Sunday, August 2, 2015

Best Song: "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening" (1951)

Scene from Here Comes the Groom
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 1951 and The Academy is celebrating its 24th year. Best Picture winner An American in Paris becomes the second winner to be shot in color (the first since 1939's Gone with the Wind). Humphrey Bogart becomes the last person in history to win an Oscar while being born in the 19th century (he was born December 25, 1899). In the Best Original Song category, Here Comes the Groom wins with "In the Cool, Cool, Cool Evening."

The Nominees

Song: "Never"
Film: Golden Girl
Performers: Dennis Day

It could just be that there have been so many love songs on this list, but even at almost three minutes, I felt that it was a little long. It could just be that there was a certain redundancy to the melody and the lyrics weren't exactly inspired. While Dennis Day does a great job singing and captures an emotional longing, I have trouble finding much personality in this song that makes it noteworthy. Maybe within the context of the film, it would make more sense. Here, it just sounds like another average love song that could use a little trimming as it is. It is fine, but it does suffer from length a little too much.

Song: "Wonder Why"
Film: Rich, Young & Pretty
Performers: Vic Damone

While I may have just complained about the previous song going on a little long, I have to admit that there's something to Vic Damone that made this song work. He was as deep and passionate, but he also was able to fluctuate with melody. He made the lyrics come to life and with the simple piano rhythm, he made you care. There's something beautiful to the song that makes it particularly effective. It could just be that a bare bones ballad manages to strike a chord with me, but I come away really feeling moved by the entire production in ways that the more orchestrated numbers seem to be missing.

Song: "Too Late Now"
Film: Royal Wedding
Performers: Jane Powell

Thankfully, this song falls closer to the better side of the equation. While I do think that it definitely has a few deterrents in terms of intrigue, I do think that the overall structure of the song is solid. I care about Jane Powell's struggles as she goes about the lyrics, wondering what her future is going to hold for her. She has a lovely voice, even if I find deep vocals a little bit of an acquired taste. For me, the song works thanks to melody and vocal presentation that causes the passion to leak out of every note and make you feel every word. It may go on a little long, but it still has a lot of merit.

Song: "A Kiss to Build a Dream On"
Film: The Strip
Performers: Kay Brown

Rounding out the list is probably one of the best songs of the week. As mentioned before, a stripped down melody tends to make me like the song a lot more. In this case, the optimism in every note of her voice mixed with the clever lyrics manages to fill it with personality. She may not have the most demanding voice, but her innocence causes every line to have something endearing about it. In the end, I come away liking this the most of this week's selection - even if this version is different from IMDb's notes (the original was performed by Jacqueline Fontaine). 

The Winner

Song: "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening"
Film: Here Comes the Groom
Performers: Jane Wyman, Bing Crosby

Oh, that Bing Crosby. He keeps showing up with great songs that capture what exactly I love about doing this column. While I am aware that maybe I should be more critical of upbeat songs as I am with ballads, I do think that Crosby does the whole upbeat humor thing better than most of the songs I have heard so far. This is a strong example of mixing personality with novelty and making a song that is so upbeat and instantly memorable that it will be hard to properly place without considering my criteria. It is such an infectious song and Jane Wyman can keep her own alongside Crosby to an effective degree. I am going to miss when Crosby stops getting these nominations just because he rarely lets me down.

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. "Build Me a Kiss to Dream On" - The Strip (1951)
10. "Wilhemina" - Wabash Avenue (1950)
11. "Through a Long and Sleepless Night" - Come to the Stable (1949)
12. "Waltzing in the Clouds" - Spring Parade (1940)
13. "Ole Buttermilk Sky" - Canyon Passage (1946)
14. "Dust" - Under Western Stars (1938)
15. "The Woody Woodpecker Song" - Wet Blanket Policy (1948)
16. "I Poured My Heart Into a Song" - Second Fiddle (1939)
17. "Remember Me" - Mr. Dodd Takes the Air (1937)
18. "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. "It Might as Well Be Spring" - State Fair (1945)
7. "White Christmas" - Holiday Inn (1942)
8. "Thanks for the Memory" - The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938)
9. "The Last Time I Saw Paris" - Lady Be Good (1941)
10. "Mona Lisa" - Captain Carey, U.S.A. (1950)
11. "Buttons and Bows" - The Paleface (1948)
12. "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" - Song of the South (1947)
13. "When You Wish Upon a Star" - Pinocchio (1940)
14. "You'll Never Know" - Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943)
15. "On the Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe" - Harvey Girls (1946)
16. "The Continental" - The Gay Divorcee (1934)
17. "The Lullaby of Broadway" - Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
18. "Sweet Leiulani" - Waikiki Wedding (1937)

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