“Holiday Inn” (Special photo)
Editor’s Note: In honor of Sunday’s Academy Awards, our resident “Old Rocker” Barry Levine takes a look back at some of his favorite Oscar-nominated songs featured in film.
During Sunday night’s Academy Awards show, it will be announced whether “Happy” from “Dependable Me 2,” “Let it Go” from “Frozen,” “The Moon Song” from “Her” or “Ordinary Love” from “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” will receive the Oscar for Best Original Song for a Movie.
The award’s criteria automatically eliminates songs from Broadway shows such as “South Pacific” “Oklahoma,” “Brigadoon,” “My Fair Lady,” “West Side Story” and “Grease” that later were performed in the film version. It also eliminates songs that have been previously published. As an example, the song “Unchained Melody,” which played a major role in the 1990 movie “Ghost,” had been in the 1955 movie “Unchained.”
Listed below are my favorite Oscar-winning songs. The award was instituted in 1934.
“The Way You Look Tonight” was a song featured in the 1936 film “Swing Time” that was originally performed by Fred Astaire and sung to Ginger Rogers. It was also a big R&B hit for The Jaguars, a multiracial group, in 1956. The song also gave The Lettermen their first hit in 1961, hitting No. 13 on the charts. Tony Bennett, Mel Torme, Perry Como, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Frank Sinatra and Andy Williams were among the stars who covered the song.
“White Christmas” was from a 1942 musical “Holiday Inn” starring Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby. Irving Berlin wrote 12 original songs for the movie including “White Christmas” which Crosby performed. The song, which has been covered by hundreds of artists, was No. 1 on the charts for 11 weeks in 1942.
“Swinging on a Star” was one of four Oscars that Bing Crosby won for performing Best Original Song in a Movie. It was from the 1944 film “Going My Way” starring Crosby and Barry Fitzgerald. It also reached No. 1 on the charts. The last time this song made the Top 40 was the 1963 version by Big Dee Irwin accompanied by Little Eva. Among those who covered the song were Burl Ives, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and Rosemary Clooney.
“Mona Lisa” was written for the 1950 film Captain Carey, U.S.A., and sung by Nat King Cole. The movie starred Alan Ladd, Wanda Hendrix and Frances Lederer. The song refers to the renaissance portrait of Mona Lisa painted by Leonardo DaVinci. It topped the Billboard charts for eight weeks in 1950. “Mona Lisa,” “The Christmas Song” and “Ramblin’ Rose” are three of Cole’s most well-known songs. Various artists from Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson covered “Mona Lisa.”
“High Noon” came from the 1952 movie by the same name and starred Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly, Thomas Mitchell and Lloyd Bridges. Country star Tex Ritter performed the song. Among those who covered the song were Roy Clark, Walter Brennan, Faron Young and Frankie Laine, whose version reached No. 5 in 1952.
“Love is a Many Splendored Thing” came from the 1955 drama-romance movie of the same name that was set in Hong Kong during the late 1940s. The sentimental “Love is a Many-Splendored Thing” was one of the first songs written for a movie to become No. 1 on the charts during the same year during the modern rock ‘n’ roll era. The Four Aces rode the song to the top for six weeks. It was later recorded by Jerry Vale, Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra.
“Whatever will be, will be (Que Sera, Sera)” came from the 1956 Alfred Hitchcock movie, “The Man Who Knew Too Much.” Doris Day, who co-starred in the film with Jimmy Stewart, performed the song, which rose to No. 2 on the charts.
“All the Way” was performed by Frank Sinatra in the 1957 film “The Joker is Wild.” This was one of Sinatra’s most well-known and successful songs and it climbed to No. 2 on the charts. Billie Holliday covered the song in March 1959, four months before her death. Besides Sinatra, the movie also starred Mitzi Gaynor, Jeanne Crain and Eddie Albert.
“High Hopes” was another of Frank Sinatra’s Oscar winners and was introduced in the 1959 film “A Hole in the Head.” Although not as successful as some of Sinatra’s other hits – it reached No. 30 on the charts – it is one song that always is associated with Ol’ Blue Eyes. The song was also popularized by Philadelphia Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas who sang “High Hopes” after the Phils captured the 1993 National League Championship and after the 2008 World Series. Following Kalas’ death in 2009 and after each Phillies’ home win, the fans sing the song while the lyrics and a video of Kalas are seen on the scoreboard.
