It’s been a little over a month since this year’s Academy Awards, and how many people have already forgotten that Mychael Danna won the Oscar for LIFE OF PI? Our collective memories seem to be “like sands through the hourglass” as we go through the days of our lives, especially when it comes to awards shows. Perhaps that is how it should be. For all my year-round Oscar prognosticating, even I have trouble sometimes remembering recent winners. And yet occasionally a single awards day in Oscars history reveals a veritable cornucopia of film music history as well.
Back in the old days, the Oscars used to be handed out much later than they are today. Sure, it was always strange to be focusing on the prior year’s films once spring had sprung. But for awards show whores like myself, it simply extended the awards season orgasm that culminated in the Oscar telecast.
Over at Film Score Monthly, there is a running calendar that lists seminal moments in film music history, everything from births and deaths to the start of recording sessions and, thankfully, Oscar trivia. A quick glance at today’s date—March 29—reveals an especially rich calendar entry.
1951 Franz Waxman wins his first of two back-to-back Best Original Score Oscars for the classic SUNSET BOULEVARD.
1977 Jerry Goldsmith wins his only Oscar for THE OMEN. If you’ve read this blog for any amount of time or know me even slightly, I don’t need to tell you how important this day was in terms of my film music education.
1978 John Williams wins his second Oscar, and his first for Best Original Score, for STAR WARS, another seminal work in my budding love of film music
1982 Vangelis wins Best Original Score for that year’s Best Picture winner, CHARIOTS OF FIRE…on his birthday! (born 1943)
1989 Dave Grusin took home Best Original Score gold for the charming THE MILAGRO BEANFIELD WAR, my favorite of the nominated scores that year and one I didn’t think stood a chance in hell of winning.
1993 Alan Menken won his fifth and sixth Oscars for ALADDIN, including Best Original Score and Best Song (“A Whole New World”).
1902 Two-time nominee William Walton—HENRY V (1946) and HAMLET (1948)—was born on this day. Walton was also shortlisted for another Shakespeare score, RICHARD III (1956).
1936 Three-time Oscar nominee Richard Rodney Bennett—FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD (1967), NICHOLAS AND ALEXANDRA (1971) and MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (1974)—was born.
2009 And, sadly, three-time Oscar winner Maurice Jarre—LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (1962), DOCTOR ZHIVAGO (1965) and A PASSAGE TO INDIA (1984)—passed away on this day.
What does all of this mean in the great scheme of things? Nothing. However, when I was first discovering film music, I used the lists of Academy Award nominees and winners as my ready-made syllabus in Film Music 101. Over the years, I’ve certainly learned that an Oscar does not necessarily equate “quality”. But budding—and longtime—film music fans could do a lot worse than taking this particular page out of Oscar’s varied calendar and getting to know these marvelous scores and composers. Yes, sometimes Oscar does get it right…
*Special thanks to Scott Bettencourt for his daily research on the FSM site.