Sunday, November 8, 2015

Best Song: "The Shadow of Your Heart" (1965)

Scene from The Sandpiper
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 1965 and The Academy is celebrating its 38th year. Director Robert Wise's adaptation of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic The Sound of Music won Best Picture. It would be the first since Hamlet to do so without a writing nomination (the most recent being Titanic). Along with Doctor Zhivago, it ranks among the top 10 highest grossing films of all time when adjusted for inflation. This was also the year that President Johnson's daughter was escorted to the ceremony by actor George Hamilton. Meanwhile, the Best Original Song category sizzled up with a song from the Vincente Minnelli movie co-starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor called The Sandpiper, as they looked into "The Shadow of Your Smile."

The Nominees

Song: "The Ballad of Cat Ballou"
Film: Cat Ballou
Performers: Stubby Kaye and Nat King Cole

While I have generally associated Nat King Cole with more somber and quiet music, I do think this is some interesting casting. Pairing Cole with a banjo and Stubby Kaye has resulted in at least the funnest western song that I have heard from this list. By the visuals, I already presume that this is a comedy of sorts, but I think that the song does a lot of great set-up for what's to come. It's dark, yet comical in a fashion that feels both satirical and reverent of its genre. If nothing else, it gets me excited to watch Cat Ballou. I'm not sure if this stands out as a great Cole song, but I am so glad to see him in something that essentially feels as against type as they come.

Song: "I Will Wait For You"
Film: The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
Performers: Catherine Deneuve

I am not entirely sure why this was such a tough song to find online. I found the score, but the song was difficult. While this version is in English, I can only hope that it's very similar to Catherine Deneuve's version. Likewise, this seems to be a duet, which I'm unsure that the original is. I will be honest that I hope that I am just mistaken and that this song is the wrong one, because there's not a whole lot here that grabs me. Sure, it's sultry and full of longing, but its production is just horrid. I don't know why it needs to be a duet. In fact, I hope that something was lost rhythmically when translating from French to English, because the timing is all off. I think that it's an okay song otherwise, but there's too many glaring problems that keep me from really liking what I hear.

Song: "The Sweetheart Tree"
Film: The Great Race
Performers: Natalie Wood

Do you ever get the sense that some artists are just out to make you feel overwhelmed? While I have been critical of the past few nominations by Henry Mancini, this song ranks up there with one that cuts through to the sincerest form of pleasure. The Natalie Wood version, acoustic and all, is just beautiful and captures a simplicity that I feel Mancini works best at. It's beautiful and innocent, making me long to get lost in the song, even if it is not even two minutes long. The latter is one of my lesser favorites, notably because I don't really get the appeal of his harmonious touch. Still, those lyrics are penetrable in the best ways possible. Bravo, Mancini. You've done it again.

Song: "What's New, Pussycat?"
Film: What's New, Pussycat?
Performers: Tom Jones

I really think that this song played better in 1965 than it does in 2015. I'm not saying it's a bad song, but I am so baffled as to why this was even nominated. I don't dislike Tom Jones, but I immediately feel like I'm stuck in a whirlwind of cornball listening to this. It's got that bouncy rhythm that should make it a good song. But those lyrics. It's such a poor metaphor that is repeated ad nauseum and to a degree that just gets under my skin. Maybe it's because it's the most overplayed Tom Jones song in existence, but I just can't stand it, and Jones isn't that good at making the cornball work. Oh, how I wish that I could say that there's anything good to say about this one. Part of me just feels it was an excuse to say "pussycat lips" without censors immediately thinking of female genitalia. Maybe that's my problem when listening, but I definitely think this is a song about vaginas.

The Winner

Song: "The Shadow of Your Smile"
Film: The Sandpiper
Performers: Andy Williams

I will admit that there's something lost in translation for some of the romantic song winners. It isn't that they're bad, but you definitely get the impression that part of their charm is in the film's execution. I do believe that some songs only work because of the movies surrounding it. I'm not saying that this one specifically falls victim, but I don't exactly get any rush from it the way that I do some of these. It's a beautiful, sweeping melody with romantic lyrics that capture something wonderful. I actually think that it's well produced and the vocals are top notch. I just don't know that I have any emotional response to it, especially since this is territory that Frank Sinatra has been mining for decades now and even has perfected it in a lot of ways. It's a good song, but I don't know that it works on first listen without context.

