Each year at Bing's birthday (May 2nd? May 3rd? Oy!) I blog about my favourite entertainer of the 20th century. Today let's look at one of Bing Crosby's phenomenal show business records. During the course of his movie career, Bing introduced twelve original songs that were nominated for the Best Song by the Motion Picture Academy and four of these were awarded statues.
The first of these songs was the title tune from 1936's Pennies From Heaven. Bing's character is this movie saw himself as a modern day troubadour, footloose and fancy free, until he got mixed up with a kid (the marvelous Edith Fellows), an old man (Donald Meek) and an uptight social worker (Madge Evans). Prominent in the cast was Bing's good friend Louis Armstrong. The nomination for Arthur Johnston and Johnny Burke's song must have been especially gratifying because Bing was one of the producers of the movie released through Columbia Studios. Truly a case of being nominated is honour enough as the winner for Best Song was Kern and Fields The Way You Look Tonight from Swingtime.
1937's Waikiki Wedding, with its breezy good humour and sumptuous cinematography by Karl "Sunrise" Struss was a top box office draw the year it was released and featured the lovely Blue Hawaii by Ralph Robin and Leo Rainger. Blue Hawaii was overlooked by the Academy in favour of Harry Owens lullaby Sweet Leilani. Bing had heard the song by bandleader/composer Owens while on vacation in Hawaii in 1936. The song's inclusion in the film was at Bing's insistence and he set up a trust fund for the royalties to go to Harry's daughter Leilani for whom the song was written. Sweet Leilani won over competition that included the Gershwin's They Can't Take That Away from Me from Shall We Dance and Fain & Brown's That Old Feeling from Vogues of 1938.
I highly recommend 1940s Rhythm on the River to those who have yet to to see it. Basil Rathbone is an absolute hoot as a famous composer who has lost his stuff. He "collaborates" with a lyricist played by Mary Martin and a composer played by Bing. Eventually the two dupes discover the truth and set out on their own. Throw in Oscar Levant for the wisecracks and Wingy Manone for the trumpet and you have a winner.
Rhythm on the River features my all-time favourite Bing Crosby title track from a movie, but that peppy number didn't find favour with the Academy. It was Monaco and Burke's destined-to-become-a-standard Only Forever that was nominated. In another case of losing to a classic, the winner was Leigh Harline and Ned Washington's When You Wish Upon a Star from Pinocchio.
Recognize the scene pictured above? Jim Hardy and "I'm Linda Mason" introduce Irving Berlin's White Christmas to the world in 1942s Holiday Inn. The song is such a part of our lives that I often forget that it also received the honour of an Oscar.
There were a few goodies among the nominees that year: Styne & Kahn's It Seems to Me I've Heard That Song Before from Youth on Parade, Warren & Gordon's I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo from Orchestra Wives, Churchill & Morey's Love is a Song from Bambi, Lane & Freed's How About You? from Babes on Broadway, Kern & Mercer's Dearly Beloved from You Were Never Lovelier and Lucuono & Gannon's title theme from Always in My Heart.
1944s Going My Way was an Oscar juggernaut winning Best Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actor, Story, Screenplay and Best Song for Swinging on a Star performed by Bing as Father O'Malley with the Mitchell Boys Choir. The peppy favourite won over such perennial ballads as McHugh & Adamson's I Couldn't Sleep a Wink Last Night introduced by Frank Sinatra in Higher and Higher, and Styne & Cahn's I'll Walk Alone from Follow the Boys.
The 1944 release Here Comes the WAVES starring Bing as a Sinatra-type balladeer and Betty Hutton as twins was nominated in the Best Song category for the Oscars of 1946. Perhaps this was due to the late December 1944 release of the movie. The song was the Arlen & Mercer rouser Accentuate the Positive. Among the competition was Aren't You Glad You're You from 1945's popular Going My Way sequel The Bells of St. Mary's. Both songs could have stayed home that night because the award went to Rodgers & Hammerstein's lovely It Might As Well Be Spring from State Fair.
The final winner in Bing's cannon of Oscar songs was written by Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer. In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening rightfully became a standard and a lot of it may have to do with its staging in Here Comes the Groom. Director Frank Capra decided to forgo using playback and asked his stars to sing the song while cavorting live on set. Were Bing and Jane Wyman game? You bet they were. The number is only one of the highlights in an immensely enjoyable movie.
1952's Just for You reunited Bing and Jane in the story of a widowed Broadway producer coping, not very well, with his children and finding romance with a musical comedy star. Oscar nominated Zing a Little Zong by Harry Warren and Leo Robin tries to capture some of the joy of the previous year's In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening and comes pretty darn close. Worthy of the nomination, the song would lose to one of the most famous movie songs of all-time, Dimitri Tiomkin and Ned Washington's theme to High Noon.
1954's Curtiz directed Christmas perennial White Christmas gave us some favourite familiar Irving Berlin songs and a nomination for a new one as Rosemary Clooney and Bing sang Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep. The Academy voters awarded Styne and Cahn's popular theme to Three Coins in a Fountain, overlooking not only Irving, but Arlen & Gershwin's The Man That Got Away from A Star is Born.
The 1957 Academy Awards saw another duet nominated for "Best Original Song" when Bing and Grace Kelly introduced Cole Porter's lovely True Love in High Society, the entertaining musical remake of The Philadelphia Story. Livingston and Evans were the winners with Que Sera Sera from The Man Who Knew Too Much.
The 1960 Blake Edwards comedy High Time saw Bing as a retired millionaire taking the time out to get a college degree and experience a life he had missed as a younger working man. He falls for a lovely French teacher played by Nicole Maurey and sings the Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn Oscar nominated The Second Time Around. Other tunes in the Best Song category were The Green Leaves of Summer from The Alamo, Faraway Part of Town from Pepe and the title song from The Facts of Life. The winner was the very popular title track, Never on Sunday.
I feel pretty safe in saying that Bing's record of introducing 12 Oscar nominated and 4 winning songs will never be equaled.