WON: "Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing," Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing
SHOULD'VE WON: "Something's Gotta Give," Daddy Long Legs
Most folks don't realize it (even I, a huge fan of the song, didn't discover this until rather recently) but "Unchained Melody," that timeless Righteous Brothers classic that's been put to memorable use for decades across film (like in Ghost) and television (like on The Wonder Years), actually originated as an Oscar-nominated song in 1955. It's briefly featured in the most unlikely of films, a Warner Bros. prison melodrama aptly titled Unchained, where it's performed quite soulfully, albeit fleetingly by Al Hibbler.
"Unchained Melody" is a prime case of how critical the production of a record can be to its success - as produced by Phil Spector in 1965 for the Righteous Brothers, with his incomparable Wall of Sound method of instrumental layering, it's a sweeping, enchanting piece of music, one that filled wedding ballrooms and school gymnasiums on prom night for decades to come. Bobby Hatfield's gorgeous vocal on the track doesn't hurt, either.
As showcased in Unchained, however, it just doesn't pack the same punch. Hibbler's vocal is nice, but not quite as powerful as Hatfield's, and the production is sparse, if almost non-existent, so we pay more attention to Hy Zaret's lyrics, only to discover it really is that Spector production that's made "Unchained Melody" such an irresistible classic. With that said, in this particular Spector-free, Hibbler-performed form, I just can't support it for the win, even if I consider the Spector version among my all-time favorites.
Now, as for the rest of this category...it's actually among the more all-around solid line-ups I've encountered thus far. There really isn't a rotten or even just somewhat underwhelming apple in the bunch.
Frank Sinatra's "(Love Is) The Tender Trap," from The Tender Trap, opposite Debbie Reynolds, is a real charmer and underrated tune from his catalogue. I also like Doris Day's "I'll Never Stop Loving You" from Love Me or Leave Me, even though I'm not too keen on the film itself, which marked something of a minor comeback for Day's leading man, James Cagney. The winning song, "Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing," is actually probably the weakest nominee of the five, but it still has some nice instrumentals and kind of works if you're in the mood for agreeable '50s romantic cheese (it was also put to nice use in the opening scene of Grease). Too bad the film it's in is completely tainted by the woefully miscast Jennifer Jones.
It's a tough call but my favorite of the five is ultimately "Something's Gotta Give," from one of Fred Astaire's later efforts, Daddy Long Legs, which paired the 55-year-old Astaire opposite a 24-year-old Leslie Caron. The tune itself is a lot of fun, plenty listenable without a visual, but it's made all the more fantastic by the wonderful choreography of the sequence it's featured in. Astaire looks light on his feet as ever.
The Oscar-winners ranked (thus far)...
- "Over the Rainbow," The Wizard of Oz (1939)
- "The Way You Look Tonight," Swing Time (1936)
- "Mona Lisa," Captain Carey, U.S.A. (1950)
- "You'll Never Know," Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943)
- "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe," The Harvey Girls (1946)
- "Baby, It's Cold Outside," Neptune's Daughter (1949)
- "High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, On My Darlin')," High Noon (1952)
- "Secret Love," Calamity Jane (1953)
- "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)
- "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)
- "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening," Here Comes the Groom (1951)
- "Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing," Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955)
- "Three Coins in the Fountain," Three Coins in the Fountain (1954)
- "Swinging on a Star," Going My Way (1944)
- "Sweet Leilani," Waikiki Wedding (1937)
- "The Continental," The Gay Divorcee (1934)
- "Buttons and Bows," The Paleface (1948)