WON: "Evergreen (Love Theme from A Star Is Born)," A Star Is Born
SHOULD'VE WON: "Gonna Fly Now," Rocky
When reviewing 1954 Best Original Song a while back, I made a forceful argument the Oscar that year should have easily gone to "The Man That Got Away," the brilliant and iconic Judy Garland tune from the first remake of A Star Is Born.
The second A Star Is Born remake, the soapy and decidedly inferior 1976 version with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, managed to achieve what the Garland-James Mason vehicle couldn't by scoring the Original Song victory. The difference in quality between "The Man That Got Away" and the winning track, "Evergreen," could not, however, be more stark.
For while the Garland number was a true powerhouse, finding its performer at the very top of her game, not only in simply singing the song but also acting out the performance, the Streisand-Kristofferson record is a prime example of the sort of lukewarm adult contemporary cheese that flooded the airwaves around this time. It's not a flat-out bad song, certainly not on the level of one of the Maureen McGovern winners, but it's oh-so syrupy and undistinguished. It's not even a great showcase of Streisand's typically tour-de-force vocal chords.
So no, "Evergreen," which scored Oscars for both Streisand and composer Paul Williams, did not deserve to triumph here, certainly not against one of the all-time great movie themes, Bill Conti's "Gonna Fly Now" from the Best Picture-winning Sylvester Stallone smash Rocky.
With sparse yet perfect lyrics by Carol Connors, perhaps best-known as the lead singer of the '60s pop group The Teddy Bears (which also included a pre-Ronettes Phil Spector), "Gonna Fly Now" sends the John G. Avildsen picture soaring in its memorable training sequence. In light of the success of the Creed, I recently revisited the first Rocky and, while I don't think the film has aged terribly well in many regards, "Gonna Fly Now" still holds up beautifully. I would be awfully surprised if it wasn't runner-up here, given the Academy's admiration for the film.
As for the remaining three nominees, "Ave Santini," the theme from the Gregory Peck-Lee Remick horror flick The Omen, is reasonably eerie stuff, but not quite on the same level as The Exorcist's "Tubular Bells" or even Lalo Schifrin's underrated (and also Oscar-nominated) theme from The Amityville Horror. Henry Mancini's "Come to Me," from The Pink Panther Strikes Again, is a listenable Tom Jones tune but definitely not among the more memorable Mancini pieces. The final nominee, "A World That Never Was," from the uber-obscure Half a House, marked the final Oscar appearance by the Paul Francis Webster-Sammy Fain team, who scored prizes in this category for "Secret Love" and "Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing." Much like the Streisand and Jones tracks, it's very much emblematic of the ho-hum soft rock of this era.
In terms of snubbed songs this year, there are two biggies - Rose Royce's delightful "Car Wash," from the eponymous film, and Aretha Franklin's exquisite "Something He Can Feel," the Curtis Mayfield-composed record written for the not-so-exquisite Irene Cara vehicle Sparkle.
The Oscar-winners ranked (thus far)...
- "Over the Rainbow," The Wizard of Oz (1939)
- "The Way You Look Tonight," Swing Time (1936)
- "High Hopes," A Hole in the Head (1959)
- "Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)," The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
- "Mona Lisa," Captain Carey, U.S.A. (1950)
- "Baby, It's Cold Outside," Neptune's Daughter (1949)
- "The Windmills of Your Mind," The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
- "The Way We Were," The Way We Were (1973)
- "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head," Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
- "High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, On My Darlin')," High Noon (1952)
- "I'm Easy," Nashville (1975)
- "You'll Never Know," Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943)
- "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe," The Harvey Girls (1946)
- "Theme from Shaft," Shaft (1971)
- "Secret Love," Calamity Jane (1953)
- "White Christmas," Holiday Inn (1942)
- "Moon River," Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)
- "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)
- "Days of Wine and Roses," Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
- "For All We Know," Lovers and Other Strangers (1970)
- "All the Way," The Joker Is Wild (1957)
- "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)
- "Born Free," Born Free (1966)
- "Never on Sunday," Never on Sunday (1960)
- "Three Coins in the Fountain," Three Coins in the Fountain (1954)
- "Chim Chim Cher-ee," Mary Poppins (1964)
- "Call Me Irresponsible," Papa's Delicate Condition (1963)
- "Evergreen (Theme from A Star Is Born)," A Star Is Born (1976)
- "Swinging on a Star," Going My Way (1944)
- "Gigi," Gigi (1958)
- "The Continental," The Gay Divorcee (1934)
- "Sweet Leilani," Waikiki Wedding (1937)
- "Buttons and Bows," The Paleface (1948)
- "Talk to the Animals," Doctor Dolittle (1967)
- "The Shadow of Your Smile," The Sandpiper (1965)
- "The Morning After," The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
- "We May Never Love Like This Again," The Towering Inferno (1974)