I've been neglecting the musically inclined part of my audience—brother Uncle Tom, Mister Muleboy, Who Am Us Anyway, among others—and to make it up to them, I present here what I consider to be the top musical number to appear in a movie in each of the first four Oscar seasons since Hollywood first introduced sound in 1927.
By the way, I'm not choosing songs based on what would have been eligible for an Oscar, which limit the award to songs written specifically for the movie, but am instead choosing the song I think had the biggest impact both culturally and artistically regardless of when it first debuted. Thus, even though "Toot Toot Tootsie" had been a hit for Al Jolson a couple of years before, its appearance in The Jazz Singer was a pivotal moment in the history of motion pictures. As co-star May McAvoy put it "In that moment just before 'Toot, Toot, Tootsie,' a miracle occurred. Moving pictures really came alive. To see the expressions on their faces, when Joley spoke to them ... you'd have thought they were listening to the voice of God."
1927-28: Al Jolson singing "Toot Toot Tootsie" from The Jazz Singer. Unfortunately, there are no clips on YouTube that include the "Wait a minute! You ain't seen nothing yet!" introduction. Well, actually that's not true. There are a couple that include it but the Warner Music Group has made a copyright claim and the sound has been eliminated from those clips. No doubt the sound will be eliminated from this one, too, in a few days. I have The Jazz Singer on videotape down in the basement if anybody wants to come over and watch it. Or you could track it down on DVD. That's what a responsible person would do.
1928-29: "The Broadway Melody" from the Oscar-winning best picture of the same name. The Broadway Melody was the top box office movie of 1929 and also featured "You Were Meant For Me" and "Give My Regards To Broadway."
The song and dance man in top hat and tails is Charles King. Bessie Love is the one arguing with Eddie Kane (whose Francis Zanfield is an obvious nod to Florenz Ziegfeld) while personal favorite Anita Page looks on in horror. Never mind that everybody in this movie seems miscast as veteran stage performers—it's the songs I'm talking about.
1929-30: This one you've seen: Marlene Dietrich singing "Falling In Love Again" in The Blue Angel but here it is again, an encore presentation.
1930-31: And finally, Eddie Cantor performing "Makin' Whoopee" in the 1930 hit musical Whoopee!
By the way, this clip isn't colorized—the movie was actually filmed in an early two-strip color process that had been showing up occasionally in theaters since 1922's The Toll Of The Sea. Movies had been hand tinted even before that. Sounds like another essay, doesn't it. Well, some day, maybe, if you're good.
And here's a bonus: Curtis Mosby's Blue Blowers and Nina Mae McKinney performing "Swanee Shuffle" from King Vidor's 1929 musical Hallelujah!
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