Saturday, February 27, 2016

Oscar Snubs: The Beatles' Songs from A Hard Day's Night (1964)

 (This Post is Part of the "Oscar Snubs Blogathon" hosted by Silver Scenes and The Midnite Drive-In)

When most classic film buffs discuss movies that have been snubbed at the Oscars, they tend to focus on only a few categories: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and so on. While I have to admit that over the years these categories can be ripe for debate, at least since the Sixties, it has always been the "Best Original Song" category that has provided contention for me. Year after year my favourite original song from a film either loses to another song (often my least favourite song nominated) or it is not even nominated at all.

This was true even when I was only about a year old. At the 37th Academy Awards ceremony held on April 5 1965, there were two composers whose songs are still popular today whose names were not read when they announced the nominees for "Best Original Song". Quite simply, John Lennon and Paul McCartney were not nominated for any  of the songs from A Hard Day's Night (1964). A Hard Day's Night did receive two nominations ("Best Original Screenplay" and "Best Adaptation or Treatment Score"), but received nothing for what were among its most obvious assets: its songs.

At least for Beatles fans today the fact that The Beatles were not nominated for "Best Original Song" must seem incredulous. Indeed, the songs that John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote for the film remain among The Beatles' best remembered: "A Hard Day's Night", "I Should Have Known Better", "If I Fell", "Can't Buy Me Love", and "And I Love Her". What is more, both "A Hard Day's Night" and "Can't Buy Me Love" would be hits. Both "A Hard Day's Night" and "Can't Buy Me Love" hit no. 1 in the United States, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere.  In fact, with regards to the Billboard Hot 100, "Can't Buy Me Love" set the record for the biggest jump to number one at the time (it went from number 27).  Nearly all of the songs from A Hard Day's Night are still played frequently today. Indeed, the title track remains one of the songs with which The Beatles are most identified. I think a very good argument can be made that The Beatles were snubbed with regards to the "Best Original Song" category.

Of course, in the Academy's defence it can be said that 1964 was a fairly good year for original songs from movies. After all, Mary Poppins was also released that year. In fact, the winner of "Best Original Song" was from Mary Poppins: "Chim Chim Cher-ee". It was also the year that Robin and the 7 Hoods was released. From that film came another nominee for "Best Original Song", "My Kind of Town". While I don't think anyone could make a good argument that neither of these songs should have been nominated (they are both great songs), I do have to question some of the other songs that were. Quite simply, they are not as memorable as The Beatles' songs from A Hard Day's Night, any of the songs from Mary Poppins, or "My Kind of Town". Don't get me wrong. "Dear Heart", "Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte", and "Where Love Has Gone" are all fine songs, but they aren't exactly memorable. I have to confess I have trouble remembering what they sound like, and one rarely hears them today.

Indeed, I think one could make an argument that not only were The Beatles snubbed for "Best Original Song", but to a degree so were the Sherman Brothers. More than one song from Mary Poppins deserved to be nominated in the category. Indeed, I don't even think "Chim Chim Cher-ee" is the best song from the movie! I would have probably nominated  "A Spoonful of Sugar"  or "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" as well as or even instead of "Chim Chim Cher-ee".

Of course, the question is if The Beatles had been nominated for their songs from A Hard Day's Night, which songs would have been nominated. Given the Academy's tastes in songs over the year, I suspect it would have been one of the love songs. I rather think then that they would have nominated "And I Love Her" or perhaps "If I Fell". Given the Academy's preference for love songs, I suspect that they would not have even considered the song from A Hard Day's Night that deserved the most to be nominated: "A Hard Day's Night" itself. As I said before, the song was a number one record and it remains one of The Beatles' best remembered songs ever.

That brings me to the reason that none of the songs from A Hard Day's Night were probably nominated for "Best Original Song". Quite simply, even in 1964 rock music was a fairly new music genre and one that was identified primarily with teenagers. It was not particularly respected in many quarters and would not be for several more years. It is notable that prior to 1964 not even one rock song was ever nominated for "Best Original Song", not  even Elvis Presley's classic "Jailhouse Rock". Given how conservative the  Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has always been, it was not very likely that they would nominate a song by any rock artist at the time, no matter how deserving it might be, not even The Beatles.

Here I have to point out that the fact that The Beatles were British probably did not play a role in none of their songs being nominated. The 37th Academy Awards was the first time ever that not one of the winners in the "Acting" categories were from the United States. Best Actor Rex Harrison (My Fair Lady), Best Actress Julie Andrews (Mary Poppins), and Best Supporting Actor Peter Ustinov (Topkapi) were all British, while Best Supporting Actress Lila Kedrova (Zorba the Greek) was Russian/French. The way the 37th Academy Awards went, the fact that The Beatles were British probably would have worked in their favour! Sadly, as a rock group they really didn't have a chance.

If I had my way, in the end the "Best Original Song" nominees would have been very different. "Chim Chim Cher-ee" and "My Kind of Town" would still be nominated, but the other three songs would have been "A Hard Day's Night", "A Spoonful of Sugar", and "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious". As to the winner, I don't think anyone will be surprised when I say it would be "A Hard Day's Night". Of course, in the end it perhaps doesn't matter. Just as 42nd Street is remembered today while only classic film buffs know of 1933 Best Picture winner Cavalcade, The Beatles' songs from A Hard Day's Night are remembered today while most of the nominees for "Best Original Song" at the 37th Academy Awards have been forgotten.


Quiggy said...

I have a link posted on my blogathon roll call. Thanks for entering our blogathon. Great post.

angelman66 said...

Very insightful article that actually reveals that the Academy Awards have NEVER been hip, up-to-date or in-step with popular culture. OF COURSE the fresh new music of the Beatles and the cultural phenomenon that followed should have been acknowledged by the Academy, but big surprise that it wasn't.
And in the late 1960s, they were still giving Oscars to overblown musicals like Oliver in a year that featured films like The Killing of Sister George, Bullitt and 2001:A Space Odyssey.
OscarsSoWhite is nothing new, it is absolutely systemic...the Establishment has always controlled the Academy.
Thanks for your great post!

Silver Screenings said...

I have never wondered about A Hard Day's Night not being nominated for Best Original Song but, now that you mention it, it's a rather glaring omission from that year's nominations. From the reasons you provided (they were British and rock & roll wasn't normally considered), I can see why the Academy leaned a certain way.

Thanks for sharing this with us. You've given me some things to think about, especially when it comes time to awarding the song winner at tonight's Oscar ceremony.

FlickChick said...

Oh boy, do I agree with you. Great post - and history has certainly proven you correct. I saw this film last year for the first time and decades and was so bowled over by how GOOD it was. When I first aw it I was just madly in love with the Fab Four. But, a little distance reveals just how talented they were and just how fine this film is (and how much it still hurts to think that John and George have left us).

Steve Bailey said...

I've been Beatles-biased for decades, but still, you've made your point well. Every song in that movie has stood the test of time, far better than most of the nominees of that year.