Top 10 Favorite Oscar Winning Songs from the Golden Age

The 83rd annual Academy Awards ceremony is just around the corner, and although I haven’t paid much attention to the Oscars for probably the last decade or so, I recently started looking into their early history, especially the Best Original Song category.

The Academy Award for Best Original Song, which was first given out in the seventh year of the Academy’s history, is given to the songwriter and composer of the winning song. The original performers are only included if they also had a hand in writing the music or the lyrics. The song must be written specifically for the movie in which it is featured, a rule that was established after the 1941 awards.

My Top 10 Favorite Best Original Song Winners

I thought it would be fun to listen to each of the winners from 1934-1960 and compile a list of my top 10 favorite Oscar winning songs from the Golden Age of Hollywood. Following are the first five on that list with the remaining five to come on Oscar Sunday:

10. The Continental (1934) – Featured in the movie The Gay Divorcee, music by Con Conrad, lyrics by Herb Magidson. Originally performed in the movie by Ginger Rogers, this was the first song to win the Academy Award for Best Original Song.

This is a charming song that Ginger Rogers sings to Fred Astaire as part of a lengthy but wonderful dance number. It won’t be the last of this pairing you’ll find on my list.

9. Three Coins in the Fountain (1954) – From the movie Three Coins in the Fountain, music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Sammy Cahn. Originally performed in the movie by Frank Sinatra during the opening credits as well as three of the stars in the movie.

This song would still be on my list just because I enjoy the Frank Sinatra version, but its inclusion probably has more to do with a scene from my favorite comedy, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. Do you know the one I’m talking about where Steve Martin’s character tries to get a bus full of less than enthusiastic travelers to sing along with him to this tune? Never fails to bring a smile to my face. :-)

8. Love is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955) – Featured in the movie Love is a Many-Splendored Thing, music by Sammy Fain, lyrics by Paul Francis Webster.

I’m not sure who actually sang this in the movie, but the best selling recorded version sung by the group The Four Aces is a great example of the 50’s style of music I love so much.

7. The Way You Look Tonight (1936) – Featured in the movie Swing Time, music by Jerome Kern, lyrics by Dorothy Fields. In a reverse of The Continental, this song was originally performed by Fred Astaire with him singing it to Ginger Rogers.

It was recorded by and became a hit for Frank Sinatra in 1964, which makes it somewhat ironic that the original was nominated in the same year as another future Frank Sinatra classic, I’ve Got You Under My Skin.

6. Baby It’s Cold Outside (1949) – Featured in the movie Neptune’s Daughter, music and lyrics by Frank Loesser. Originally performed as duets by both Esther Williams/Red Skelton and Ricardo Montalban/Betty Garrett.

The song went on to be recorded by many different duos over the years, and at least four different versions have charted on U.S. singles charts. I have to admit I was not all that familiar with the song until I heard Zooey Deschanel sing it as a (sort of duet) with Will Ferrell’s character Buddy the Elf in the 2003 movie Elf. :-)

Which Song Will Be Number One?

Tune in tomorrow to see my top 5  including a song by one of America’s favorite all around entertainers, a Disney tune, and one of the most beloved holiday classics of all time.

What is your favorite Academy Award winner for Best Original Song?

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3 Responses
  1. [...] a pair of posts listing my top 10 favorite Oscar winning songs from the Golden Age of Hollywood (Part I and Part II), which I did the week of the 83rd annual Academy Awards ceremony in February, a pair [...]

  2. John says:

    As Summer approaches I am thinking of cold rather than hot now. Looking for something to make me feel cooler. So when I came across the the song “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” on your blog I had to share this with you about the song.

    I wonder if you ever caught the 1991 Christmas comedy, All I Want For Christmas with Lauren Bacall? This film shows Miss Bacall on the piano singing the song with a young Thora Birch. It has been years since I have seen the film but thought you might like to see it since it features this song.

  3. John says:

    The Way You Look Tonight is such a great song. Sinatra sings it so well and pretty fast with that cool Nelson Riddle arrangement. If you ever get a chance listen to Nat King Cole’s version. It is a much slower song here but equally effective. I can’t make up my mind what version I like best. What great singers, Cole and Sinatra! Just don’t see this today.

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