Tag Archives: Fred Astaire

Americana: Academy Awards

The Oscar statuette is 13.5 inches tall and weighs 8.5 pounds. Except for some slight streamlining of its base, it remains virtually unchanged since it was first handed out in 1928. Uploaded by reviewsinhd.com.

It was the boss of MGM, Louis B. Mayer, who came up with the idea. Like Andy Hardy – “Let’s put on a show!” He got the other studios to buy in on the idea, and the first Academy Awards presentation debuted on May 16, 1929.

That first ceremony drew 270 people for a brunch that costs $5 per ticket. Now, valet parking would be insulted with a $5 tip. The Oscar statuette made its appearance at that first show, and save for some minor streamlining of the base, is essentially the same today as back then. Wings won the first Best Picture; but then, if you know movie trivia, you probably knew that.

The Oscar show has been hosted by a wide variety of actors and comedians over the decades. The recent ones you know, but some of the earlier hosts included Will Rogers (1934), Frank Capra (1936), Fred Astaire (1951), and Jerry Lewis (1957).

Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker. Uploaded by lightstalker.org.

Because of the success of the Oscars, each entertainment medium gives out awards to pat itself on the back. The Tonys, the Grammys, the Emmys, various Critics awards. Shoot, everyone who puts out a 25-cent picture magazine in Nashville has some kind of Country Music award. But only one is a title that comes as close to British peerage as we have in this country. “May I introduce John Smith, John Doe, and Academy Award Winner Jane Doe.”

Song: “The Way You Look Tonight”

 

Fred Astaire sang this beautiful song to Ginger Rogers in the 1936 movie Swing Time. It won the Oscar that year for Best Original Song. Uploaded by dreamydays.com.

Every so often I have to pay homage to the Great American Songbook, and one of my favorites is “The Way You Look Tonight.” I have it on my iTunes by both Michael BublĂ© and Tony Bennett, though it was originally sung by Fred Astaire in the movie Swing Time, in which it won the Oscar for Best Original Song in 1936.

Uploaded by collectibles-articles.com.

Jerome Kern wrote the music, and Dorothy Fields followed up with the lyrics. She said, “The first time Jerry played that melody for me I went out and started to cry. The release absolutely killed me. I couldn’t stop, it was so beautiful.” Which reminds me, it’s time to feature Jerome Kern on this list…

Obviously, the song was released long before the Top 40 era, but it has managed to make the charts. The Lettermen recorded it as their first hit, and it went to number 13 in 1961.

“Someday, when I’m awfully low, when the world is cold, I will feel aglow just thinking of you – and the way you look tonight.” Does it get any more romantic than that?

 

Film: White Christmas

With wonderful songs by Irving Berlin, it was the first movie ever filmed in VistaVision. Wow. Uploaded by timeout.com.


Viewing a special movie on Christmas Eve is a tradition in many families. Some watch It’s a Wonderful Life (Great American Things, December 1, 2009), or A Christmas Story (Great American Things, December 9, 2009). At our house, though, it’s the 1954 classic, White Christmas.

Bing Crosby (Great American Things, December 19, 2009) and Danny Kaye are two Army buddies who form a hugely successful musical act. They then fall in love with a sister act (Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen) and scheme how to save their commanding general’s Vermont inn.

Uploaded by theparamount.net.


As you might expect, though, it’s the music that makes the movie. Great, memorable songs by Irving Berlin, including “Sisters,” “It’s Cold Outside,” “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep,” and of course, “White Christmas.”

Some interesting facts about the movie:
* Danny Kaye’s part was originally written for Fred Astaire, then Donald O’Connor, then rewritten for Kaye.
* The film’s recording rights were with Decca, but Rosemary Clooney was contracted to Columbia. As a result there were two “White Christmas” albums. Peggy Lee sang Clooney’s parts on the Decca version. On the Columbia version, Clooney sang “Sisters” with her real-life sister, Betty.
* “White Christmas” did not first appear in this movie. In fact, this was the third movie to include the song.
* It was the top-grossing film of 1954.