“Moon River” is among the most popular Oscar-winning songs. The Henry Mancini Orchestra performed it during the 1961 movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” starring Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard. Ironically, both Mancini’s instrumental version and Jerry Butler’s vocal both topped out at No. 11 on the charts. Although not released as a single, Andy Williams’ version was part of his album that went gold. The song has been covered by more than 100 artists.
“Days of Wine and Roses,” another Henry Mancini song, won the Oscar in 1962 from the movie by the same name starring Jack Lemmon, Lee Remick and Charles Bickford. Mancini’s version climbed to No. 33 on the charts and Andy Williams’ vocal reached No. 26. Among those who covered the song were Ella Fitzgerald and Perry Como.
“Call Me Irresponsible” came from the 1963 film “Papa’s Delicate Condition” and was performed by Jackie Gleason, who starred in the movie. Gleason’s version did not chart. Although it never made the Top 40, Jack Jones had the most popular version of the song. Frank Sinatra and Andy Williams had successful covers, but on albums.
“Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” was a No. 1 hit for B.J. Thomas and came from the 1969 film “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” starring Robert Redford and Paul Newman. Albany’s Ray Stevens reportedly was offered the opportunity to record the song for the movie, but rejected it. Stevens, instead, recorded Kris Kristofferson’s song “Sunday Morning Coming Down.” Bob Dylan also had the chance to do the song, but declined.
“The Morning After” was Maureen McGovern’s first hit and it played a key role in the 1972 movie “The Poseidon Adventure.” Carol Lynley did the song in the film immediately before the ship collided with a massive iceberg. McGovern’s version was No. 1 on the charts for two weeks. Starring in the film were Lynley, Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Red Buttons, Roddy McDowall, Stella Stevens, Shelley Winters and Jack Albertson.
“The Way We Were” came from the 1973 movie by the same name and starred Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand, who performed the song. Streisand’s version reached No. 1 on the charts. Among those who covered the song or a version of it were Gladys Knight & the Pips, Andy Williams, Doris Day and Barry Manilow.
“You Light up My Life” was a ballad originally recorded by Kasey Cisyk for the 1977 film by the same name. The tune was lip synched in the film by its lead, Didi Conn. Debby Boone, Pat Boone’s daughter, recorded the single, which became an enormous success, topping the charts for a record-setting 10 consecutive weeks and became the most successful single of the 1970s. This was Debby Boone’s only Top 40 hit.
“Last Dance” was performed by disco queen Donna Summer in the 1978 movie “Thanks God It’s Friday.” Summer had a role in the film as an aspiring singer who brought an instrumental track of “Last Dance” to a disco in hopes the disc jockey will play the track and allow her to sing it. After refusing through most of the film, the DJ finally acquiesced and Summer’s performance caused a sensation. “Last Dance” eventually reached No. 3 on the charts.
“I Just Called to Say I Love You” came from the 1984 film “The Woman in Red.” Stevie Wonder wrote the soundtrack for the movie and performed this song which became the eighth of his 10 No. 1 hits. It remained on top for six weeks. The movie starred Gene Wilder, Charles Grodin and Kelly LeBrock.
“Say You, Say Me” was written and performed by Lionel Richie in the 1985 film “White Nights,” which starred Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines. This was the fifth and last of Richie’s No. 1 hits and it stayed at the top slot for four weeks.
“The Time of My Life” was performed by Bill Medley of the Righteous Brothers and Jennifer Warnes for the 1987 film “Dirty Dancing” which starred Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Gray. As with many Oscar-winning songs, ”The Time of My Life” rose to No. 1 on the charts.
“My Heart Will Go On” was the primary love song from the blockbuster 1997 move “Titanic.” Celine Dion recorded the song that became the fourth of her five No. 1 hits. It sold more than 15 million copies worldwide. Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslett starred in the movie.
Barry Levine writes entertainment stories for The Albany Herald. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.