Sunday, November 22, 2015

Best Song: "Talk to the Animals" (1967)

Scene from Doctor Dolittle
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 1967 and The Academy is celebrating its 40th year. Director Norman Jewison's Civil Rights drama In the Heat of the Night wins Best Picture while its star Sidney Poitier failed to get a nomination. Due to a push by Academy President Gregory Peck, 18 of the 20 acting nominees were present (Spencer Tracy, who was nominated for Guess Who's Coming to Dinner was dead). This would be the last year to date of a film winning Best Director (Mike Nichols - The Graduate) and nothing else. There were also three films nominated in the Top 5 categories. Meanwhile, the Best Original Song category saw Doctor Dolittle "Talk to the Animals" on its way to winning the award.

The Nominees

Song: "The Bare Necessities"
Film: The Jungle Book
Performers: Phil Harris and Bruce Reitherman

Once again, we're back with the Disney songs. It's hard to not love them if you're like me and have grown up in some capacity with them. This is definitely one of the better songs. It's very catchy and immediately recognizable. It's both relevant to the plot while also just being a creative way of saying "Relax." The production, as in keeping with Disney's style, is really good and the singing is top notch. This is definitely a great way to start off the nominations. 

Song: "The Eyes of Love"
Film: Banning
Performers: Gil Bernal

I think that the song is just fine. The most distinguishing thing about it is that the melody is very relaxing. I like that it plays like a heart, going up and down in perfect time. It adds an understated aspect to the song that throws more attention on the voice. As a whole, this is just a really good ballad song that works predominantly because of the vocal styling. I will admit that it's not likely my favorite from this week, but it at least has a charming aspect to it that makes me enjoy listening to it.

Song: "The Look of Love"
Film: Casino Royale
Performers: Dusty Springfield

It's strange that the first James Bond-nominated song is actually from the parody James Bond movie. Oh well. It's actually rather fitting in melody to what the songs later on would be. There's plenty of espionage in the rhythm, and the vocals have a pronounced yet quiet aspect to them that makes it all the more mysterious. While it seems strange that there's two "_____ of Love" songs on this list, I do think that both work very well. I think that Dusty Springfield's work is a little bit better and adds a richer tone to the whole production. I like this a lot better, but only because it's more stylistically interesting. 

Song: "Thoroughly Modern Millie"
Film: Thoroughly Modern Millie
Performers: Julie Andrews

This is the type of music that makes me excited to go through and listen to all of these songs. It's just so upbeat and has such great production. Julie Andrews' enthusiastic voice only adds to the style of the music. I'm guessing that this is set in the 20's, which explains the melody. In that case, it's actually all sorts of perfect for the sound. I love it from a production standpoint as well as the various melodies that get thrown in to emphasize the lyrics better. While "The Bare Necessities" is definitely the more lasting of these songs, it's hard for me not to admire what this song does right, which is a whole lot. Makes me want to watch Thoroughly Modern Millie. Sounds like a lot of fun.

The Winner

Song: "Talk to the Animals"
Film: Doctor Dolittle
Performers: Rex Harrison

I don't really know how to address this song. While I grew up being aware of Dr. Dolittle, I don't know if this song is appealing to those that hear it cold. Yes, the lyrics are silly. Yes, Rex Harrison's talk-singing style is among the most infectious things of 60's cinema. However, this whole thing plays like free form jazz at times; serving as mere observations about the various animals and Dr. Dolittle's dreams of talking to them. There's not a coherent melody. It's all just this silly, ambitious song that I think has unfortunately been lost to time. Since most modern audiences don't have high thoughts of the film, I don't know how anyone will ever be able to appreciate this song in context. Alone, it's fun, but definitely shows some weaknesses  in its staggering structure. Still, I like Harrison too much to not outwardly admit that I really like this song.

