, he had already cut down the time span of the action from the original work, “Six Days of the Condor.”)

The love theme is probably the most sensuous in Dave Grusin's catalogue of film music.  It not only perfectly embellishes the romantic scenes, but is translated to enhance some dramatic moments in the movie as well, in addition to capturing the essence of the relationship between Joe and Kathy.

“Yellow Panic“ is a plastic piece of music which, via the use of stingers, screeching strings and various other musical effects, adds suspense, fear or bewilderment to a variety of scenes, which ever sensation might be required.

Aided and abetted by Lee Ritenour (whose guitar adds so much psychological flavor to the soundtrack) and Tom Scott (whose sax makes romantic a situation which starts out basically the opposite), the sensitive performances by Dave Grusin and his musicians show a complete understanding of the needs of this film.  In fact, the basic group is a rhythm section, featuring two guitars with Harvey Mason  on drums, and four horns - around ten musicians in all.

Dave Grusin plays mostly Rhodes- and it was all cut live. Because of the nature of the music and the film, he explains that everybody “had a certain amount of freedom in inflection. The guitar players were free within certain restrictions to stretch out a little bit.”

Stating that this loose approach had great appeal for him, he adds, “ I really enjoyed playing what the mood of everything dictated at the moment, rather than figuring out ahead of time what I wanted someone else to play.”

Later the rhythm track was augmented with strings, along with some other orchestral colors. Says the composer, “for me that's the best of both worlds, because I communicate a little better on a thing like that from the keyboard.”

In most motion pictures, music plays the role of expressing emotions which are not necessarily verbalized.  In “Three Days of the Condor,” it is the working of Condor's mind which must be suggested musically - for the brainy young CIA desk man is not only in shock, but is constantly trying to devise what is actually going on, whom he can trust and virtually at every moment, just how to stay alive.

This unseen, but ever-present part of the film is superbly effected by the psychological score through a heavy emphasis on rhythm and blues.  In fact this groove nearly had negative repercussions at first.  Dave Grusin states that the stylish music got the director “into trouble at the previews, because people were tapping their feet. He started worrying, 'what are they doing?' Were they getting this film or they listening to this cue?"'

It might be noted that there is a strong feeling of the musical sensations in this film in the two pieces which on their own comprise one side of Dave Grusin's jazz album “One of a Kind.” The 1977 recording of “Montage” and “Playera” has a similar day (or year?) in the life quality, a biographical sense of moving through a sometimes incomprehensible experience.

Source music is effectively used throughout the film.  Christmas songs not only indicate the time of year, but also lend pathos to what might otherwise be starker scenes, and conversely, to some of the more terrifying incidents, give a sense of normal life going on.

The second film of nine he scored for Sydney Pollack, “Three Days of the Condor” exhibits an aspect which can be observed particularly on films where Dave Grusin has had the greatest amount of independence.  That is, little music in the first part of the film compared to later reels.  This tendency can also be observed on individual cues, where he lets the action speak for itself, and allows the audience to form their own reactions before bringing in the music to reinforce such conclusions.

The composer himself admits a growing fondness for the film, saying “I have seen this in intervals of five or ten years since we did it, and I love this picture better now than when it was new.”

Despite the very political and marketing orientation of the Oscars, it might be said that Dave Grusin's finest scores have generally been acknowledged by the Motion Picture Academy.  However, it seems inconceivable that “Three Days of the Condor” not only failed to receive a nomination, but the award itself.  It is a winner in every sense of the word!

Music Editor:  Ted Whitfield

Running Time:  157 minutes

Music Time:  (approx) 32 minutes


Capitol - SW 11469


Condor! (Theme From "3 Days Of The Condor")
Yellow Panic
Flight Of The Condor
We'll Bring You Home
Out To Lunch
Goodbye For Kathy
    (Love Theme From "3 Days Of The Condor")
I've Got You Where I Want You
Flashback To Terror
Sing Along With The C.I.A.
Spies Of A Feather, Flocking Together
    (Love Theme From "3 Days Of The Condor")
Silver Bells
Medley: Condor! (Theme),
    I've Got You Where I Want You

The main theme can also be heard on "Big Terror Movie Themes" (Geoff Love)  on MFP Records


Hear samples from this soundtrack and purchase it.  Click the cover image at the right, and just type “Dave Grusin” or the specific film into the search box.

soundtrack album

Dave Grusin
Feature Films



(times approximate)

0.00 - 3.28       (3.28)

Condor theme over main titles and dialogue in office.

