Film Music Review
The Sammy awards









These movie music awards are named in honor of lyricist,
Sammy Cahn, 1913-1993.

The Sammys are announced each year for the best (and sometimes also the worst ) film music.

They are chosen by Roger Hall, a respected film music historian, author of A Guie to Film Music, and editor of Film Music Review.




18th Annual Sammy Awards

Sunday, 19 February 2006

By Roger Hall

The Sammy Film Music Awards (or Sammys) began with Best Score, Best Song, and Lifetime Achievement for a Film Composer or Songwriter.  

Later other categories were added, such as: Best Song Compilation which began in 1997, and Platinum Award for Most Overlooked Score, first named in 2000.

The Oscars and Golden Globes are often given to the song or score with the most "buzz."

The Sammys have no connection to any other awards and are based on the quality of the soundtrack, song or compilation.  How the music is used in the film is also evaluated but is not the only factor in the final choice.       

These awards were named in honor of Sammy Cahn, who was Oscar nominated more than any other songwriter – 26 times in all between 1942 and 1973. 

The first Sammy Awards were chosen for best score and song of 1988 – the year of Sammy Cahn’s 75th birthday.  When he was notified, Sammy said he was “flattered and honored" to have them named after him. He certainly deserved the honor.

Sammy won 4 Oscars for these songs:

  • "Three Coins in the Fountain" (1954) from THREE COINS IN THE FOUNTAIN - music by Jule Styne
  • "All the Way" from THE JOKER IS WILD (1957) - music by James Van Heusen
  • "High Hopes" from A HOLE IN THE HEAD (1959) - music by James Van Heusen
  • "Call Me Irresponsible" from PAPA'S DELICATE CONDITION (1963) - music by James Van Heusen

All four songs were recorded by Frank Sinatra, who was a big admirer of Sammy's lyrics.

Sammy Award Categories for 2005:

  • Best Film Score
  • Best Original Movie Song
  • Best Song Compilation
  • Worst Song & Score Compilation
  • Most Overlooked Score
  • Lifetime Achievement for Past Film Composer: Elmer Bernstein  

Click on the links to read about each score or song listed below.

And now...

The 18th Annual Sammy Awards For 2005

Best Film Score

MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA - music by John Williams

This is surely one of the best soundtracks of the year and also one of the most serene John Williams scores of the past decade and belongs in every film score fans library.  Highest recommendation. A complete triumph!

John Williams has received 10 Sammy Awards since 1988.


Best Original Movie Song

"A Love That Will Never Grow Old" from BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN
music by Gustavo Santaolalla/ lyrics by Bernie Taupin

The two Santaolalla songs that worked best were: "No One's Gonna Love You Like Me" sung by Mary McBride, and "A Love That Will Never Grow Old" which is beautifully sung by Emmylou Harris--it's the best original song on the soundtrack CD. Unfortunately it isn't used very prominently in the film.



Best Song Compilation

GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK - arrangements by MattCatingub

This is a CD that provides tasty jazz arrangements by Matt Catingub and smooth song stylings by Dianne Reeves. I'd recommend seeing the film to see how well the songs are incorporated.

An excellent songtrack for an excellent film.


Worst Compilation

MURDERBALL - various songs and original music by Jamie Saft

This is one of the worst soundtracks I've heard for any film in a long time. There is just nothing to recommend. Even the art design is poorly presented, with a gray ink stain splashed over the CD cover, and the track titles splashed across the inside page in a hard to read display. A trashy display of screaming and senseless songs and a poor score as well.



Most Overlooked Score

LADIES IN LAVENDER - music by Nigel Hess

On this soundtrack, the violin playing by Joshua Bell is superb in its expressive emotion.  In the CD notes Nigel Hess said of Bell: "He takes the music I've written to a whole new level. Hearing him play was like stepping into a really expensive Rolls Royce."  

Movie critic Rex Reed perhaps said it best when he wrote: "By the time the music swells (courtesy of exquisite violin solos by Joshua Bell), so do the tears in the eyes of everyone in the audience who can still find a pulse beat."

But you don't have to see this film to enjoy the gorgeous soundtrack. It's well worth your time to purchase this CD so you can enjoy this highly sensitive film score.    

This is one of the most beautiful film scores of recent years.

Lifetime Achievement for Past Film Composer 

Elmer Bernstein

born: 4 April 1922

died: 18 August 2004


I think that the tide running against good music is so strong that none of us who care are surprised or outraged any more when we hear dumb music accompanying a film...Film has become, with some exceptions, a special effects medium. Films reflect the generally shoddy standards of present-day society. It's a junk culture, and people buy junk...generally speaking, film has not advanced in terms of taste and intelligence, and that makes it tough for music.

--Elmer Bernstein interviewed by Tony Thomas, quoted in Music for the Movies, 2nd edition, 1997

For me, he was one of the composers in the Great Film Composer Triad of the past five decades. The composers who make up this triad are: Elmer Bernstein, Jerry Goldsmith and John Williams. All three composers began their composing for TV or movies back in the 1950s.  Two of them passed on in 2004: Elmer Bernstein and Jerry Goldsmith. And another major film composer, David Raksin, also died that year.

In the case of Elmer Bernstein this was especially sad for me because his music was some of the first I recognized back in the 1950s.  

One of his early scores was for ROBOT MONSTER in 1953, now considered one of the worst films ever made. I saw it as a teenager and still remember it as a "guilty pleasure."  I wrote about first watching this film on late night TV and what a lasting impression the score made on me.  My story was written as an 80th birthday tribute to Elmer. You can read it at the official website:

Between 1951 and 2002, Elmer composed over 200 scores for films and TV programs.  

Here are some of his great film scores from 1955 to 1965:






HAWAII (1965)


But the score that Elmer picked as his favorite was:  


I agree with his choice.  

This has one of the simplest and most delicate film scores ever composed.  It's a masterpiece of subtle film scoring. I listed it in the Top Ten Film Scores of the 20th Century in A Guide to Film Music.

Elmer Bernstein had 14 Oscar nominations and strangely he received his only Oscar for his adapted score to a musical, THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE   in 1967. He should have received at least several more Oscars for such landmark scores as THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN and TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.

Later, he composed scores for  "Saturday Night Live" alumni comedies like TRADING PLACES (1983) and GHOSTBUSTERS (1984).

He also wrote more serious subject scores, such as for MY LEFT FOOT (1989)and THE GRIFTERS (1990).

Even though he was probably best known for his rugged outdoor western music, like the John Wayne westerns, Elmer's ability to compose a subtle score was always evident, as in THE AGE OF INNOCENCE.

His last major score was FAR FROM HEAVEN, which I chose for The Sammy Award as Best Score of 2002. It was fortunate that he had the opportunity to close out his career with such a brilliant film score.

--Roger Hall

See also the interview at --

Elmer Bernstein: The Magnificent One


Added Note:
Elmer Bernstein has been inducted to the Tunemaker Hall of Fame for 2005.

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Read the list or previous choices here:

The Sammy Awards

Several songs with lyrics by Sammy Cahn on the list:

100 Essential Songs

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