Today’s episode of Fresh Air is all about the history of songs in Hollywood, and the producers invited those who follow the series on Twitter to vote for their favorite movie song. My snap response was to nominate “The Shadow of Your Smile,” but the more I thought about it, the less sure I was that I could pick a single song, or even five, to represent the richness of the field. So I thought a little bit more, and came up with this list of my fifteen favorite songs that were written for use in Hollywood films:
• “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (Blane-Martin, from Meet Me in St. Louis)
• “How About You?” (Lane-Freed, from Babes on Broadway)
• “I’m Old Fashioned” (Kern-Mercer, from You Were Never Lovelier)
• “Let’s Face the Music and Dance” (Berlin, from Follow the Fleet)
• “The Man That Got Away” (Arlen-Gershwin, from A Star Is Born)
• “Moon River” (Mancini-Mercer, from Breakfast at Tiffany’s)
• “One for My Baby” (Arlen-Mercer, from The Sky’s the Limit)
• “The Shadow of Your Smile” (Mandel-Webster, from The Sandpiper)
• “Something’s Gotta Give” (Mercer, from Daddy Long Legs)
• “Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year” (Loesser, from Christmas Holiday)
• “Swinging on a Star” (Van Heusen-Burke, from Going My Way)
• “That’s Entertainment” (Schwartz-Dietz, from The Band Wagon)
• “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” (Gershwin-Gershwin, from Shall We Dance)
• “The Way You Look Tonight” (Kern-Fields, from Swing Time)
• “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To” (Porter, from Something to Shout About)
Two things struck me about this list. The first is that all of the songs on it are “classic” golden-age pop. I love rock, but the only post-classic song written specifically for a film that came to mind as a possible candidate was Aimee Mann’s “Save Me” (from Magnolia).
The second is that seven of these songs were written for Fred Astaire to sing on screen, a statistic that speaks for itself.
And which one is the best of the lot? If you tied me down and tickled me, I might say “Moon River” to get you to stop. But tickle me again tomorrow and you could get a different answer….
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Fred Astaire performs “One for My Baby” in The Sky’s the Limit: