WON: "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah," Song of the South
SHOULD'VE WON: "Pass That Peace Pipe," Good News
Much like the rest of the 1947 Oscars - the year when the dry and heavy-handed Gentleman's Agreement topped the brilliant likes of Crossfire and Great Expectations, and Ronald Colman and Loretta Young topped superior competition for Best Actor and Actress - Best Original Song this year is a bit of an eyebrow-raiser.
That is, of course, because the prize in '47 was taken home by Song of the South, the Disney picture deemed so racist, insensitive and just downright wrong that it has never seen the light of day on DVD or even VHS domestically. I must admit, I have viewed the film previously online and it's a mixed bag to say the least - the animation is pretty terrific and James Baskett is a real delight as the iconic Uncle Remus, but the children in the picture are insufferably obnoxious and the film's happy-go-lucky depiction of the deep south during Reconstruction is stunningly reprehensible (and, on another note, what a shame to see the great Hattie McDaniel slumming it here).
With that said, "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" is a breezy, enjoyable number...when it's Baskett singing. Once it turns over to the kiddos, it's a headache-inducer and proof the song needs the right vocalist to be pulled off.
Beyond the winner, "A Gal in Calico" is a pleasant swing number but not terribly memorable in any way. "You Do" is nicely staged in the Betty Grable musical Mother Wore Tights, and Dan Dailey gives a nice, energetic performance, but I don't think it's a tune that stands so well on its own terms, beyond the choreography. And Betty Hutton is warm and moving as she sings "I Wish I Didn't Love You So" in The Perils of Pauline, but the song is just too short to leave much of an impact.
My favorite of this bunch would have to be "Pass That Peace Pipe" from the woefully underrated MGM musical Good News. The tune's performer, Joan McCracken, isn't the most naturally gifted vocalist, but her performance is so committed, enthusiastic and fun that technical vocal prowess here doesn't much matter. She's a delight, the song is a lot of fun and the choreography in its scene is quite terrific.
I'm not as offended by "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah"'s Oscar victory as I am by Song of the South itself, but "Pass That Peace Pipe" (and perhaps one or two of the other nominees) is clearly superior.
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)
- "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe," The Harvey Girls (1946)
- "Lullaby of Broadway," Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
- "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah," Song of the South (1947)
- "It Might As Well Be Spring," State Fair (1945)
- "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)