Sunday, April 12, 2015

Best Song: "The Lullaby of Broady" (1935)

Scene from Gold Diggers of 1935
Welcome to Best Song, a new weekly column released on Sunday dedicated to chronicling the Best Original Song category over the course of its many decades. The goal is to listen to and critique every song that has ever been nominated in the category as well as find the Best Best Song and the Best Loser. By the end, we'll have a comprehensive list of this music category and will hopefully have a better understanding not only of the evolution, but what it takes to receive a nomination here. It may seem easy now, but wait until the bad years.

The Preface

The year is 1935 and the Academy Awards is in its eighth year. This was also the first year that the Academy Awards would call their statues Oscars. D.W. Griffith receives an honorary Oscar. Mutiny on the Bounty has won Best Picture and the world is ready to sing and dance. The Busby Berkeley directed musical was showing the extent of what mainstream musicals of the time could be with Gold Diggers of 1935, a somewhat sequel to the 1933 film of the same name. It was full of dancing and optimism, but featured several returning faces from the first ceremony, including Irene Dunne, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. With only three nominees, there wasn't a lot to choose from, but that would change in the years to come.

The Nominees

Song: "Lovely to Look At"
Film: Roberta
Performers: Irene Dunne

If I can be honest, I may have trouble appreciating what Irene Dunne did greatly. Her voice is just so distant from what majority of contemporary nominees would sound like. I admire that she is able to have such control on her voice. I like the sentiments of the song and like this a lot, lot more than last year's "Love in Bloom" duet with Bing Crosby. However, I feel like I can only appreciate what it is trying to do as opposed to admit to fully liking it. It is too classical for my ear, but it still sounds pretty good otherwise.

Song: "Cheek to Cheek"
Film: Top Hat
Performers: Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers

I can understand why these two were so popular. For the most part, the best part of the song isn't so much the singing, but the dancing. Yes, the song has such a classic and romantic vibe to it that has made it withstand the test of time. However, when the whimsical strings kick in and play the melody, the real magic kicks in and we understand why these songs remain so endearing. Sure, we may be seeing Astaire and Rogers for the third time out of the first six nominations in this category, but they have earned each one rather nicely. They definitely have some high top production values to the song that I feel benefit things overall. The winner will have to be one heck of a knockout to compete with the beauty of this one.

The Winner

Song: "The Lullaby of Broadway"
Film: Gold Diggers of 1935
Performers: Wini Shaw

There's definitely a theme to the first two Best Original Song winners. For starters, they are upbeat and reliant on melody to tell a story. In this case, it is about the appeal of Broadway and why it is such a wonderful place. Where the first winner was all about describing "The Continental," this one is more broad and complicated with its melody. I like that it manages to challenge the rhythm and gives something more interesting to the overall production. I cannot say that it is the best song that I have heard so far, but it definitely works thanks to its personality that feels indicative of the Busby Berkeley sound that was developing at the time.

Best Loser

A comprehensive list and ranking of the songs that were nominated but did not win. This is a list predicated on which song that was nominated I liked the best.

1. "Carioca" - Flying Down to Rio (1934)
2. "Cheek to Cheek" - Top Hat (1935)

Best Best Song

A comprehensive list and ranking of the songs that won this category. 

1. "The Continental" - The Gay Divorcee (1934)
2. "The Lullaby of Broadway" - Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)

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