15 Great Oscar-Winning Songs!: “Secret Love”
Gee whiz that’s a great melody. And I guess it should be since it was kind of lifted from a piano sonata by Schubert. There are other versions I like better, but we’ll get to at least one of those below. Yes, Doris Day is undeniably square by today’s standards, but she also had one of the clearest, cleanest singing voices you’ll ever hear in the style. That probably contributed to her squeaky clean image which fell out of fashion in the late 1960s. The reputation is not entirely undeserved, as the tone of her films failed to change with the times and she refused the role of Mrs Robinson in The Graduate, saying in her memoirs that she had done so on moral grounds. People began calling Day “the world’s oldest virgin” and her once boffo film career cooled relatively quickly. It has been generally forgotten what a big star she actually was.
“Secret Love” was just one of the songs she sang which ended up winning the Oscar for Best Original Song, with “Que Sera Sera” from The Man Who Knew Too Much repeating the trick three years later. She was already pretty famous based on her early career, but when she and Rock Hudson starred in Pillow Talk in 1959 her box office success went through the roof and she was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress. She quickly became the most popular female actress in the country, maintaining a series of hits over the next several years, including Please Don’t Eat the Daisies (1960), Lover Come Back (1961), That Touch of Mink (1962), Move Over, Darling (1963), Send Me No Flowers (1964), and Do Not Disturb (1965). Each of these movies was a top 20 box office hit for its year, with the first four being top 10 hits. While this suggests that some audiences were getting tired of her brand of romantic comedy already and the sexual revolution’s continuing development only served in making her a sort of cultural fall girl.
The Fain-Webster song (which Day recorded in a single take!) was not just an award-winner, but a huge radio hit as well, grabbing the number one spot on the charts for three weeks in February of 1954, and was still in the top five when it took home its Oscar. A version by Slim Whitman was concurrently holding down the #2 spot on the Country and Western charts.
A long line of cover versions have been recorded, most notably by Bing Crosby, Freddy Fender, Kathy Kirby, Frankie Valli, Connie Francis, K.D. Lang, and George Michael. My personal favorite was recorded by controversial Irish singer Sinead O’Connor for her 1992 album made up exclusively of cover tunes. It was a notoriously poorly timed move, following her huge success of a couple years prior with no newly written material. Combined with her habit of insulting people’s’ religious and nationalistic sensibilities (these are some people’s very favorite things), it was a recipe for disaster. That doesn’t mean there was nothing of worth on the record, though. O’Connor’s voice was never as pure as the classic jazz singers who originated the songs she was honoring, but the arrangement here is pretty great nonetheless.
None of the above-mentioned renditions were the first I heard, however. That honor goes to the great Bugs Bunny, who can be heard absent-mindedly warbling the song in the 1956 animated short “Rabbitson Crusoe.”