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Analysis: AFI song list shows diversity

By PAT NASON, UPI Hollywood Reporter   |   June 23, 2004 at 6:49 PM
LOS ANGELES, June 23 (UPI) -- The American Film Institute's newest list of 100 great examples of the best in U.S. cinema illustrates the American culture's wide diversity of musical styles and taste -- ranging from show tunes to rap, with stops along the way at swing, country and rock 'n' roll.

"Over the Rainbow" -- the timeless ballad that set up the story for "The Wizard of Oz" -- was named Song of the Century, coming in at No. 1 in the poll conducted by the AFI. It was one of two songs from the 1939 MGM movie classic to make the list, announced on the CBS-TV special, "AFI's 100 Years ... 100 Songs: America's Greatest Music in the Movies."

"As Time Goes By" from "Casablanca" finished second in the poll of 1,500 jurors -- mostly made up of filmmakers, critics and historians.

The title song from "Singin' in the Rain" was No. 3. The 1952 MGM musical placed three songs on the final list -- including "Make 'Em Laugh" (No. 49) and "Good Morning" (No. 72).

The Henry Mancini-Johnny Mercer collaboration "Moon River," from the 1961 romantic comedy "Breakfast at Tiffany's," was No. 4. The team's "Days of Wine and Roses," from the 1963 drama of the same name, was No. 39.

Legendary U.S. composer Irving Berlin's "White Christmas," from the 1942 musical "Holiday Inn," was No. 5. It was one of three songs on the list sung by Bing Crosby. He also had "Swinging on a Star," from the 1944 drama "Going My Way," and his classic duet with Bob Hope on "(We're off on) The Road to Morocco" from the 1942 comedy "Road to Morocco." Hope also showed up on the list with his Oscar-winning signature tune "Thanks for the Memory" from "The Big Broadcast of 1938."

The rest of the Top 10 were: "Mrs. Robinson" from "The Graduate"; "When You Wish Upon a Star" from "Pinocchio"; the title song from "The Way We Were"; "Stayin' Alive" from "Saturday Night Fever"; and the title song from "The Sound of Music."

Among individual performers, Judy Garland held the most places on the AFI list. Besides "Over the Rainbow," she also had "The Man that Got Away ("A Star Is Born," 1954); "The Trolley Song" ("Meet Me in St. Louis," 1944); "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" ("Meet Me in St. Louis") and "Get Happy" ("Summer Stock," 1950).

Barbra Streisand had four songs on the list: "The Way We Were," "Evergreen" from "A Star Is Born" and two songs from the 1968 musical "Funny Girl" -- "People" and "Don't Rain on My Parade."

Perhaps not surprisingly, the list is dominated by romantic songs, with titles such as "Cheek to Cheek" ("Top Hat," 1935); "I Could Have Danced All Night" ("My Fair Lady," 1964); "Some Day My Prince Will Come" ("Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," 1937); "Somewhere" ("West Side Story," 1961); "Unchained Melody," ("Ghost," 1990); "Some Enchanted Evening" ("South Pacific," 1958); and "The Way You Look Tonight" ("Swing Time," 1936).

But there was still plenty of room for disco ("Stayin' Alive"), rap ("Lose Yourself") and rock 'n' roll ("Rock Around the Clock," "Jailhouse Rock" and "Old Time Rock and Roll").

There were even some examples of what some might call novelty songs -- including "Springtime for Hitler" from Mel Brooks' 1968 farce "The Producers," and "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" from Disney's 1964 musical fantasy "Mary Poppins."

Disney animated features accounted for five of the 100 selections: "When You Wish Upon a Star"; "Some Day My Prince Will Come" ("Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," 1938); "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah," from 1947's "Song of the South"; the title song from the 1991 Best Picture Oscar nominee "Beauty and the Beast"; and "Hakuna Matata," from "The Lion King."

There is quite a bit of overlap between the AFI list and the list of Oscar-winning or nominated songs. Twenty-eight of the AFI picks won the Oscar, and another nine were nominated.

The most-represented decade on the AFI list was the 1960s, with 19 finalists. The '50s and the '70s had 17 songs each. The '40s and the '80s had 14 apiece. The '30s had 11, while the '90s had five.

AFI officials happily concede that their annual rankings of the greatest in U.S. cinema are designed to provoke discussion -- perhaps argument -- and stoke the public's appetite for more movies. All of the 100 songs on the new lists are, arguably, respectable choices -- but some songs were left off that arguably should have found a place on the list.

Some of these are: "Lullaby of Broadway"; "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B"; "You Light Up My Life"; and Frank Sinatra's "High Hopes."

Come to think of it, Sinatra did not make the cut. Neither did the Beatles -- although their music might have been ineligible. AFI rules preclude songs in movies that were not "American made."

But it is curious that not a single tune from "Woodstock" -- not even the title song -- made the AFI list.

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(Please send comments to nationaldesk@upi.com.)

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