Had so much fun doing today's all Oscar winners radio show. It turned out to be more work than I was expecting, but so worth it. Most of the prep involved getting the movies from Netflix and ripping the songs -- or in some cases, discovering that the movie version of the song sounded awful, and then choosing another version. When I didn't go with the movie version I tried to play one that was as similar as possible (ideally recorded in the same year) so it would sound similar. The only one that was completely different was "Call Me Irresponsible." It was sung by Jackie Gleason in the movie, and he's supposed to be drunk, and it makes sense within the movie, but as a song it's not something you would want to listen to on purpose. So I played Bobby Darin's version.
I did play a couple of songs that hadn't won: first, I started the show with two songs about Hollywood, "Hooray for Hollywood" and "Hollywood Party." Which I have to say, I've had "Hollywood Party" stuck in my head for days. It's a silly little song from a silly little movie, and fiendishly catchy. You can tell it's from a pre-code movie because it includes the line "Bring along your girl, go home with somebody else's; forget about your girl, she's going to do all right!"
Besides that, I also played "Blues in the Night," which didn't win and probably should have, resulting in some controversy. And under the talksets I mostly played instrumental versions of songs that were nominated & didn't win.
At the last minute, this morning I stumbled onto a CD of old movie commercials, which I had never gotten around to listening to and didn't even remember I owned. Popped it in the computer and it turns out they weren't short commercials, they were 15 minute promotional radio programs about the movies. And there was one for The Gay Divorcee, the source of the first winner, "The Continental." And it took me about 5 minutes to make a one-minute clip that I used to introduce "The Continental." It was great! It actually included the line "The Gay Divorcee is surely the gayest picture ever to grace the screen." Best of all, the show had been one minute short, I was thinking I was just going to have to pad it with a couple of extra long talksets or something. And so this fabulous little clip finished off the show perfectly. It was like the cherry on top.
The most interesting thing for me about hearing all those Oscar winning songs together, was the variable quality. It ranged from songs for the ages, songs that I believe people will still be listening to in a hundred years -- "Over the Rainbow," "It Might as Well Be Spring," -- to songs that should have been allowed to die a merciful death long ago -- "Love is a Many Splendored Thing" for example. (In truth that was the only song I played that I consider genuinely bad. Then again, I stopped at 1965 because 1966's winner was "Born Free.")
I guess it's for a few reasons: first of all, Oscar winning songs are all new, and it's hard to tell in the moment which songs are going to hold up in future years. Well, I think professional songwriters are probably better at judging that, but the entire Academy votes on Best Song. Also, the Academy has its own reasons for rewarding a song, which don't always line up with what I would consider the best song in a year. It is puzzling sometimes though, how they made the choice. For instance, the very first Best Song, "The Continental." The same movie included "Night and Day," which in my opinion is clearly the far better song, and wasn't even nominated. How did they decide which song was worthy of recognition? I have no idea.
Or another example, the year that "Love is a Many Splendored Thing" won, the nominees included "Something's Gotta Give,"Love Is the Tender Trap" and "Unchained Melody." Looking back their choice seems almost perverse. I'm sure it seemed like a good idea at the time.
I did a trivia contest during the program, which was also fun! I tried to come up with questions that went along with the flow of the show. The tricky part was that as the show went on, the songs I was playing answered the questions. I had to discard a couple of questions because I couldn't ask them all at the very beginning. Anyway I think it came together well, and though not all of them got answered, I did get winners for about half. Here are the questions:
1. We're about to hear a song from a movie, which begins with the fanfare played under the studio logo. Listen to the fanfare and name the studio.
(obviously you can't answer this one just from reading this. It was Warner Brothers, the song was "Hooray for Hollywood" from the movie Hollywood Hotel. The rest of the answers will be behind a cut.)
2. The singer who performs an Oscar-winning song in the movie doesn't share in the award, even though a memorable performance can have a lot to do with the song winning. What singer gave the most performances that resulted in a Best Original Song win?
3. At first the award was called "Best Song" and the only rule was that it appeared in a movie in the previous year. "Sweet Leilani" (which I had just played before asking this question) was a radio hit for Bing Crosby in 1935, and then they put it in a movie two years later and it won the Oscar. Now the award is called Best Original Song & the song must be written specifically for the movie. Why was the rule changed?
4. Who is the only Oscar to win an Oscar?
5. What happens to an Oscar statuette when its winner dies?
6. Last year "Jai Ho" from Slumdog Millionaire won best song. That was only the 3rd time the Best Song was not in English. What was the first?
7. For decades there was no rule, but by tradition only one song was nominated per movie. What as the first movie to get more than 1 Best Song nomination?
8. Who was the first woman to win Best Song? Either composer or lyricist.