1944 - Best Original Song
The nominees were...
"Rio de Janeiro," Brazil
"Long Ago (and Far Away)," Cover Girl
"I'll Walk Alone," Follow the Boys
"Swinging on a Star," Going My Way
"I Couldn't Sleep a Wink Last Night," Higher and Higher
"Silver Shadows and Golden Dreams," Lady, Let's Dance*
"The Trolley Song," Meet Me in St. Louis
"Remember Me to Carolina," Minstrel Men
"Too Much in Love," Song of the Open Road
"I'm Making Believe," Sweet and Lowdown
"Now I Know," Up in Arms
*Note: I could not track down a clip of "Silver Shadows and Golden Dreams."
WINNER: "Swinging on a Star," Going My Way
SHOULD'VE WON: "Long Ago (and Far Away)," Cover Girl
In spite of my awarding of him for "Love in Bloom" in the very first line-up in 1934 (which, let's face it, was because the category was supremely anemic), this look back at Best Original Song seems to be reaffirming my general lack of love for Bing Crosby.
I do like a number, if not most of Crosby's nominated work throughout these '30s and '40s line-ups, but there's just not a whole lot of enthusiasm there for me. It's material I find myself more admiring than being head-over-heels for. And when it comes to his winning "Swinging on a Star" from Going My Way (for which he won what should've been Charles Boyer's Best Actor Oscar), I can't help but just feel stumped. I think it's underwhelming, borderline-grating tune. For what it's worth, most do seem to like it - it ranked a decent #37 on AFI's "100 Years...100 Songs" list. So perhaps I'm just missing something.
The winning song aside, I like '44 Best Original Song for the most part. There are few forgettable entries, though they aren't bad like, say, "Saludos Amigos" - the Dinah Shore-performed "I'll Walk Alone" and "Now I Know," for instance, are admirably performed, digestible tunes, but come and leave without leaving a notable dent. Same with the Jackie Moran-performed "Too Much in Love" - listenable and nothing more. "I'm Making Believe" was later a great standard for others, but barely leaves a blip in just over a minute of Sweet and Lowdown. As for "Remember Me to Carolina," it's a bit tough - well, honestly, almost impossible - to sit through Benny Fields' blackface performance. I have not seen Minstrel Man and the clip of this song doesn't exactly inspire me to seek it out. But I also can't deny Fields has an awfully rich vocal.
The other four nominees lift this category considerably.
Tito Guizar's vocal performance of "Rio de Janeiro" is a real stunner - not sure the song itself is much to write home about, but his delivery is memorable for sure and it's the kind of find that will inspire me to seek out other work of his'. Likewise, I love-love-love Judy Garland on "The Trolley Song" - she sells it and turns it into an iconic movie moment. But I can't imagine anyone else being able to so successfully pull this fluff (and kind of repetitive fluff at that) off.
I actually most love the remaining two nominees. Higher and Higher marked Frank Sinatra's film debut and "I Couldn't Sleep a Wink Last Night" finds Ol' Blue Eyes in atypically and refreshingly vulnerable form. It's a sweet, tender tune on its own terms and his convincing delivery makes it all the more impressive.
But ultimately, it's Gene Kelly and Rita Hayworth/Martha Mears (dubbing) on "Long Ago (and Far Away)" that most sweeps me off my feet. The song is simply pure Technicolor romance and a real charmer. It also quite reminds me of "Long Before I Knew You," from Bells Are Ringing (my all-time favorite musical), which certainly doesn't hurt. I could listen to this on repeat for hours.
The Oscar-winners ranked (thus far)...
- "Over the Rainbow," The Wizard of Oz (1939)
- "The Way You Look Tonight," Swing Time (1936)
- "You'll Never Know," Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943)
- "White Christmas," Holiday Inn (1942)
- "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)
- "Swinging on a Star," Going My Way (1944)
- "Sweet Leilani," Waikiki Wedding (1937)
- "The Continental," The Gay Divorcee (1934)