Sunday, June 28, 2015

Best Song: "On the Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe" (1946)

Scene from Harvey Girls
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 1946 and The Academy is celebrating its 19th year. This was the first ceremony in which every category had a maximum of five nominees. This was also the year that director William Wyler's The Best Years of Our Lives won seven Oscars. This includes the only time that an actor has won twice for the same role for Harold Russell with a Best Supporting Actor Award and an honorary Oscar. Meanwhile, musical Harvey Girls won the Best Original Song category for the song  "On the Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe."

The Nominees

Song: "All Through the Day"
Film: Centennial Summer
Performers: Larry Stevens

It may sound ridiculous to say, but I am starting to realize how revolutionary Rodgers and Hammerstein were to musicals. Having listened to several love songs just from this list, I have had to endure some unmemorable recounts of "I love you" in many, many cliche-filled words. While I don't love this song, I have to give it credit for being immediately memorable as it turns a story of longing into a melodic singalong that feels passionate. Most of all, it has personality and breaks traditional music structure to allow for something more interesting to happen. I can only hope the rest of these nominees have picked up in terms of quality.

Song: "I Can't Begin to Tell You"
Film: The Dolly Sisters
Performers: John Payne

This year has really picked up from the lull of the past few years. While there's been a bunch of great songs in the past, I think that this year is proving to be one of the better. It could just be that they thankfully slimmed everything down to five nominees from a laborious, overstuffed number. However, this song still is pretty good and I feel follows in the rhythmic passion quality that at worst makes up a good song. Thankfully, everything about this song has a pop to it and I like the vocal arrangements as well. It isn't a spectacular song, but it definitely has something that most love songs from the early Best Original Song days doesn't have: it is memorable.

Song: "Ole Buttermilk Sky"
Film: Canyon Passage
Performers: Hoagy Carmichael

Can someone tell me what happened? This year may not have the greatest songs in The Academy's history, but it is one of the most consistently enjoyable. In this case, it takes a familiar love song and applies it to some western iconography. Also, Hoagy Carmichael really knows how to sing enthusiastically without falling into cornball. I kind of really like this song and find it rather catchy. This is such a strong year that it's going to be hard to pick a favorite from this year. However, there's a chance that I'll be revisiting this one more often just because of how much more fun it turns out to be.

Song: "You Keep Coming Back Like a Song"
Film: Blue Skies
Performers: Bing Crosby

This is a very classic version of Bing Crosby. From the melody to the vocal style, he is turning in another really good number. Having gone through at least a dozen numbers by the singer, I think that this ranks around the middle. It definitely has a lot of charm and the metaphor at the center is strong. However, it doesn't necessarily have an extra bite that gets me excited. It is melodic, sure, but I don't know that it necessarily stands out as anything exceptional from him. Still, it is an admirable nominee through and through and a continuing reminder of why Crosby was a juggernaut back in his day.

The Winner

Song: "On the Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe"
Film: The Harvey Girls
Performers: Judy Garland

One thing that must be grown to be accepted is that I have a soft spot because of this column for Judy Garland. There's something about her voice and her delivery that manages to mix innocence with desire in a manner that fills a song with personality. This is no exception, even if isn't necessarily my favorite of hers. She delivers a great number that may be lacking in an upbeat rhythm, but it still has great singing chops. As a whole, it is a fine song. I just don't know if it's one that I would immediately go back to if given the choice of her songs.

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. "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B" - Buck Privates (1941)
3. "They're Either Too Young Or Too Old" - Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943)
4. "Cheek to Cheek" - Top Hat (1935)
5. "I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo" - Orchestra Wives (1942)
6. "The Trolley Song" - Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
7. "Ac-Cent-U-Ate the Positive" - Here Comes the Wave (1945)
8. "Waltzing in the Clouds" - Spring Parade (1940)
9. "Ole Buttermilk Sky" - Canyon Passage (1946)
10. "Dust" - Under Western Stars (1938)
11. "I Poured My Heart Into a Song" - Second Fiddle (1939)
12. "Remember Me" - Mr. Dodd Takes the Air (1937)
13. "I've Got You Under My Skin" - Born to Dance (1936)

Best Best Song

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

1. "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" - The Wizard of Oz (1939)
2. "The Way You Look Tonight" - Swing Time (1936)
3. "Swinging on a Star" - Going My Way (1944)
4. "It Might as Well Be Spring" - State Fair (1945)
5. "White Christmas" - Holiday Inn (1942)
6. "Thanks for the Memory" - The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938)
7. "The Last Time I Saw Paris" - Lady Be Good (1941)
8. "When You Wish Upon a Star" - Pinocchio (1940)
9. "You'll Never Know" - Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943)
10. "On the Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe" - Harvey Girls (1946)
11. "The Continental" - The Gay Divorcee (1934)
12. "The Lullaby of Broadway" - Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
13. "Sweet Leiulani" - Waikiki Wedding (1937)

No comments:

Post a Comment