Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Top Ten Oscar Travesties of the Golden Age: #10

The Golden Age of Hollywood was also the Golden Age of the Academy Awards, right? Ha! The sickening sneer you have on your face is matched by the one I have perpetually smeared on my own grubby mug as I scratch out my own personal Top Ten Oscar Travesties. However, before the series commences, I'd better lay down the ground rules.

Only the Golden Age: For the purposes of this series, let’s just say it’s 1934 to, oh, 1950-something. That way I don’t have to delve into the unpleasantness of Glenda Jackson’s two Oscar wins or the fact that Jerry Goldsmith has only one measly Oscar out of his multitude of nominations.

Snubs: While this qualifies as a travesty in itself, this countdown won’t have me moaning and wailing like an elderly, old-world-widow over Myrna Loy’s zero nominations. More importantly, the list will not discuss “should’ve been nominated” performers, directors, writers, and technical personnel. The travesties will only include the actual nominees of a given year.

Just One Person’s View: Remember, it’s just how I see it. I’m sure everyone out there has their own strongly-held opinions about Oscar’s greatest travesties, and believe me; I can’t wait to read what you consider the best/worst omissions and inclusions.

Now let’s begin the countdown…

The #10 Oscar Travesty of the Golden Age:

Sweet Leilani wins the 1937 Best Song Oscar over They Can't Take That Away From Me.

Apparently, "they" could AND did...take that away from them, that is.

Poor George Gershwin. Not only did the man die at the tragically early age of 38 in July 1937, but to add further insult to this most grievous event, one of his finest compositions, from the Astaire-Rogers musical Shall We Dance, They Can’t Take That Away from Me lost the Best Song Oscar to Harry Owens’ Sweet Leilani. We should all be so lucky as to have a Hawaiian vacation and have a grateful Bing Crosby go to bat for you against a tough Hollywood producer to include your ditty in a most forgettable movie. To be fair, Sweet Leilani must’ve sounded exotic to haole ears in 1937, and Bing Crosby had a huge-selling record with it, so its commercial appeal is also understandable. It still ruffles my feathers, though.

Perhaps Gershwin’s masterwork lost because of his prolonged journey into “highbrow” music. Or maybe it was due to the fact that an Astaire song—The Way You Look Tonight—deservedly won the Best Song Oscar in 1936. Politics always played a part with the Oscars, and this has been proven over the course of many decades. However, to show what a restrained, stand-up blogger I am, this will be the only music-related travesty on the top ten list.


  1. Sometimes, the Oscars kind of feel like a scatterbrained kindergarten teacher trying to make sure that everyone gets their cookie. No, Astaire, you can't have two cookies, it's not fair. Since we didn't give Joan Fontaine a cookie in 1940, we'll give her one in 1941. Since we've forgotten to give Bogart a cookie, let's give him one now quick before we lose the chance. And it goes on. Unfortunately, art just doesn't work that way.

    For my own personal list of music-related Oscar grievances, the continual snubbing of my beloved Bernard Herrmann hurts. Not even a nomination for Ghost and Mrs Muir, Vertigo, North by Northwest, or Psycho?

  2. Great idea. Look forward to reading the whole series
    Love the disclaimer :)

  3. C.K., you're off to a great, and surprising, start with your #10. This category began to lose its relevance in the early 60s, but until then movies were the source of many of the standards of the Great American Songbook. I often wondered why some great songs were not even nominated but then read the rules, which state that the song must have first been heard in the movie. This means that some of the great songs from the Astaire-Rogers musicals (and others) based on Broadway plays weren't eligible. Still, this is a great example. "Shall We Dance" has what is probably my favorite set of songs from any Fred and Ginger movie. For my money, they could have given all five nominations to songs from this movie! Other songs I wish had won: "Cheek to Cheek" in 1935, "Blues in the Night" in 1941, "Long Ago and Far Away" in 1944," and "The Man That Got Away" in 1954.

