Sunday, August 16, 2015

Best Song: "Secret Love" (1953)

Scene from Calamity Jane
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 1953 and The Academy is celebrating its 26th year. Director Fred Zinnemann's From Here to Eternity wins Best Picture with 13 nominations and 8 total awards. It was also the year that Walt Disney won four Oscars in a single night, joking that maybe he should retire after the fourth win. William Holden gives one of the shortest speeches in Oscar history after winning Best Actor (Stalag 17) with "Thank you." In the Best Original Song category, Calamity Jane blows away the competition with "Secret Love."

The Nominees

Song: "The Moon is Blue"
Film: The Moon is Blue
Performers: ?

I am not sure why, but it was difficult to find the singers who performed this song. Otherwise, it is a nice little ditty that presumably opens the film. There's comical lyrics about cars in trees and this whimsical vibe that gets me in the mood for whatever is about to happen. I just really enjoy the production overall and it puts a smile on my face. Like most short songs, my one complaint is that it is too short and without context, I cannot fully appreciate what it is going for. However, it's still a rather effective little ditty.

Song: "My Flaming Heart"
Film: Small Town Girl
Performers: Nat King Cole

Oh, that Nat King Cole. There's something in that voice that is perfection. As he sings this simple, loving song, I can feel his passion run through every chord. Even if the production is very minimalist, I do think emphasizing the vocals is done to powerful impact here. I definitely hope that Cole continues to show up on this list and fill up a lot of spots, because he is a treasure to the ballad genre. This song is no exception and while it does run a little long and may be as slow as other songs I have discredited, I think Cole makes you invested wholeheartedly in ways that his nimble voice won't reveal the secrets to.

Song: "Sadie Thompson's Song (Blue Pacific Blues)"
Film: Miss Sadie Thompson
Performers: Rita Hayworth

Speaking as I just praised Nat King Cole for being sultry and slow, I am not entirely sure why I had the opposite reaction here. Okay, that's not entirely true. I think that Rita Hayworth adds a longing to the song that gives it personality. However, I am not as invested in the song as a whole. The lyrics are curious, but not enough to spark my interest in the production. The rhythm, while catchy, is a little monotonous. I think it is a fine song, but I came away not really having a strong opinion of it. I like Hayworth's singing in general, but this song just felt like it tacked on things to increase running time.

Song: "That's Amore"
Film: The Caddy
Performers: Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis

One of the greatest things about doing Best Song is discovering that almost every now pop music standard came from a comedy. In this case, I had no idea that this song came from a Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis film. It's a song that I've heard so often that I assumed it was as old as time. It felt like something that's been around forever. It's gold. It's beautiful. I'm even surprised that we can credit to Jerry Lewis. This is just a wonderful, fun song that keeps my trend of picking upbeat and catchy songs for Best Loser. In fact, this one's ranking pretty high just because of how indelible it has been in the zeitgeist ever since and how it fills me with whismy.

The Winner

Song: "Secret Love"
Film: Calamity Jane
Performers: Doris Day

I am sure that we'll be hearing more from Doris Day in the near future (she does sing the 1956 winner). With this being her first win in this field, I will have to say that it's a good enough song. Maybe it's hard to top the impact that "That's Amore" has and understand how this beat it, but I come away a little underwhelmed. It is a beautiful song and I don't fault Day at all. She sings it beautifully and with booming passion. I feel her lyrics resonate with the melody. However, I don't know if it's necessarily my favorite love song that has ever won this field. Then again, I'm still riding high off of "That's Amore," and it's not entirely fair to "Secret Love."

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. "That's Amore" - The Caddy (1953)
2. "Carioca" - Flying Down to Rio (1934)
3. "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B" - Buck Privates (1941)
4. "Pass That Peace Pipe" - Good News (1947)
5. "They're Either Too Young Or Too Old" - Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943)
6. "Cheek to Cheek" - Top Hat (1935)
7. "I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo" - Orchestra Wives (1942)
8. "The Trolley Song" - Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
9. "Ac-Cent-U-Ate the Positive" - Here Comes the Wave (1945)
10. "Zing a Little Zong"  - Just For You (1952)
11. "Build Me a Kiss to Dream On" - The Strip (1951)
12. "Wilhemina" - Wabash Avenue (1950)
13. "Through a Long and Sleepless Night" - Come to the Stable (1949)
14. "Waltzing in the Clouds" - Spring Parade (1940)
15. "Ole Buttermilk Sky" - Canyon Passage (1946)
16. "Dust" - Under Western Stars (1938)
17. "The Woody Woodpecker Song" - Wet Blanket Policy (1948)
18. "I Poured My Heart Into a Song" - Second Fiddle (1939)
19. "Remember Me" - Mr. Dodd Takes the Air (1937)
20. "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. "Secret Love" - Calamity Jane (1953)
16. "You'll Never Know" - Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943)
17. "On the Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe" - Harvey Girls (1946)
18. "The Continental" - The Gay Divorcee (1934)
19. "The Lullaby of Broadway" - Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
20. "Sweet Leiulani" - Waikiki Wedding (1937)

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