1940 - Best Original Song
The nominees were...
"Down Argentine Way," Down Argentine Way
"Who Am I," Hit Parade of 1941
"It's a Blue World," Music in My Heart
"When You Wish Upon a Star," Pinocchio
"Only Forever," Rhythm on the River
"Love of My Life," Second Chorus
"Waltzing in the Clouds," Spring Parade
"Our Love Affair," Strike Up the Band
"I'd Know You Anywhere," You'll Find Out
WON: "When You Wish Upon a Star," Pinocchio
SHOULD'VE WON: "Who Am I," Hit Parade of 1941
My jaw is just as sunken to the ground as yours'. Before I comment on why I have sided with the decidedly uber-obscure "Who Am I" over the legendary "When You Wish Upon a Star," let's just take a moment to stare in wonder at the star-studded nature of this line-up - you have not just one of the all-time great Disney tracks, but also tunes performed by the A-list likes of Fred Astaire ("Love of My Life"), Bing Crosby ("Rhythm on the River"), Betty Grable & Don Ameche ("Down Argentine Way") and the charming-as-ever duo of Judy Garland & Mickey Rooney ("Our Love Affair"). Doesn't mean their songs are especially noteworthy - in fact, in most of the cases, they're not very memorable at all - but still, damn, talk about a stacked category. Imagine if these tunes were performed live back in the day!
With that said, this category is a bit of a mixed bag, in spite of the star wattage. The weakest links are the Grable-Ameche duet, a bouncy but awfully hokey ode to, according to the song, just about the dandiest country on earth, Argentina; "It's a Blue World," a very short number competently performed by Tony Martin in the forgettable Rita Hayworth musical Music in My Heart; and, surprisingly, the Astaire and Crosby tracks, which are decidedly second or even third-tier in their respective discographies (Astaire has famously declared Second Chorus his all-time worst picture and, judging by this generic nomination, it's not hard to see why). "Waltzing in the Clouds," another Deanna Durbin number, is a slight step up from these, nicely performed but still not much to write home about.
From there, we have two solid numbers - the Garland/Rooney duet ("Our Love Affair") and "I'd Know You Anywhere" from the Boris Karloff/Bela Lugosi comedy (!!!) You'll Find Out. Stripped of their performers, neither of these songs is especially noteworthy. Garland and Ginny Simms (on the second track, sounding dazzling, just like Margaret Whiting) sell the songs so perfectly, though, that it's tough not to get sucked in, even if the tracks are lyrically just OK.
Ultimately, this comes down to the Pinocchio and Hit Parade of 1941 songs for me. And boy, it's a toughie. "When You Wish Upon a Star" is such a dreamy, charming piece, a perfect opener for its film. But it's still never really been one of my personal favorite Disney songs. It's iconic as hell, but also a bit on the fleeting side and it isn't as lyrically moving as say, "Part of Your World" or "Beauty and the Beast." Nonetheless, I was fully prepared that I'd crown it an easy winner here. That is, until listening to the heartrending "Who Am I," a piece gloriously - and I mean gloriously - performed by Frances Langford, in a scene that recalls Singin' in the Rain and features the lushest of orchestrations. Talk about a forgotten track, and what a shame that is.
I certainly can't fault the Academy for going with "When You Wish Upon a Star," but, when I hang my hat up in having reviewed all of these Best Original Song categories, I have no doubt "Who Am I" will stand out as one of my greatest discoveries.
The Oscar-winners ranked (thus far)...
- "Over the Rainbow," The Wizard of Oz (1939)
- "The Way You Look Tonight," Swing Time (1936)
- "When You Wish Upon a Star," Pinocchio (1940)
- "Thanks for the Memory," The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938)
- "Lullaby of Broadway," Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
- "Sweet Leilani," Waikiki Wedding (1937)
- "The Continental," The Gay Divorcee (1934)