Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Academy Award For Best Original Song: 1935

The 8th Academy Awards, for 1935, took place in 1936. This was the first year the statuettes were called "Oscars" and also the first year for Best Dance Direction Award, of interest for reasons that maybecome clear. More details at the Wikipedia link.

So what were the nominees for Best Original Song? I'm glad you asked.

"Cheek to Cheek" from Top Hat – Music and Lyric by Irving Berlin
"Lovely to Look At" from Roberta – Music by Jerome Kern; Lyric by Dorothy Fields and Jimmy McHugh
"Lullaby of Broadway" from Gold Diggers of 1935 – Music by Harry Warren; Lyric by Al Dubin

So again we have two songs from Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers films, and this time a solo from another big song-and-dance musical. What were they like, what did the Academy choose and how wrong were they?

Cheek to Cheek
So here's the thing; this is a song about dancing and comes with a dance routine (or two in fact). If we ignore the dance we're left with a pleasant enough Irving Berlin romantic song. But by ignoring the dance we lose the whole point of it, that it's about the moment of dancing with someone you love. Anyway, on it's own it's inoffensive and moderately amusing lyrically. Both Astaire and Rogers sing well, but their voices are not first rate, which is just as well as then they would be aggravating over-achievers.

Lovely to Look at
Oh, that's a lovely dance, her dress is great and he really does wear the tails well... what we're judging Best Original Song not Best Dance Direction or Best Art Direction[1]? Well then. This is another dance tune that trips along pleasantly. It is neither exciting nor depressing.

Lullaby of Broadway
Well this became something of a classic, an anthem to New York, or Manhattan, or just Broadway or something. And it's a bit of an old-fashioned show tune but it's a full-bodied show tune with confidence in itself. It has no problem just coming in, declaring that Broadway is great and clearing off. (The singer is Wini Scott). Probably the only thing that would improve it is if about a hundred tap dancers came on and danced to it.

Who won.

Lullaby of Broadway won, and I can't argue with that. Fred and Ginger and Top Hat in particular may have had a greater longevity in the public consciousness, but Gold Diggers of 1935 and Lullaby of Broadway are not forgotten. Is this an example of good taste by the Academy or was this the effect of an Oscar Winner helping make it more than a historical curiosity? Difficult to untangle at this historical distance. Perhaps worth noting that Best Dance Direction went to neither Busby Berkley for Gold Diggers of 1935 or to Astaire's collaborator Hermes Pan, but to Dave Gould for the (to me) forgotten Broadway Melody of 1936 AND Folies Bergère de Paris. Big hits at the time but now obscure.

Next Time

Six songs? Well, can't argue with a larger field although it may take me a little longer to get around to it.

Youtube Playlist

[1] Best Costume Design was not introduced until 1948


1 comment:

Linda said...

I love things from the 30's and 40's. Thank you so much for sharing.