Monday, February 29, 2016

Academy Award For Best Original Song: 1934

Following the mixed reaction to last night's winner of Best Original Song I wondered how well the Academy does with this category which, although obviously part of their remit, is not at the core of their expertise. Clearly there's only one way to find out and that's start at the beginning.

Note: I'm just diving in, so will make mistakes. Also I'm only going to consider those nominated because anything else is too much like hard work. I'm effectively like one of the lazier busier members of the Academy who don't nominate and just votes on the final shortlist.

1934 - 7th Academy Awards

Musicals took off as soon as talkies did. The Jazz Singer, the first feature-length talkie, had six songs in it. The next year (1929) Wikipedia records almost sixty musicals.

However Best Original Song and Best Original Score were first awarded in 1934 (as was Best Editing). The wikipedia article for the 1934 Oscars is here.

Three songs were nominated. They were:

"Carioca" from Flying Down to Rio – Music by Vincent Youmans; Lyric by Edward Eliscu and Gus Kahn
"Love in Bloom" from She Loves Me Not – Music by Ralph Rainger; Lyric by Leo Robin
"The Continental" from The Gay Divorcee – Music by Con Conrad; Lyric by Herb Magidson

So two songs from Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers films at the start of their dance partnership and one of Bing Crosby dueting with Kitty Carlisle. Let's have a listen!

Now this is a Latin-American flavoured dance tune for a big song and dance number. In theory we should ignore the visuals (Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers first on-screen dance. Although they were not given top billing for the film it did lead to them being the stars of a film called The Gay Divorcee which I may have more to say about) so let's just say I liked this in a slightly unimpressed way. It has a little excitement and rhythm to it which lift it out of it's slightly blandly over-happy rut.

Love In Bloom
This... this is not my thing. This duet is long, slow and dull. Bing and Kitty put on a kind of old-fashioned, over-mannered voice that I'm not a fan of. The interruption and comedy is pretty good.

The Continental

There is a classic dance routine that goes with the tune and at this distance I'm not really able to disentangle the song from the dance which is superb. It is a (ballroom) dance tune, giving it a bit of pace, the lyrics are okay and it's pleasant enough.

The Winner

The winner was The Continental. I didn't like Love in Bloom and not knowing a lot about music in general and film music in particular for 1933 so can only state that from the choices I find this satisfactory. I can't help thinking that it was not the song itself which swayed the Academy but instead this:
Anyway next time songs from 1934. Will it be song and dance again or two people sitting at a piano crooning? Find out when I get around to it!

Youtube Playlist