1951 Best Original Song - Ah, To Be Young, Rich and Pretty

WON: "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening," Here Comes the Groom

SHOULD'VE WON: "Wonder Why," Rich, Young and Pretty

Ah, 1951. That marvelous year in cinema that produced the legendary likes of, among others, Strangers on a Train, A Streetcar Named Desire, A Place in the Sun and The Day the Earth Stood Still  (yes, I purposely overlook the overrated and exhausting An American in Paris). It's one of those years where I have a nearly impossible time deciding on certain categories, whether it's Streetcar vs. Place in the Sun in Picture or Brando vs. Clift in Lead Actor. All of the Death of a Salesman acting nominees are aces too.

Best Original Song this year is a bit tough too - less, unfortunately, due to the strength of its nominees, but rather on account of the overall ho-humness of the category.

It's not hard to see why "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening" prevailed - it is a real pleasure watching Bing Crosby and Jane Wyman sing and dance, in a nicely choreographed scene (in the otherwise forgettable Here Comes the Groom, one of Frank Capra's later and lesser efforts). This is also one of those instances, however, where if the video is stripped and the song itself is judged exclusively on its own terms, there just isn't much meat on the bone. It's pleasant fluff, which might be enough for me in a uber-weak year, but I can't quite select it as my favorite of the five.

I suppose my least favorite of the nominees here would have to be "Too Late Now," which, while admirably performed by Jane Powell in Royal Wedding, is a bit dreary and feels overlong, even at just three and half minutes length. (I have to wonder what Judy Garland, who was originally attached to the Powell role before MGM gave her the boot, would've done with this). I also have mixed feelings on "Never," a mix of dense orchestrations and a bombastic vocal (by Dennis Day), which, when combined, make for an overproduced and nearly unintelligible song.

"A Kiss to Build a Dream On" is an interesting nominee, as it's performed by several folks in The Strip - gorgeously by Louis Armstrong and forgettably by Mickey Rooney, Kay Brown and Sally Forrest. I'm of the mindset Armstrong could sell just about the most average of tunes, while someone like Rooney is dependent on great lyrics and music to prevail, so I tend to think perhaps this isn't the greatest of songs on its own terms. Also, it's a bit curious as to how this song was nominated in 1951 in the first place, given it was written in 1935 and even included (in instrumental form) in 1950's Mister 880. Odd.

Anyway, my pick for Best Original Song of 1951 is "Wonder Why," a lovely tune performed with ample charm by Vic Damone in the cute (and gorgeous-looking) MGM musical Rich, Young and Pretty. It's not the most substantial or powerful or memorable of songs but in a lukewarm field like this, it still stands out in a big way.

The Oscar-winners ranked (thus far)...

  1. "Over the Rainbow," The Wizard of Oz (1939)
  2. "The Way You Look Tonight," Swing Time (1936)
  3. "Mona Lisa," Captain Carey, U.S.A. (1950)
  4. "You'll Never Know," Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943)
  5. "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe," The Harvey Girls (1946)
  6. "Baby, It's Cold Outside," Neptune's Daughter (1949)
  7. "White Christmas," Holiday Inn (1942)
  8. "When You Wish Upon a Star," Pinocchio (1940)
  9. "Thanks for the Memory," The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938)
  10. "Lullaby of Broadway," Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
  11. "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah," Song of the South (1947)
  12. "It Might As Well Be Spring," State Fair (1945)
  13. "The Last Time I Saw Paris," Lady Be Good (1941)
  14. "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening," Here Comes the Groom (1951)
  15. "Swinging on a Star," Going My Way (1944)
  16. "Sweet Leilani," Waikiki Wedding (1937)
  17. "The Continental," The Gay Divorcee (1934)
  18. "Buttons and Bows," The Paleface (1948)