Choosing Up Sides On Movie Songs
by Pat Nason
United Press International, November 24, 2003
LOS ANGELES -- America soon will get another glimpse of itself as
reflected on the silver screen, when a blue-ribbon panel selected by
the American Film Institute ranks the 100 greatest songs ever sung in
The AFI has distributed a ballot with 400 nominated songs to a jury
of 1,500 -- mostly made up of filmmakers, critics and historians. The
project is the seventh in a series of AFI rankings of the most
outstanding examples of American film, including the greatest movies,
stars, comedians, thrills and passions.
Earlier this year, the institute's annual "AFI's 100 Years" TV
special -- hosted by Arnold Schwarzenegger -- paid tribute to the 100
greatest heroes and villains. When "AFI's 100 Years... 100 Songs:
America's Greatest Music in the Movies" is presented in a three-hour
TV special on CBS next June, the song that comes out at No. 1 on the
list will go down as the "AFI Song of the Century."
The AFI lists are intended not only to honor the best that Hollywood
has had to offer over the past century, but also to provoke debate
among film fans and -- not incidentally -- stoke interest among
consumers in revisiting classic American movies. AFI Director and CEO
Jean Picker Firstenberg has said that retailers report spikes in
sales and rentals of titles featured in annual TV specials.
A "greatest songs" special would seem almost naturally to lead to a
compilation CD. Bob Gazzale, director of AFI productions, told United
Press International that has been discussed, but nothing has been
At the same time, Gazzale said there has been "extraordinary
interest" in the June TV special from music divisions at the studios.
"It's not only about DVDs and videos," he said. "It's also about
Gazzale said the debate over the song list promises to be more lively
"This is the one people are really passionate about," he said. "It's
our biggest topic ever. Our historians estimated there are over
100,000 that could be eligible."
Given the almost purely emotional response that music evokes in
listeners, there is sure to be a widely diverse range of favorites in
the field. Titles that might come immediately to mind for most movie
fans include "Over the Rainbow," "As Time Goes By," "Moon River,"
"Singin' in the Rain" and "The Way We Were."
Some movie songs that might seem to be strong contenders are actually
ineligible for purely technical reasons. Tunes with no lyrics, like
the "Colonel Bogey March" from "The Bridge on the River Kwai," are
not eligible because they were not sung. And "Laura," composer David
Raskin's classic theme from the Oscar-nominated 1944 drama of the
same name, is ineligible because the lyric was not used in the movie.
"Johnny Mercer wrote the lyrics four months after the movie opened,"
On the other hand, a song need not have been written especially for a
movie -- as is the case in the competition for the Academy Award for
Best Song. For example, Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock and Roll" is
eligible for the AFI prize even though it was not written
specifically for the Tom Cruise hit "Risky Business."
Some songs are being excluded from consideration because the movies
they were used in do not qualify under the AFI's general criteria as
American movies. Burt Bacharach and Hal David are a quintessential
American songwriting team, but their Oscar-nominated song "Alfie" is
not eligible for the AFI list because "Alfie" was a British film.
Judges are being asked to evaluate songs on the basis of their impact
on getting a story told in a movie, as well as their overall cultural
impact. The AFI urged judges to select songs that "have captured the
nation's heart, echoed beyond the walls of a movie theater, and
ultimately, stand in our collective memory for the film itself."
Bing Crosby is the most represented performer on the list of 400
nominated songs, with 12. Fred Astaire is second with 11, followed by
Judy Garland with nine, and Gene Kelly and Barbra Streisand with
Marni Nixon also has eight songs on the list, even though she did not
sing any of them onscreen. Nixon handled the singing for actresses
including Deborah Kerr, Audrey Hepburn and Natalie Wood in movie
Among composers, Richard Rodgers has the most nominated songs with
18. Irving Berlin has 11, followed by Harold Arlen and Harry Warren
with 10 each.
The lyricist with the most nominations is Oscar Hammerstein, with 18.
Mercer and Sammy Cahn had 12 each.
FRANCIS ALBERT SINATRA
12.12.1915 - 14.5.1998
THERE WILL NEVER BE ANOTHER YOU
My Kind Of People!