1941 - Best Original Song
The nominees were...
"Out of the Silence," All-American Co-Ed
"Blues in the Night," Blues in the Night
"Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B," Buck Privates
"Baby Mine," Dumbo
"The Last Time I Saw Paris," Lady Be Good
"Dolores," Las Vegas Nights
"Be Honest with Me," Ridin' on a Rainbow
"Chattanooga Choo Choo," Sun Valley Serenade
"Since I Kissed My Baby Goodbye," You'll Never Get Rich
WON: "The Last Time I Saw Paris," Lady Be Good
SHOULD'VE WON: "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B," Buck Privates
1941, the year when How Green Is My Valley famously (and, in my humble opinion, deservedly) defeated Citizen Kane for the Best Picture prize, isn't the most spectacular year in Best Original Song, I'm afraid.
Five of the nine nominated tracks fail to leave much of an impression at all. For 1940, I rather shockingly opted to give the Frances Langford-performed "Who Am I" my support over "When You Wish Upon a Star." Langford is back in '41, this time with "Out of the Silence" from the supremely obscure, '80s-teen-sex-comedy-sounding All-American Co-Ed. But while Langford's vocal is just as glorious on this track, the song completely lacks the lyrical strength of Jule Styne's "Who Am I." Two more tracks, "Blues in the Night" and "Since I Kissed My Baby Goodbye," are soulfully performed, by William Gillespie and the Four Tunes respectively, but short and fleeting. "Be Honest with Me" is a mildly charming little ditty from Gene Autry but again, at a minute and a half, it comes and goes without really leaving a dent. "Dolores" is like microwaved Johnny Mathis.
The winning song, "The Last Time I Saw Paris," composed by Jerome Kern and written by Oscar Hammerstein II, is the track that famously inspired the Academy to alter its rules in Best Original Song and only allow songs specifically written for their motion picture to be eligible for consideration - Kern, who didn't bother to attend this year's ceremony, on account of not believing he'd win, basically protested the victory, as the song wasn't written for Lady Be Good or performer Ann Sothern specifically. The thing is, despite Sothern's fine vocal, "Paris" really isn't one of Hammerstein's better works, at least in my humble opinion. Given its release in the WWII era, it's understandable how and why it prevailed, but I don't think it has the same weight looking back on it today.
For me, the three best nominees here are quite clearly "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," "Baby Mine" and "Chattanooga Choo Choo."
The Dumbo and Sun Valley Serenade tunes are both unforgettable because of the ways they're incorporated in the respective pictures. The "Baby Mine" scene is downright devastating, almost certainly the most heartbreaking thing ever portrayed in a Disney picture. And "Chattanooga Choo Choo," performed by the irresistible Dorothy Dandridge, is showcased in a dance number that's an absolute ball to watch. The thing is, though, these are songs that don't play nearly as well in strictly audio form - you've got to have the visual to boot, or else the effect just isn't there. Frankly, I'd probably skip "Baby Mine" in an audio compilation of Disney songs, because the music itself isn't all that compelling - it just happens to be featured in such a beautiful scene.
This isn't the case with "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," a joyful, timeless number, performed masterfully here by the Andrews Sisters and covered time and time again over the half century and more to follow, most notably by Bette Midler. You can't help but sing along, even if the tune is technically a little on the slight side.
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)
- "The Last Time I Saw Paris," Lady Be Good (1941)
- "Sweet Leilani," Waikiki Wedding (1937)
- "The Continental," The Gay Divorcee (1934)