  4. I absolutely adore what you're doing here now -- it's a perfectly swell idea!!

    I hate all kinds of Academy Awards -- even those blogger awards. It's good for housewife tiddle-taddle tales, nothing else. So was during the 30s: Just to keep gossips going -- smalltalk.... flat entertaining-blah-blah.... I don't waste my time here on Blogspot for that kind of thin stew.

    Well, the point is: During the 30s Gershwin wasn't as popular as Kern, Berlin and Rogers/Hart. Today Gershwin is a BIG-BIG name, and every jazz-band plays Gershwin-Gershwin-Gershwin. But if I look over my CDs with original recordings of the 20s and 30s, tunes of other composers are absolutely dominating Gershwin's.

    Apropos pseudo-Hawaiian hit songs: I'm in November 1935 right now, and heard enough of that stuff -- already in the very early 30s and I think even before the 30s. I dislike that Hawaii-cliché as well, but gotta eat it, if I wanna be part of the 30s.... as Bing Crosby's kitschy Dutch Mill ear-worm two years ago, which I really hated with all my heart. LOL

    It is so, that the greatest hits mostly aren't my favorite titles, but oh well -- you live only once....in the 30s. ;)

  5. I haven't searched for any yet, but I'm sure there are several lists of Oscar blunders, but I won't bother to see what they are until this list is finished. The ones I'm including are the the travesties that have bugged me for decades; it's nice to get this out of my system!

  6. Hey Millie! Glad you like it! I've certainly exorcized some movie demons by talking about it publicly! :D

  7. I somehow accidentally stopped following your blog and last week I got all sad because I hadn't seen a post from you in a WHILE. I checked your blog and realized...IT WAS I WHO WAS AT FAULT. haha

    Crisis had been averted and I am refollowing. ;-D

    And this series is so much fun.

  8. Great call, C.K.!

    They Can't Take That Away...is really GandF's signature tune, IMO, over 'The Way You Look Tonight'... And when they 'reprised' it and danced to it in 'Barkleys', the 'full orchestra' version is just awesome...I get chills listening to it. It would have been cool to have George and Ira win one, for who was more deserving?
    I honestly have never heard Bing's tune, but he was the BIG DAWG back then, vocally, so... guess it was a popularity contest, as usual...

    As a 'side note', although Ginger singing 'The Continental' is awesome to me, there may have well been some other tunes that year that were more deserving of Best Song (Clarissa could best verify this...)...of course, it was the very first 'best song' winner, so who knows WHAT criteria they used at that point.

    Great series, C.K.! Sorry for the extended yakking...been a few weeks since I've been able to 'converse'... thanks!


  9. Huey said...
    ...(Clarissa could best verify this...)...

    I'm afraid I have to postpone this 1937 issue, just looking forward to CHRISTMAS 1935 -- in two years (which take half a year in my project) I'll have to get back to this place. LOL

    As to the Continental -- yes that one was a big hit in 1934 as a song, but not sung by Ginger. STARS FELL ON ALABAMA was a 1934 hit too, Huey -- every time I heard it that year I was thinking of you. :)

    Oh, THE WAY YOU LOOK TONIGHT is one of my favorite songs -- I love to sing it myself.

  10. ...Moonlight and Magnolia... yep that's one of my faves, and SHOULD be the state song... the current one is kinda lame, with 4 or 5 stanzas just reciting the rivers in the state... good for educational purposes, but not too inspiring or 'romantic'...
    But 'Stars Fell..' is a killer tune...I would just slap dawg LUV to hear Ginger perform it... yow, that would be awesome!

    And I am a big 'way you look' fan as well, but I typically go for the tunes that are not as 'obvious', to the masses, anyway...

    Well, I need to catch up with your 'position' in the 30s over on S&H , Clarissa! I've missed WAY too much :(

    and, thanks to C.K. for the forum! :)



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