Sunday, August 9, 2015

Best Song: "High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin')" (1952)

Scene from High Noon
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 1952 and The Academy is celebrating its 25th year. This was the first year in which the ceremony was televised. Best Picture winner The Greatest Show on Earth is considered to be one of the major upsets against High Noon - and has earned a reputation as one of the worst Best Picture winners in history. The Bad and the Beautiful is the big winner of the night with five wins; the most for a film not nominated for Best Picture. This was also the year of director John Ford's fourth Best Director win (The Quiet Man), a record that hasn't been topped. While High Noon didn't win the top prize, it did win Best Original Song with the number "High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin')."

The Nominees

Song: "Am I in Love?"
Film: Son of Paleface
Performers: Bob Hope, Jane Russell

The magic of Bob Hope returns with another great song to kick off this week's list. With an upbeat and immediately catchy melody, the song is able to escape its familiar lyrics and becomes a song with a certain passion and energy. Even the way that he sings with Russell provides a certain endearment to the musicality. It's goofy and fun in a way that most of these nominees tend not to be. That may be why it works so well. I also love that while the song is familiar, it leaves a vague ending, trailing off and leaving the inevitable title to be an open ended question. This works on every level.

Song: "Because You're Mine"
Film: Because You're Mine
Performers: Mario Lanza

Another victim of the acquired taste category. I think that Mario Lanza does an excellent job of belting out the tune. I think that the production is solid. I simply think that it sounds too familiar to really grab me in any interesting way. I like the general attitudes of the song, but I also come away a little bored by the final stretch, as if the song had reached its purpose halfway through. This is a good love song that can work in context, but I am unable to fully appreciate it upon an initial listen without being too into the actual style of which the song is sung.

Song: "Thumbelina"
Film: Hans Christian Andersen
Performers: Danny Kaye

It's a cute little song that is short and to the point. I feel that it works as a catchy little ditty that gets me quickly familiar with the Thumbelina character. While it isn't my favorite of the week, do know that it is an infectious little melody that captures what is the best about some of these hidden gems. It tells a story about hope and courage while also providing a bouncy melody and bringing something charming to the song. I like this song and wouldn't mind hearing more from Danny Kaye in this vein. If anything, it is an odd but worthy entry into this Best Original Song category.

Song: "Zing a Little Zong"
Film: Just for You
Performers: Bing Crosby, Jane Wyman

This is not fair. Why does Bing Crosby insist on doing such an impressive job every single week? In a week that shows one of the strongest batches of nominees in quite awhile, I am left forcing myself to admit that Crosby's gibberish once again makes for a phenomenal song. If there's any complaint, it is that it goes long. If that is a complaint, you remove everything that was great about it. The dancing and the melody overlapping with multiple vocals is just great. It may not be my favorite Crosby, but it is pretty far up there. I love that Crosby and Jane Wyman work so well together. It will be hard to say no to this song.

The Winner

Song: "High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin')"
Film: High Noon
Performers: Tex Ritter

It seems pretty rare right now for me to have seen the films that these Best Original Song winners came from. Save for Disney, it has been fun to hear these songs brand new. Here's where my bias comes in. High Noon is a pretty great western and likewise, this song is pretty stellar. I like Tex Ritter's singing and the simple chugging melody that works to capture a passionate plea that compliments the movie. In a genre full of memorable songs, this is one of the inescapable, infectious ones that I cannot say no to. 

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. "Pass That Peace Pipe" - Good News (1947)
4. "They're Either Too Young Or Too Old" - Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943)
5. "Cheek to Cheek" - Top Hat (1935)
6. "I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo" - Orchestra Wives (1942)
7. "The Trolley Song" - Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
8. "Ac-Cent-U-Ate the Positive" - Here Comes the Wave (1945)
9. "Zing a Little Zong"  - Just For You (1952)
10. "Build Me a Kiss to Dream On" - The Strip (1951)
11. "Wilhemina" - Wabash Avenue (1950)
12. "Through a Long and Sleepless Night" - Come to the Stable (1949)
13. "Waltzing in the Clouds" - Spring Parade (1940)
14. "Ole Buttermilk Sky" - Canyon Passage (1946)
15. "Dust" - Under Western Stars (1938)
16. "The Woody Woodpecker Song" - Wet Blanket Policy (1948)
17. "I Poured My Heart Into a Song" - Second Fiddle (1939)
18. "Remember Me" - Mr. Dodd Takes the Air (1937)
19. "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. "Baby, It's Cold Outside" - Neptune's Daughter (1949)
5. "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening" - Here Comes the Groom (1951)
6. "High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin')" - High Noon (1952)
7. "It Might as Well Be Spring" - State Fair (1945)
8. "White Christmas" - Holiday Inn (1942)
9. "Thanks for the Memory" - The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938)
10. "The Last Time I Saw Paris" - Lady Be Good (1941)
11. "Mona Lisa" - Captain Carey, U.S.A. (1950)
12. "Buttons and Bows" - The Paleface (1948)
13. "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" - Song of the South (1947)
14. "When You Wish Upon a Star" - Pinocchio (1940)
15. "You'll Never Know" - Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943)
16. "On the Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe" - Harvey Girls (1946)
17. "The Continental" - The Gay Divorcee (1934)
18. "The Lullaby of Broadway" - Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
19. "Sweet Leiulani" - Waikiki Wedding (1937)

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