Sunday, September 13, 2015

Best Song: "All the Way" (1957)

Scene from The Joker is Wild
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 1957 and The Academy is celebrating its 30th year. Director David Lean's masterpiece The Bridge on the River Kwai wins Best Picture. This is the first year that all five of the Best Picture and Best Director nominees were the same. Joanne Woodward won Best Actress for The Three Faces of Eve and marked the last time that there was an acting win without another nomination until Jodie Foster for The Accused in 1989. Peyton Place became one of the most nominated films, with nine nominations, to not win a single award. It also set the record for most acting losses for a film with five. This was the first year that the ceremony was broadcasted live. Meanwhile, The Joker is Wild won Best Original Song for the number "All the Way."

The Nominees

Song: "An Affair to Remember"
Film: An Affair to Remember
Performers: Deborah Kerr

It's a nice little song. According to research, there is another version used in the film by Vic Damone. However, I couldn't find it. I don't dislike what Deborah Kerr does with the song, but I think that listening to all of these songs back to back takes away some of the magic for the slower love songs. I think that the piano is lovely and adds a melancholic vibe to the overall production. However, Kerr's voice doesn't really have any passion and out of context, I'm not entirely feeling the song's emotional gravitas. it is good, but I don't know that it is immediacy as catchy as other songs that have been nominated are.

Song: "April Love"
Film: April Love
Performers: Pat Boone

I will admit one personal bias that may be unfair. When I think of Pat Boone, I think of milquetoast white people music. I know that this song is about on par with artists that I don't consider that, but I still come away feeling like the song is too innocent and free of expression. Yes, Boone manages to make a song that works as easy listening. I cannot even fault its nomination. It's just that there isn't a lot of substance beyond the romantic lyrics. The production is probably its biggest strength, especially since it feels like a booming ode to something far more passionate. Even then, this feels like milquetoast white people music, and I don't know if that's a great thing.

Song: "Tammy"
Film: Tammy and the Bachelor
Performers: Debbie Reynolds

It could just be that this isn't the greatest week, but I am easily moved by Debbie Reynolds' approach to the song. For starters, it has a melody that compliments her whispering, fragile approach to the song. I can feel the romance leak from her voice. It's such a beautiful, simple number that makes you understand the lyrics better. Yes, the song is probably a little silly and very simple, but there's passion in every line. The flowing melody plays like a vivid dream of happiness in the not too distant future. Even if it isn't my favorite song of all time, it does immediately stick with you and even gets you a little fond for Tammy's love. Overall, a pretty good song among a few mediocre tracks.

Song: "Wild is the Wind"
Film: Wild is the Wind
Performers: Johnny Mathis

Oh, Johnny Mathis. Just when it looked like this week wouldn't have any stellar nominees, this song comes along. I know that I recently badmouthed "Love is a Many Splendored Thing" for being overproduced in many parts, but I think that this one is more balanced about it. Mathis' voice echoes with a certain longing that makes his passion waver in your ear. You can feel him wanting that love. This is a really good song that definitely captures the best of loves songs from this era. Everything about this song works, and I hope to see Johnny Mathis around more often. He really knows how to make you feel in this song.

The Winner

Song: "All the Way"
Film: The Joker is Wild
Performers: Frank Sinatra

There's a handful of artists that keep showing up on this column that you pretty much get annoyed about. Not because they're bad, but because you know they set an unfair bar of which all the other nominees will seem inferior by. Frank Sinatra is proving to be one of them. Even if I haven't loved all of his nominated and winning songs, he's at least consistently enjoyable. This is another great example of why that is. His voice just captures a certain longing that grabs you and makes you understand him instinctually. He's something uncontrollable when he's got the right material. In this case, he grabs you and overwhelms you with every last note of his voice. You believe in the power of love because of his assurance. Try as you might not to be moved, but he is there to prove you wrong. This may be one of his best, most passionate, songs to be on this list.

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. "The Man That Got Away" - A Star is Born (1954)
3. "Carioca" - Flying Down to Rio (1934)
4. "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B" - Buck Privates (1941)
5. "Wild is the Wind" - Wild is the Wind (1957) 
6. "(Love is) The Tender Trap" - The Tender Trap (1955) 
7. "Pass That Peace Pipe" - Good News (1947)
8. "They're Either Too Young Or Too Old" - Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943)
9. "Cheek to Cheek" - Top Hat (1935)
10. "I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo" - Orchestra Wives (1942)
11. "The Trolley Song" - Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
12. "Ac-Cent-U-Ate the Positive" - Here Comes the Wave (1945)
13. "Zing a Little Zong"  - Just For You (1952)
14. "Build Me a Kiss to Dream On" - The Strip (1951)
15. "Wilhemina" - Wabash Avenue (1950)
16. "Through a Long and Sleepless Night" - Come to the Stable (1949)
17. "Waltzing in the Clouds" - Spring Parade (1940)
18. "Ole Buttermilk Sky" - Canyon Passage (1946)
19. "Julie" - Julie (1956)
20. "Dust" - Under Western Stars (1938)
21. "The Woody Woodpecker Song" - Wet Blanket Policy (1948)
22. "I Poured My Heart Into a Song" - Second Fiddle (1939)
23. "Remember Me" - Mr. Dodd Takes the Air (1937)
24. "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. "Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)" - The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
5. "All the Way" - The Joker is Wild (1957)
6. "Baby, It's Cold Outside" - Neptune's Daughter (1949)
7. "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening" - Here Comes the Groom (1951)
8. "Three Coins in the Fountain" - Three Coins in the Fountain (1954)
9. "High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin')" - High Noon (1952)
10. "Love is A Many Splendored Thing" - Love is a Many Splendored Thing (1955)
11. "It Might as Well Be Spring" - State Fair (1945)
12. "White Christmas" - Holiday Inn (1942)
13. "Thanks for the Memory" - The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938)
14. "The Last Time I Saw Paris" - Lady Be Good (1941)
15. "Mona Lisa" - Captain Carey, U.S.A. (1950)
16. "Buttons and Bows" - The Paleface (1948)
17. "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" - Song of the South (1947)
18. "When You Wish Upon a Star" - Pinocchio (1940)
19. "Secret Love" - Calamity Jane (1953)
20. "You'll Never Know" - Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943)
21. "On the Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe" - Harvey Girls (1946)
22. "The Continental" - The Gay Divorcee (1934)
23. "The Lullaby of Broadway" - Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
24. "Sweet Leiulani" - Waikiki Wedding (1937)

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