WON AND SHOULD'VE WON: "High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, On My Darlin')," High Noon
Here's a question that needs to be asked - what on earth was the Academy smoking in 1952? This was the year the dreadful The Greatest Show on Earth defeated the legendary likes of High Noon (the winner in this category...which I'll get to in just a bit) and The Quiet Man. It was also the year overbaked garbage like Ivanhoe and John Huston's tedious Moulin Rogue racked up loads of nominations. Anthony Quinn and Gloria Grahame? Not exactly among the all-time finest Supporting Actor and Actress winners.
But for my money, the clearest, most egregious display of nonsense by the Academy in '52 is their near-ignoring of the superb Singin' in the Rain, only bestowing upon this classic two nominations - one for Jean Hagen's hilarious supporting turn, and the other for Lennie Hayton's scoring (which was somehow defeated by With a Song in My Heart, the campy-as-hell Susan Hayward vehicle).
Now, to be fair, when it comes to Singin' in the Rain and Best Original Song in '52, only two of the film's tunes were original and hence eligible for consideration here - the delightful "Make 'Em Laugh," performed by Donald O'Connor, and the O'Connor-Gene Kelly number "Moses Supposes," which, while probably among the weaker tunes from the film, still would've been plenty worthy of a nomination. I would argue "Make 'Em Laugh" should've been in contention for the win.
The good news is, while Singin' in the Rain certainly deserved a presence in this category (and many more), the Academy's line-up for Best Original Song in '52 isn't half-bad.
I'm admittedly not the biggest fan of westerns or the music typically in them, but Tex Ritter's title track from High Noon is pretty darn pitch-perfect; a moody, well-written number, superbly fitting for the film it's in. Playing over the opening credits, it sets the scene so beautifully for the Gary Cooper picture. I'm also quite taken with the Bob Hope-Jane Russell duet "Am I in Love," from Son of Paleface, the sequel to The Paleface, which prevailed in this category in 1948 but ultimately left me rather bored. This one, however, is a real charmer.
I would argue "Zing a Little Zong" is more or less on-par with "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening," the Bing Crosby-Jane Wyman number that triumphed in 1951 - it's enjoyable-enough but not terribly memorable. "Because You're Mine" is also admirably performed, by the great tenor Mario Lanza, but the song itself doesn't stand out in any real way. Finally, "Thumbelina" is fun and bouncy, performed with a lot of pep by Danny Kaye, though like a lot of these minute-and-a-half nominated numbers from this time, it comes off like a TV jingle (though not a bad one, in this case) and is awfully fleeting.
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)
- "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)
- "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)