Monday, July 17, 2023

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1948: Original Song

In 1956, The Red Balloon made history as the first short film to win an Academy Award in a category other than the short film categories. A little less than a decade before that, however, "Wet Blanket Policy" became the first short to be nominated outside the shorts. 

The Woody Woodpecker cartoon runs a little over six minutes and was not even among the five up for Best Short Subject - Cartoon, a category won by MGM's "The Little Orphan," starring Tom and Jerry. Instead, it found itself up for Original Song, thanks to the new composition of a title tune, "The Woody Woodpecker Song." The song was a hit and is credited with really getting out the word on the bird, with fan clubs springing up and cinemas screening matinee blocks of Woody Woodpecker cartoons.

He still didn't win the Oscar, of course. Here's the competition:

"For Every Man There's a Woman" from Casbah
music by Harold Arlen
lyrics by Leo Robin
Arlen's eighth of nine nominations; Robin's seventh of ten nominations

Sung twice, once seductively by Tony Martin as Pépé le Moko, his eyes on a beautiful heiress vacationing in Morocco with family and jewels; then again, this time mockingly, by Yvonne de Carlo as Inez, Pépé's friend with benefits til that rich girl came along. Catchy, sexy tune, really captures the mood of this movie.

"Buttons and Bows" from The Paleface
music and lyrics by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans
this team's second of seven nominations, first of three wins

The perfect Original Song nominee is not a throwaway tune, but both catchy and thematically tied to the film. Gotta admit, this one hits both, as Bob Hope's dentist sings for the safer, certain life of the city, rather than the big ol' question mark that is the rough and tough frontier. No Western hero he. Funny!

"It's Magic" from Romance on the High Seas
music by Jule Styne
lyrics by Sammy Cahn

First, I love this scene, where the song becomes the conversation and our leads really do feel the connection between them. Second, it's a lovely tune, one that does not leave you so easily. Credit that, I suppose to the fact that it plays twice in the film: the scene above and the finale. But it was the same deal with Casbah's entry, and despite how catchy that song is, I had to look it up to remember it. "It's Magic" hasn't left me since I saw the movie.

"This is the Moment" from That Lady in Ermine
music by Friedrich Hollaender
lyrics by Leo Robin
Hollaender's third of four nominations; Robin's eighth of ten nominations

"This is the moment, this is the time" - who knew Frank Wildhorn was a Betty Grable fan? The love theme from That Lady in Ermine is appropriately swoony, but it's not even the best song in the film (though I suppose the recitative of "Ooh! What I'll Do" would've made that a very unusual nominee in this category.

"The Woody Woodpecker Song" from "Wet Blanket Policy"
music and lyrics by Ramey Idriss and George Tibbles
only nomination for either

One of the year's hit songs, the iconic song with which we associate the cartoon bird made its debut here, eight years after his first short. Eligible on all fronts (definitely played in cinemas, certainly written for the film), right down to being a finger-snapping, toe-tapping earworm of a tune. 


"Buttons and Bows" from The Paleface won the Oscar, but my vote goes to:


Tomorrow, the nominees for Best Screenplay: A Foreign Affair, Johnny Belinda, The Search, The Snake Pit, and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

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