When Oscar Was King

Academy Award Winning Songs (1934-1970)

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The celebrated Oscars awarded by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences herald a glamorous tradition dating back to May, 1929 when the first awards ceremony was held at Hollywood´s Roosevelt Hotel. The first gathering honored acting & technical merit in film for the two previous years.

It was not until 1934 that movie musicals swept to breathtaking new heights, thanks to Busby Berkeley, Fred and Ginger among others; and it followed logically that the Academy began honoring film music.

Depression-era Hollywood with its ruthless moguls and their bulging checkbooks shamelessly raided Broadway for talent, and The Best answered the call: Kern, Berlin, Rodgers, Porter, Gershwin, Arlen, Mercer were all working in film by the mid-Thirties, and the songs are among the best ever. Among the Academy Award winners detailed in this Lecture-in-Song: “The Continental,” “Lullaby of Broadway,” “The Way You Look Tonight,” “Thanks For The Memory,” “Over The Rainbow”…and that´s only the 1930s.

The quality of film music and songs originating in movies continued generally at a high level until the tidal wave of teenage Top 40 culture washed it away forever in the 1960s. WHEN OSCAR WAS KING reflects the era when popular songs were the crown jewels of our American life, and happily those perfect words & melodies are still with us.

If you would like to engage Fred Miller for one of his Lectures-in-Song, please contact him directly at any time. For a full listing of all Lectures, click here.

Fred Miller’s Lectures-In-Song comprise a series of solo programs, each an historical, anecdotal and musical profile of some great personality or important aspect of American Popular Song. These Lectures are delivered by singer/pianist/narrator Miller at the piano, and each reflects his lifetime passion and appreciation for great music. He studied classical piano in his hometown of Albuquerque from ages 7-15 but early on gave up any notion of music as a profession. At that time, Fred assumed a musical career was either one devoted to the rigid discipline of classical music or being a freewheeling rock star, and he accurately decided he had no aptitude for either. However, at age 22, upon hearing Ella Fitzgerald sing Cole Porter, he found his calling and life’s mission.

Through the Seventies and Eighties, Miller studied and absorbed in minute detail the life and times and songs of nearly all the great American composers and lyricists who thrived during Broadway & Hollywood’s Golden Age between the two World Wars. In 1987, he founded Silver Dollar Productions in order to produce operettas, dramas, musicals and small cabarets. Silver Dollar Productions required ensemble casts, props, costumes and, most significantly, the challenges of publicity and selling tickets, and for a dozen busy years, the company presented an unbroken string of varied and highly lauded performances.

In 1999, Miller was simultaneously underwritten by both his local Hunterdon County Library and the Art Alliance of Philadelphia to present a series of six solo Lectures-In-Song, each devoted to one of the premiere Broadway/Hollywood songwriters: George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Richard Rodgers, Jerome Kern, and Harold Arlen.

In presenting history, biography and psychology while sitting at a piano singing the superlative songs of his heroes, Miller has found a single performing medium that utilizes most of his intellectual and musical passions.The list of Lectures-In-Song that began with six in 1999 is now more than seventy(and growing!), a joyful tribute to the boundlessly rich field of American Popular Song.