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. "Gegorgy Girl" - Georgy Girl (1966)
16. "The Trolley Song" - Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
17. "Ac-Cent-U-Ate the Positive" - Here Comes the Wave (1945)
18. "Thoroughly Modern Millie" - Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967)
19. "Where Love Has Gone" - Where Love Has Gone (1964)
20. "Zing a Little Zong"  - Just For You (1952)
21. "Walk on the Wild Side" - Walk on the Wild Side (1962)
22. "Almost in Your Arms (Love Song from Houseboat)" - Houseboat (1958)
23. "Build Me a Kiss to Dream On" - The Strip (1951)
24. "Wilhemina" - Wabash Avenue (1950)
25. "Through a Long and Sleepless Night" - Come to the Stable (1949)
26. "Waltzing in the Clouds" - Spring Parade (1940)
27. "Strange Are the Ways of Love" - The Young Land (1959)
28. "Ole Buttermilk Sky" - Canyon Passage (1946)
29. "Julie" - Julie (1956)
30. "Dust" - Under Western Stars (1938)
31. "The Woody Woodpecker Song" - Wet Blanket Policy (1948)
32. "I Poured My Heart Into a Song" - Second Fiddle (1939)
33. "Remember Me" - Mr. Dodd Takes the Air (1937)
34. "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. "Talk to the Animals" - Dr. Dolittle (1967)
10. "Baby, It's Cold Outside" - Neptune's Daughter (1949)
11. "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening" - Here Comes the Groom (1951)
12. "Born Free" - Born Free (1966)
13. "Three Coins in the Fountain" - Three Coins in the Fountain (1954)
14. "High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin')" - High Noon (1952)
15. "Love is A Many Splendored Thing" - Love is a Many Splendored Thing (1955)
16. "It Might as Well Be Spring" - State Fair (1945)
17. "White Christmas" - Holiday Inn (1942)
18. "Thanks for the Memory" - The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938)
19. "The Last Time I Saw Paris" - Lady Be Good (1941)
20. "High Hopes" - A Hole in the Head (1959)
21. "Gigi" - Gigi (1958)
22. "Mona Lisa" - Captain Carey, U.S.A. (1950)
23. "The Days of Wine and Roses" - The Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
24. "The Shadow of Your Heart" - The Sandpiper (1965)
25. "Buttons and Bows" - The Paleface (1948)
26. "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" - Song of the South (1947)
27. "When You Wish Upon a Star" - Pinocchio (1940)
28. "Secret Love" - Calamity Jane (1953)
29. "Call Me Irresponsible" - Papa's Delicate Condition (1963)
30. "You'll Never Know" - Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943)
31. "On the Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe" - Harvey Girls (1946)
32. "The Continental" - The Gay Divorcee (1934)
33. "The Lullaby of Broadway" - Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
34. "Sweet Leiulani" - Waikiki Wedding (1937)


  1. Really? "Talk To The Animals" is a better song than "When You Wish Upon A Star", arguably Disney's most important song from one of their greatest films? (They wouldn't be playing it at the beginning of every one of their films if it wasn't.)

    I like this series and all, but I couldn't help but become startled and suspicious from the moment "When You Wish Upon A Star" was ranked pretty low. I get that people have different tastes and all, but sometimes the historical importance of an artistic work ought to have some precedence when it comes to its ranking amongst other similar works.

  2. I must admit that it seems odd that you'd choose to bring it up randomly now when it has been ranked low since the start. While I accept that there's likely historical value for "When You Wish Upon a Star," a lot of the drive/voting of this series is impulsive. I admit that there's a ton of earlier entries ("The Continental," "Mona Lisa") that I have since come to like more than their initial placement. I stand by the immediate reaction nature of this list. While, if going off of my personal opinion, I would move it up, it likely wouldn't go too far.

    I have an odd relationship with that song, as it doesn't have the immediate impact on me that other songs do. My one regret is that my list favors jaunty melodies over slower songs. However, that's likely an impulse thing again. I know that it seems controversial to you (as I am sure everyone else likely feels similarly), but it's just my general response to the song. It's fine, but not necessarily one that I loved. I admit that there's strong biases on display (the top two always felt like they'd be there, even before I got to that week).

    The other unfortunate thing about ranking is that good songs can fall so low so quickly. I definitely think this is one of the cases. I am sure that you'd disagree about other songs. Opinions are built that way. I admit my impulsive "Yay/Nay" nature is a little flawed, but it also feels unfair to hold that value over other songs that I just enjoy more (though MAYBE it should be above "Buttons and Bows"). I don't hate "When You Wish Upon a Star," but going off of my personal enjoyment - it's not the highest.

    Maybe towards the end (so, in about a year), I will do a special Reconsideration post to highlight what I felt went wrong. I don't have any set plans, but I already have a list just from what's happened so far.

    On a personal note, I admit that "Talk to the Animals" is a bafflingly high choice. I am just a sucker for Rex Harrison (love My Fair Lady) and, like presumably you with Pinocchio, Dr. Dolittle was a film I think back fondly of from my childhood. I know it doesn't excuse things, but that's my base reasoning. I'm unsure if this makes me sound ignorant or just that I'm approaching things differently. I hope it's the latter. Though I do thank you for occasionally chiming in with opinions. I've enjoyed them.

    1. No, it's cool. Thanks for replying. :)

      "Talk To The Animals" was the breaking point for my silence regarding your rankings because 1967 is a watershed year for American cinema and the Academy Awards. When comparing it to the rest of the Best Picture nominees, Doctor Dolittle just comes off as a pity nominee due to its lack of box office success. Furthermore, giving it Best Original Song over "The Bare Necessities" and "Thoroughly Modern Millie" comes off as a consolation prize, kinda like how "Glory" from Selma won this past Oscar ceremony when the only other nomination the film received was for Best Picture, except awarding it that category was a good thing because "Glory" was by far the best of those five nominees.

      (Speaking of the nominees...Sorry, Lego Movie fans, but "Everything Is Awesome" is merely a catchy song with sophomoric lyrics. Deliberately so, mind you, and the song commenting on the state of pop music today was funny, but actually awarding it would've been overkill. Thank goodness no one spite-voted for "Everything Is Awesome" in the wake of The Lego Movie's absence from Best Animated Feature.)