Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Thin Year for Oscar Music Inspires Thoughts of Past Contenders

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Thin Year for Oscar Music Inspires Thoughts of Past Contenders

Article excerpt

"Not a bad tune," Fred Astaire says in "The Gay Divorcee" (1934), listening to the orchestra and watching the crowd beneath his balcony. "What is it?"

Ginger Rogers is there to supply the answer: "It's the newest thing over here. It's called 'The Continental.'" And then they dance to it, while R.K.O.'s arrangers and orchestrators reprise its key themes over and over, until "The Continental" (music by Con Conrad, lyrics by Herb Magidson) was practically assured of being the first- ever "best song" recipient at the Academy Awards. This is what came to pass. Beautiful music. Dangerous rhythm.

This year, the academy nominated a mere pair of tunes in the original song category. One is the Sergio Mendes samba "Real In Rio," the highlight of the animated feature "Rio." The other, the mock-soul-searcher "Man or Muppet," comes from "The Muppets," which means we have come to the part of this sentence in which we remind people that back in 1979, "The Rainbow Connection" (from "The Muppet Movie") lost out to "It Goes Like It Goes" from "Norma Rae."

Peculiarly, this year's two nominated original songs reportedly will not be performed during the Feb. 26 Oscars telecast. This is strange. At a time in pop culture when song and dance cannot be escaped, it is strange for nominated songs to go unsung on the stage of the Kodak Theatre.

Some years the academy gets the best-song award right, even if the song's not precisely daisy fresh. In the old days, a so-called "trunk" song might end up in a movie and become a hit. Take the 1949 winner, "Baby, It's Cold Outside," by the great Frank Loesser. Political incorrectness aside -- many have taken issue with the alleged date-rape undertones of Loesser's duet, though I don't hear it quite that way, and the lyric "Say, what's in this drink?" didn't mean the same thing then -- the song has become a classic, a standard. It was introduced to a wide audience by way of the MGM film "Neptune's Daughter." But Loesser and his first wife had been singing "Baby, It's Cold Outside" for years, at parties. …

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