1953 Best Original Song - Jerry Lewis Ruins Everything

WON: "Secret Love," Calamity Jane

SHOULD'VE WON: "My Flaming Heart," Small Town Girl

When I saw Dean Martin's "That's Amore" was among the Best Original Song Oscar nominees in 1953, I was enormously excited and convinced I'd for sure peg it as my favorite of the line-up. I've long been a fan of the tune, mostly on account of my adoration for Norman Jewison's Moonstruck and its prominence in that picture.

Little did I know, however, that this favorite of mine actually began as a duet between Martin and longtime comedy partner Jerry Lewis...and a truly aggravating duet at that. For while Martin's performance of the tune in The Caddy is just fine, the hideously unfunny Lewis, in hyperactive cartoon form, pretty much kills the song. For what it's worth, I've been a fan of Lewis' on occasion in the past - he is, for instance, flat-out brilliant in Martin Scorsese's The King of Comedy and his filmmaking in The Ladies Man, while imperfect, is quite neat and original - but his slapstick comedy is, to put it mildly, a very acquired taste and it's just not something I can embrace. I find him downright cringe-inducing on this song.

So, with that said, this category is actually a really close call for me between the winning tune, "Secret Love," and "My Flaming Heart," from the so-so Jane Powell MGM musical Small Town Girl. I can't fault anything about either of these songs - Doris Day sounds just glorious in the former and Nat King Cole is smooth and soulful as ever performing the latter. Having listened to this line-up several times in recent days, I would say "My Flaming Heart" holds up a tad better on repeat listens but it's an awfully close call. I can't much fault the Academy's choice.

(On a related note, Day in early 1954 actually refused to perform "Secret Love" live at the Oscars, with Ann Blyth from Mildred Pierce filling in. Louella Parsons' Hollywood Women's Press Club responded by bestowing upon Day their infamous Sour Apple Award for uncooperative celebrities. The "award" left Day distraught and she didn't leave her home for weeks after.)

The remaining two nominees I can't get terribly excited about - "The Moon Is Blue," the title track from the underappreciated William Holden-Maggie McNamara comedy, runs a minute in length and comes and goes without leaving any real impression. And "Sadie Thompson's Song (Blue Pacific Blues)" has Rita Hayworth (dubbed by Jo Ann Greer) singin' the blues and it's just as dull and unremarkable a song as the picture it's featured in.

The Oscar-winners ranked (thus far)...

  1. "Over the Rainbow," The Wizard of Oz (1939)
  2. "The Way You Look Tonight," Swing Time (1936)
  3. "Mona Lisa," Captain Carey, U.S.A. (1950)
  4. "You'll Never Know," Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943)
  5. "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe," The Harvey Girls (1946)
  6. "Baby, It's Cold Outside," Neptune's Daughter (1949)
  7. "High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, On My Darlin')," High Noon (1952)
  8. "Secret Love," Calamity Jane (1953)
  9. "White Christmas," Holiday Inn (1942)
  10. "When You Wish Upon a Star," Pinocchio (1940)
  11. "Thanks for the Memory," The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938)
  12. "Lullaby of Broadway," Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
  13. "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah," Song of the South (1947)
  14. "It Might As Well Be Spring," State Fair (1945)
  15. "The Last Time I Saw Paris," Lady Be Good (1941)
  16. "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening," Here Comes the Groom (1951)
  17. "Swinging on a Star," Going My Way (1944)
  18. "Sweet Leilani," Waikiki Wedding (1937)
  19. "The Continental," The Gay Divorcee (1934)
  20. "Buttons and Bows," The Paleface (1948)