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. "A Town Without Pity" - A Town Without Pity (1961)
4. "The Man That Got Away" - A Star is Born (1954)
5. "The Sweetheart Tree" - The Great Race (1965)
6. "Carioca" - Flying Down to Rio (1934)
7. "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B" - Buck Privates (1941)
8. "Charade" - Charade (1963)
9. "Wild is the Wind" - Wild is the Wind (1957) 
10. "(Love is) The Tender Trap" - The Tender Trap (1955) 
11. "Pass That Peace Pipe" - Good News (1947)
12. "They're Either Too Young Or Too Old" - Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943)
13. "Cheek to Cheek" - Top Hat (1935)
14. "I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo" - Orchestra Wives (1942)
15. "The Trolley Song" - Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
16. "Ac-Cent-U-Ate the Positive" - Here Comes the Wave (1945)
17. "Where Love Has Gone" - Where Love Has Gone (1964)
18. "Zing a Little Zong"  - Just For You (1952)
19. "Walk on the Wild Side" - Walk on the Wild Side (1962)
20. "Almost in Your Arms (Love Song from Houseboat)" - Houseboat (1958)
21. "Build Me a Kiss to Dream On" - The Strip (1951)
22. "Wilhemina" - Wabash Avenue (1950)
23. "Through a Long and Sleepless Night" - Come to the Stable (1949)
24. "Waltzing in the Clouds" - Spring Parade (1940)
25. "Strange Are the Ways of Love" - The Young Land (1959)
26. "Ole Buttermilk Sky" - Canyon Passage (1946)
27. "Julie" - Julie (1956)
28. "Dust" - Under Western Stars (1938)
29. "The Woody Woodpecker Song" - Wet Blanket Policy (1948)
30. "I Poured My Heart Into a Song" - Second Fiddle (1939)
31. "Remember Me" - Mr. Dodd Takes the Air (1937)
32. "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. "Moon River" - Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)
2. "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" - The Wizard of Oz (1939)
3. "The Way You Look Tonight" - Swing Time (1936)
4. "Swinging on a Star" - Going My Way (1944)
5. "Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)" - The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
6. "All the Way" - The Joker is Wild (1957)
7. "Never on Sunday" - Never on Sunday (1960)
8. "Chim Chim Cher-ee" - Mary Poppins (1964)
9. "Baby, It's Cold Outside" - Neptune's Daughter (1949)
10. "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening" - Here Comes the Groom (1951)
11. "Three Coins in the Fountain" - Three Coins in the Fountain (1954)
12. "High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin')" - High Noon (1952)
13. "Love is A Many Splendored Thing" - Love is a Many Splendored Thing (1955)
14. "It Might as Well Be Spring" - State Fair (1945)
15. "White Christmas" - Holiday Inn (1942)
16. "Thanks for the Memory" - The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938)
17. "The Last Time I Saw Paris" - Lady Be Good (1941)
18. "High Hopes" - A Hole in the Head (1959)
19. "Gigi" - Gigi (1958)
20. "Mona Lisa" - Captain Carey, U.S.A. (1950)
21. "The Days of Wine and Roses" - The Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
22. "The Shadow of Your Heart" - The Sandpiper (1965)
23. "Buttons and Bows" - The Paleface (1948)
24. "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" - Song of the South (1947)
25. "When You Wish Upon a Star" - Pinocchio (1940)
26. "Secret Love" - Calamity Jane (1953)
27. "Call Me Irresponsible" - Papa's Delicate Condition (1963)
28. "You'll Never Know" - Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943)
29. "On the Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe" - Harvey Girls (1946)
30. "The Continental" - The Gay Divorcee (1934)
31. "The Lullaby of Broadway" - Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
32. "Sweet Leiulani" - Waikiki Wedding (1937)

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