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How One Winner Changed The Academy Awards

Flickr Photo/Davidlohr Bueso (CC BY-NC-ND)

In anticipation for the Oscars this weekend, Steve Scher sat down with Swing Years host Amanda Wilde to discuss the history of the Best Original Song category.

It took a few rounds before the category got picked up. It first appeared in the 7th annual Academy Awards in 1935, but went through a major change in 1941.

Starting in 1942, a song couldn’t be eligible for the award unless it was specifically written for the movie. The main proponent for this change was an unlikely agent: the winner of the category the previous year.

Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II’s song “Last Time I Saw Paris” won for best song after it was featured in the movie “Lady Be Good.” According to Wilde, Kern objected to the victory because the song had already been an established pop hit before the film. He petitioned the Academy to have the rules changed.

Most years, the Best Original Song category has about three to five entries, but there was a notable exception in 2012 when only two songs were nominated: “Real in Rio” from the movie “Rio” and “Man or Muppet” from “The Muppets.”

Wilde said this occurred because of a convoluted point system that has evolved over the years. “After 2012’s unappealing two-song contest, the rules were tweaked again and now the number of nominations is contingent on the number of submissions,” she said.

Produced for the Web by Kara McDermott.

Year started with KUOW: 2003