Sunday, October 4, 2015

Best Song: "Never on Sunday" (1960)

Scene from Never on Sunday
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 1960 and The Academy is celebrating its 33rd year. This was the year that The Apartment won Best Picture. It marked the last black and white film to win during the format's prominence. This was also the year that The Alamo notoriously received Oscar nominations over more perceived classics. This is likely due to controversial lobbying by John Wayne for Chill Wills' Oscar nomination. Gary Cooper received an Honorary Oscar, but was too ill to attend. After James Stewart gave a rousing speech, reports came out that Cooper had cancer. Meanwhile, the Best Original Song winner goes to the title song from Never on Sunday.

The Nominees

Song: "The Facts of Life"
Film: The Facts of Life
Performers: Steve Lawrence, Eydie Gorme

Oh, it feels good to be in a new decade. It may just be that I came off of a long stretch of slow, romantic songs, but I really enjoyed this song. It's so upbeat and fun. Even if the lyrics are silly and the production is straightforward, it works as an ear worm that gets stuck in your head. Through and through, this is just a really good song that captures an upbeat, free loving personality that I hope the rest of the 1960's nominees embody. We're off to a great start, and I can only hope that the rest are this impressive.

Song: "The Faraway Part of Town"
Film: Pepe
Performers: Judy Garland

As long time readers will know, I love Judy Garland. She's a great singer and puts a lot of deep emotion into her performances. While "The Man That Got Away" is her at her strongest, I don't know that this song really made an impact on me. It's a good song and she produces some top notch work, but the song feels longer than two minutes. Its production is also a little too polished in a way that I feel detracts from the song. It's still really good, but I can't say that it was a song that kept me interested, even with that beautiful melancholy voice pushing a story forward. It's good, but not my favorite of Garland's.

Song: "The Green Leaves of Summer"
Film: The Alamo
Performers: The Brothers Four

There are certain moments in your life where you hear a song that overwhelms you, even if you do not know its name. It fades into forgotten memories, only to be retrieved at an unexpected moment. Most people will recognize this song more from its melody than its lyrics, thanks to the opening credits of Inglourious Basterds. While this made me ecstatic to hear it, I am more surprised by how much more powerful the echoing chorus and extended take is. This is a powerful song that kept me intrigued for its entire run. I love the production and the energy that comes from this song. It's so powerful and, unlike some of these songs, I felt could have gone on for 10 more minutes. This is just great.

Song: "The Second Time Around"
Film: High Times
Performers: Bing Crosby

Screw you, Bing Crosby. Following "The Green Leaves of Summer," it seemed impossible for a song to match in impact. Even if this is old hat Crosby at this point, he still knows how to make even a melancholic song work. In fact, I am really digging the lyrical aspect of this song - which is playful but also wise in subtle ways. I'm also a sucker for the song's simple use of piano. It's short and sweet and to the point. Even if this is my second favorite song of the week, it's still evidence of Crosby's musical genius. He keeps showing up not because of his voice, but because he knows how to pick winning songs from every aspect. 

The Winner

Song: "Never on Sunday"
Film: Never on Sunday
Performers: Melina Mercouri

For those who want to hear the song in English, check out The Chordettes cover. This song's claim to fame is that it was the first foreign language song to win Best Original Song. And with good reasoning. Much like the other ethnically-flavored songs here, it is just so catchy and gets you in the mood. When you hear the song in English, it takes on a weirder, more perverse nature. However, it's still a pretty good song and I like the rhythmic pattern on display here. I admit that I like the The Chordettes cover better, but Melina Mercouri is not without her charm. This is a pretty good song, even though I do think it's a little too raw for my tastes.

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. "The Green Leaves of Summer" - The Alamo (1960)
2. "That's Amore" - The Caddy (1953)
3. "The Man That Got Away" - A Star is Born (1954)
4. "Carioca" - Flying Down to Rio (1934)
5. "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B" - Buck Privates (1941)
6. "Wild is the Wind" - Wild is the Wind (1957) 
7. "(Love is) The Tender Trap" - The Tender Trap (1955) 
8. "Pass That Peace Pipe" - Good News (1947)
9. "They're Either Too Young Or Too Old" - Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943)
10. "Cheek to Cheek" - Top Hat (1935)
11. "I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo" - Orchestra Wives (1942)
12. "The Trolley Song" - Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
13. "Ac-Cent-U-Ate the Positive" - Here Comes the Wave (1945)
14. "Zing a Little Zong"  - Just For You (1952)
15. "Almost in Your Arms (Love Song from Houseboat)" - Houseboat (1958)
16. "Build Me a Kiss to Dream On" - The Strip (1951)
17. "Wilhemina" - Wabash Avenue (1950)
18. "Through a Long and Sleepless Night" - Come to the Stable (1949)
19. "Waltzing in the Clouds" - Spring Parade (1940)
20. "Strange Are the Ways of Love" - The Young Land (1959)
21. "Ole Buttermilk Sky" - Canyon Passage (1946)
22. "Julie" - Julie (1956)
23. "Dust" - Under Western Stars (1938)
24. "The Woody Woodpecker Song" - Wet Blanket Policy (1948)
25. "I Poured My Heart Into a Song" - Second Fiddle (1939)
26. "Remember Me" - Mr. Dodd Takes the Air (1937)
27. "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. "Never on Sunday" - Never on Sunday (1960)
7. "Baby, It's Cold Outside" - Neptune's Daughter (1949)
8. "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening" - Here Comes the Groom (1951)
9. "Three Coins in the Fountain" - Three Coins in the Fountain (1954)
10. "High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin')" - High Noon (1952)
11. "Love is A Many Splendored Thing" - Love is a Many Splendored Thing (1955)
12. "It Might as Well Be Spring" - State Fair (1945)
13. "White Christmas" - Holiday Inn (1942)
14. "Thanks for the Memory" - The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938)
15. "The Last Time I Saw Paris" - Lady Be Good (1941)
16. "High Hopes" - A Hole in the Head (1959)
17. "Gigi" - Gigi (1958)
18. "Mona Lisa" - Captain Carey, U.S.A. (1950)
19. "Buttons and Bows" - The Paleface (1948)
20. "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" - Song of the South (1947)
21. "When You Wish Upon a Star" - Pinocchio (1940)
22. "Secret Love" - Calamity Jane (1953)
23. "You'll Never Know" - Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943)
24. "On the Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe" - Harvey Girls (1946)
25. "The Continental" - The Gay Divorcee (1934)
26. "The Lullaby of Broadway" - Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
27. "Sweet Leiulani" - Waikiki Wedding (1937)

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