11.37 - 11.55     (1.18)

As hitmen wait outside in the rain, short bluesy cue ending with a hint of uncertainty, disappearing into street noises.  Creates suspicion but not danger.

18.37 - 19.37      (1.00)

As Condor leaves the office after discovering murders, eerie sounds played by guitar emphasize his state of shock.  Sense of  bewilderment mixed into Condor theme, played very slowly, now with a hint of danger as he becomes fearful - ending as taxi nearly hits him.

22.07 - 23.28      (1.21)

Solemn music with only a small hint of danger added to a bluesy version of Condor theme as he walks through the streets aimlessly.  As Condor goes to buy some food, more of an R&B flavor to the music which plays faintly in the form of a slight beat  through communications at Center, ending as Higgins hangs up phone.

23.46 - 24.17      (.31)

Source music of  Salvation Army Band playing "Good King Wenceslaus" in the street as Condor eats a hotdog.

24.41 - 24.57      (.16)

Source music of faint piano playing in apartment building as Condor knocks on doors.  Ends with switch to street scene.

25.10 - 25.27      (.17)

Faint piano source music as scene returns to apartment building,   Gives sense of normal life going on in a place where someone has been murdered.  occasionally overcome by sound effects of running.   Ends as Condor reaches a floor where perhaps piano cannot be heard.

25.26 - 26.09      (.43)

Stingers and long string notes as `janitors' from The Company  go to check out residence of one of the office staff who was murdered at home.  Music has spooky quality.  Played by flutes and strings.  Continues under phone conversation between Higgins and `janitors.'  

33.04 - 33.34      (.30)

R&B track - basically only a beat - as sirens blaze over percussion, while Condor races through the street after the shooting in alley.  Ends as he runs into shop.

33.35 - 34.29      (.56)

Source music `Silver Bells' playing in boutique where Kathy shops, ending when  she leaves the premises.

46.58 - 47.58     (1.00)

Source music from  TV  as Condor and Kathy speak about her photographs.

47.59 - 48.20      (.19)

New source music from TV changes to a slightly more romantic note as Condor comments that photographs `look like November.' Ends as newscaster comes on television.

53.23. - 55.04      (1.41)

Source music “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear' playing in Sam's apartment, as Condor goes to visit Sam's wife. Adds a note of pathos.  Ends as he escorts Sam's wife out into the hall.

55.28 - 56.03      (.35)

Light, faint, eerie jazz comprised of  long, fine string notes as Condor and Gilbert go into elevator.  Bits of percussion and notes from vibes with a hint of the Condor theme add a sense of fear, tension and uncertainty in a very temperate manner.  Ends as they speak to one another.

56.56 - 58.02     (1.06)

As elevator doors open and shut again, thin, fine strings plus some bass notes are followed by extremely long string notes.  Occasional bowing of bass.  As strings become more screeching, Gilbert leaves Condor behind in elevator.  Very faint screeching strings emphasize his predicament.  Ending with a sound which could be an effect or music, like wheels screeching in the building.  (Faint screeching sound continues through conversation in building lobby as Condor surrounds himself with people.)

58.46 - 59.14      (.18)

Accompanied by people giving him cover in the street, and observed through killer's telescopic site,  tense and threatening music of previous cue is accentuated.  Much percussion and dramatic strings add extreme anxiety.  Acute musical apprehension builds up constantly  until Condor drives away, Gilbert having given up this attempt to kill him.  End of music perfectly states imminent threat is over.  

59.39 - 59.50     (.11)

As Condor's car drives away, Gilbert observes the license number.  This new threat accentuated by very tense strings playing dramatically against each other.  Ends calmly as Condor's car disappears, but with the obvious sense that Gilbert has the information he needs.

