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the otto files

where the classics never go out of style

Today we’ve got two Oscar Nominated songs that were both introduced on film by Jane Wyman and Bing Crosby, a most delightful screen couple indeed. The songs were nominated in back-to-back years and were written by two different pairs of legendary songwriters.

The first song was not only a 1951 Oscar nominee but the winner, as well, in the category of Best Original Song. Written by Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer, “In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening” was used in the Frank Capra film, “Here Comes the Groom,” although it had been written years before for a Betty Hutton film that never got made. It was, amazingly, Carmichael’s only Oscar. Mr. Mercer wound up with four. In addition to Crosby and Wyman, the cast included Franchot Tone, Robert Keith (Brian Keith’s dad) and Alexis Smith, as well as some wonderful character actors like H. B. Warner (A Capra favorite), Ian Wolfe, Connie Gilchrist and Walter Catlett. There were also cameos by Crosby cronies Phil Harris, Louis Armstrong, Cass Daley and Dorothy Lamour.

Frank Capra would direct only two more feature films in his career after “Here Comes the Groom” – “A Hole in the Head,” (1959) and “Pocketful of Miracles,” (1961). “A Hole in the Head” also featured the Best Song for 1959 which was “High Hopes” written by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen. Two years later they came up with another Oscar nominee with the title song to “Pocketful of Miracles” but that one lost out to the Johnny Mercer/Henry Mancini classic, “Moon River.”

Here’s the delightful duo of Jane Wyman and Bing Crosby.

The Crosby – Wyman chemistry was so wonderful that Paramount figured if it worked once, it will work again. The movie itself is nowhere near as enjoyable as the Capra feature but this number is an absolute delight. That said, “Zing A Little Zong” did not win the Oscar or become the standard that “In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening” did.

The movie from which “Zing A Little Zong” sprung was “Just For You.” It was a little more saccharine than “Here Comes the Groom” and lacked the pacing and humor of the earlier film. Elliot Nugent directed “Just For You” and it featured Ethel Barrymore and a fourteen-year-old Natalie Wood. The most insufferable character of the film was given to Robert Arthur as Crosby’s neglected and jealous teenage son Jerry.

Besides “Zing A Little Zong,” the only other real bright spot of the film for me is when Crosby does a number with the inimitable Ben Lessy called the “10:10 from Ten-Ten-Tennessee.” Unfortunately, they don’t get to finish it but the two of them make a great comic duo.

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