Gerald Fried was born in New York City in 1928 and studied at the Juilliard School during the 1940s. It was during this period that he made the acquaintance of a young photographer named Stanley Kubrick, who was Fried's age but already on his way with a career -- he was doing a documentary, entitled Day of the Fight, for which he needed a score, and, knowing that Fried had studied at Juilliard, recruited him to write it and record it. Thus began Fried's career as a film composer, which remained linked to Kubrick when the latter asked Fried to score his first feature film, the war drama Fear and Desire. The filmmaker was happy enough when he used Fried as a composer on Killer's Kiss, his first major studio film, The Killing, and his first major production, Paths of Glory. Although their professional relationship ended after that -- owing to Kubrick's move to England and his becoming involved in Spartacus (a movie he didn't originate or have full control over) -- his work with Kubrick was impressive enough to get Fried noticed in the larger world of film music, and he soon got assignments on such films as the low-budget delinquency drama Dino (1957), directed by Tommy Carr and starring Sal Mineo and Susan Kohner, which gave him a chance to show a more delicate side to his musical sensibilities.
Fried moved to Los Angeles in 1955, where he cut an album of exotic instrumental music entitled Orienta, which became a classic artifact of "Space-Age Pop." That release never had a follow-up, however, owing to his burgeoning film career. Fried became one of the busiest composers in Hollywood -- albeit on its low-budget end -- over the next few years. He got his first horror movie assignment, The Vampire, in 1957, and he would quickly establish a particularly strong reputation in that genre. His other movies included the rural dramas Trooper Hook, Bayou, and The Man From God's Country; the gangster movies I, Mobster and Machine Gun Kelly; the science-fiction thrillers The Lost Missile and The Flame Barrier; plus such genuinely offbeat films as Terror in a Texas Town. These were done for a variety of producers and directors, mostly working on the lower end of the budget scale. Among them was Roger Corman, whose production of Cry Baby Killer (directed by Jus Addiss) marked the screen debut of Jack Nicholson. He was very fortunate as a composer in that many of the movies he scored were good enough, daring and unusual enough, or populated by actors who became sufficiently important in later years, so they were seen and made note of for many years after their initial releases. Additionally, his music was often quite distinctive, for its odd string sonorities and brass stings, and the unusual instrumentation (including the harpsichord) that he sometimes utilized. And he wasn't limited to Corman's level of production (at American International Pictures or Allied Artists), but frequently worked on movies financed by the somewhat more prestigious United Artists. Fried's television work started with the series Shotgun Slade -- which was especially unusual for its use of jazzy guitar in its scoring -- and Riverboat. He later wrote scores for episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Gilligan's Island, Star Trek (including the oft-reused music for "Amok Time"), Mission: Impossible, and Family Affair, broken up by the occasional feature films such as The Killing of Sister George (1968).
By the 1970s, Fried moved into more high-profile series and the very visible field of miniseries, most notably Roots (for which he shared an Emmy with Quincy Jones) and its follow-up, Roots: The Next Generation, and numerous made-for-television features. There have been precious few commercial releases of Fried's music, apart from his scoring for the Star Trek television series, which, in addition to "Amok Time," also includes the episodes "Catspaw," "Friday's Child," and "The Paradise Syndrome." In 2005, however, Film Score Monthly released a limited-edition, double-CD set of his music for The Vampire, The Return of Dracula, I Bury the Living, and the remake of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.