When the cer­e­mony turns to song, the Os­car num­bers hit highs and lows

The Washington Post Sunday - - 85TH ACADEMY AWARDS - by Su­san King

ALOS AN­GE­LES t last year’s Academy Awards, the two Os­car-nom­i­nated songs got short shrift — they weren’t even per­formed on the tele­cast. There will be no such ex­clu­sion on the 85th Os­car cer­e­mony on Sun­day be­cause the show’s pro­duc­ers, Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, are bring­ing mu­sic back to the Academy Awards in a big way. It’s not sur­pris­ing: Zadan and Meron were the pro­duc­ers of 2002’s “Chicago,” the last mu­si­cal to win the best-pic­ture Os­car.

To carry out their mis­sion, Zadan and Meron have en­listed some big names to sing on the tele­cast, such as Bar­bra Streisand and James Bond chanteuse Shirley Bassey (“Goldfin­ger,” “Di­a­monds Are For­ever”). No­rah Jones will sing the Os­car-nom­i­nated “Ev­ery­body Needs a Best Friend,” co-writ­ten by Os­car host Seth Mac­Far­land, from “Ted,” and Adele will per­form “Sky­fall,” which she co-wrote, from the most re­cent James Bond block­buster.

The pro­duc­ers are em­brac­ing an Os­car tra­di­tion that dates to March 7, 1946, when best-song nom­i­nees were per­formed at the cer­e­mony for the first time. Here’s a look back at the good, the bad and the down­right ugly in the Academy Awards’ mu­si­cal past.

The academy sings: The academy gath­ered some of the hottest tal­ent of the era for the first cer­e­mony to fea­ture per­for­mances of the 14 Os­car-nom­i­nated tunes: Frank Si­na­tra, Dick Haymes, Di­nah Shore and Kathryn Grayson. Bing Crosby was sched­uled to per­form but bowed out. Haymes sang the Os­car-win­ning “It Might as Well Be Spring,” and Si­na­tra crooned such nom­i­nees as “Any­where.” Among the songs Shore per­formed was “Love Let­ters,” and Grayson graced the stage with “Linda,” “More and More” and “End­lessly.”

A cou­ple of swells: The year 1957 was a ban­ner one for friends and fre­quent costars Burt Lan­caster and Kirk Dou­glas. The two starred in the block­buster West­ern “Gun­fight at the O.K. Cor­ral.” Lan­caster gave one of his best per­for­mances in “Sweet Smell of Success,” and Dou­glas soared in Stan­ley Kubrick’s “Paths of Glory.” But Os­car passed them by.

So they got their comedic re­venge at the 30th Academy Awards on March 26, 1958. Be­fore Cary Grant an­nounced the leadac­tor win­ner, Lan­caster and Dou­glas demon­strated their comedic tal­ents with the tune “It’s Great Not to Be Nom­i­nated,” penned by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen. The song poked fun at the nom­i­nees — “Charles Laughton, he’s great / Yeah if you’re vot­ing for weight.” Lan­caster and Dou­glas stole the show; in fact, the num­ber proved to be such a hit, the duo per­formed it the fol­low­ing year.

Hayes makes his­tory: In a mem­o­rable moment, Sammy Davis Jr. in­tro­duced Isaac Hayes’s per­for­mance of his Os­car-win­ning hit tune, “Theme From ‘Shaft,’” at the 44th Academy Awards on April 10, 1972. Hayes brought soul and funk to the Os­cars and be­came the first African Amer­i­can to win the best-song Os­car. He wore a shirt made en­tirely made of chains and was ac­com­pa­nied by dancers and flashy lights.

Os­car win­ners croon: Some very dra­matic Os­car-win­ning per­form­ers have let down their guard to croon a tune on the Academy Awards. At the 41st cer­e­mony on April 14, 1969, at the Dorothy Chan­dler Pavil­ion, Academy Award-win­ning In­grid Bergman and Sid­ney Poitier joined Broad­way star Paula Kelly and the UCLA March­ing Band in a per­for­mance of Os­carnom­i­nated “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.”

Mother and daugh­ter: Gene Kelly, who made his film de­but in 1942’s “For Me and My Gal” op­po­site Judy Gar­land, in­tro­duced the leg­endary singer at the 37th Os­car cer­e­mony on April 5, 1965, at the Dorothy Chan­dler Pavil­ion. Gar­land per­formed a med­ley of Cole Porter tunes. At the 38th Os­car show on April 18, 1966, at the Chan­dler, Gar­land’s then-19-year-old daugh­ter Liza Min­nelli sang the nom­i­nated “What’s New, Pussy­cat?”

The bad and the ugly: No trip down Os­car mu­si­cal me­mory lane is com­plete with­out men­tion­ing the ul­ti­mate crash and burn num­ber: the Snow White-Rob Lowe “Proud Mary” fi­asco at the 61st awards on March 29, 1989. It’s worth not­ing that the show’s pro­ducer, Al­lan Carr (“Grease,” “Can’t Stop the Mu­sic”), had pro­claimed be­fore the show that the cer­e­mony would be “the an­tithe­sis of tacky.”

Run­ners-up in this cat­e­gory: Telly Savalas, Pat Morita and Dom DeLuise strug­gled to stay in tune for the end­less “Fugue for Tin­horns” at the 59th Os­cars on March 31, 1987.

And at the 58th cer­e­mony March 24, 1986, lav­ish­ness turned clunky in a “Fly­ing Down to Rio” num­ber with Teri Garr.

Sur­pris­ingly, that cer­e­mony was pro­duced by one of the great movie mu­si­cal direc­tors, Stan­ley Do­nen (“Sin­gin’ in the Rain,” “Funny Face”).


BIG MOMENT: In 1972, Isaac Hayes won the Os­car for “Theme From Shaft.”


OS­CAR DE­BUT: Bri­tish singer Shirley Bassey is ex­pected to per­form songs from such clas­sic Bond films as “Goldfin­ger.”


BEAR NE­CES­SI­TIES: On Sun­day, No­rah Jones will sing the Os­car-nom­i­nated “Ev­ery­body Needs a Best Friend” from “Ted.”


BOND GIRL: Adele will per­form the new­est James Bond theme, “Sky­fall.”

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