1.07.18 - 1.09.26       (2.08)

Love theme (“Goodbye For Kathy”) plays  over love scene, with frequent cuts to black and white photographs Kathy has taken.  Ends with scene of the morning.

1.09.38 - 1.10.12     (.34)

A few notes of the love theme reprised in a different way, this time, underscoring  Condor's thinking back about the events he has witnessed and been involved in.  Flashbacks of scenes in the alley accompanied by stinging strings which create a very threatening and frightening atmosphere

1.10.16 - 1.11.00      (.44)

Hints of Condor theme trying to start, but failing to do so.  Begins again almost immediately after a pause, underscoring flashbacks containing snatches of conversation Condor has heard.  Device is very effective. Spooky and surrealistic quality to the music.

1.13.41 - 1.14.15     (.34)

Source music “Joy to the World” played over the pulse of Wickes' monitoring equipment in the hospital.

1.18.16 - 1.18.36     (.20)

Love theme played for dramatic rather than romantic effect as Condor realizes that the CIA itself is behind everything.  Tone of revelation used with low strings.  Clock tempo introduced, and cue ends as Condor hangs up phone.

1.20.35 - 1.21.04     (.29)

Funky beat plays through Kathy's visit to CIA office.  Sound is off-hand and light - in great contrast to every scene in the film .  As it goes on, beat becomes tinged with love theme, becoming nervous, and ending when she walks into Higgins' office.

1.21.18 - 1.22.01     (.43)

As Kathy follows Higgins to restaurant, music starts with various percussive sounds with pauses between them.  It then moves to an R&B beat with a funky sound with addition of tinkling piano .  Music then builds a bit, and strings play a riff of the love theme which is compounded by a clock tempo, ending as Higgins goes into the restaurant.

1.24.09 - 1.25.08      (.59)

Chamber music is apparent source music at Gilbert's as his phone rings and he converses about killing Condor.  Begins in previous scene when Condor is describing Gilbert to Higgins, and ends with cut back to scene in car.

1.29.32 - 1.30.05     (.33)

Love theme plays in its romantic form, beginning  on words `make the call.,  and plays in a slow, bluesy way with a funky tinge, over lines being crossed to reroute Condor's call.  Ends as phone rings and Gilbert answers it.

1.31.43 - 1.32.33     (.50)

As Condor gets the phone number he needs through computer, spooky, surrealistic theme plays in a stretched out, elongated manner.  Very esoteric, spaced out sound as he dials, playing faintly in the background as he gives his number.  A time beat is added on as he receives Atwood's name and address.  Ends with cut to helicopter.

1.33.49 - 1.34.37     (.48)

Sad version of love theme.  After a momentary hesitation, a semi stinger version of the theme accompanies Condor pilfering a case from the telephone company.  Very confused sound with an unhurried quality.

1.36.09 - 1.38.26     (2.17)

As Kathy prepares to depart at the bus terminal, love theme in full (“Goodbye for Kathy”) plays  over farewell scene  as she and Condor acknowledge feelings subtly.

1.39.02 - 1.39.30     (.28)

Solo saxophone plays love theme after Condor asks Kathy not to divulge his movements, and they part.  Scene mirrors the quizzical nature of the entire film.

1.41.01 - 1.41.55     (.54)

Source music as Condor turns on loud rock in Atwood's house to draw him downstairs

1.48.43 - 1.50.44     (2.01)

After Atwood is killed,  Gilbert and Condor discuss Condor's future with  Condor theme played very, very slowly by vibes.

1.50.45 - 1.51.31     (.46)

Source music from Salvation Army band playing “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” ending when Condor and  Higgins begin speaking (even though it should conceivably still be heard under their conversation).

1.55.05 - 1.56.15     (1.10)

Source music from Salvation Army band playing “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” suddenly can be heard again as Condor and Higgins conclude their conversation.  Plays to end of main body of the film.

1.56.16 - 1.56.56     (.40)

Condor theme plays over very short end titles.

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