WON: "Three Coins in the Fountain," Three Coins in the Fountain
SHOULD'VE WON: "The Man That Got Away," A Star Is Born
In hindsight, the 1954 Oscars could have gone a lot worse - Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, for instance, could have defeated On the Waterfront in Best Picture. Bing Crosby's hammy turn in A Country Girl could've easily kept Marlon Brando from his first Academy Award to boot. With that said, '54 is still kind of a disheartening year - not only was Alfred Hitchcock's brilliant Rear Window not much embraced, but Grace Kelly's dull-as-dishwater turn opposite Crosby managed to defeat the incredible likes of Dorothy Dandridge (fresh and exciting in Carmen Jones), Jane Wyman (stunningly good in Magnificent Obsession) and yes, Judy Garland (a truly show-shopping comeback in A Star Is Born) for Best Actress. Groucho Marx famously lamented that Garland's loss as "the biggest robbery since Brink's."
In fact, the engrossing A Star Is Born failed to score a single victory on any of its six richly deserved nominations on Oscar night, including Best Original Song, where it was nominated for the unforgettable "The Man That Got Away." For my money, this tune is one of those true leading lady musical tour-de-forces, up there with the likes of "Rose's Turn" in Gypsy, "The Ladies Who Lunch" in Company and "If He Walked into My Life" in Mame - it sticks with you long after seeing the whole production. Garland's performance is riveting and the music and lyrics by the comparable Harold Arlen and Ira Gershwin are truly phenomenal.
With that said, there's a pretty substantial gap in quality between the Garland tune and the rest.
"Three Coins in the Fountain," gracefully performed here by Frank Sinatra, with music by Jule Styne (one of my all-time favorites), is, much like the film it's featured in, plenty pleasant and agreeable. In another year, I wouldn't much protest its winning but against a juggernaut like "The Man That Got Away," it's just entirely out of its league. Same with "Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep)," a nice, nuanced Bing Crosby tune that's a fine listen around the holidays but doesn't exactly pop off the screen in White Christmas. Frankly, "Sisters" from the same picture probably would've been a more deserving nominee.
"Hold My Hand" isn't anything to write home about at all - it's featured in Susan Slept Here, an obscure Debbie Reynolds picture, yet isn't even performed by the great Reynolds and instead plays forgettably in the background, performed by Don Cornell. As for The High and the Mighty, that picture's Oscar-winning score, composed by Dimitri Tiomkin, is unimpeachably fantastic. It was so terrific, it managed to drag the film's not-so-amazing original song, performed by Johnny Desmond, to a nomination.
The Oscar-winners ranked (thus far)...
- "Over the Rainbow," The Wizard of Oz (1939)
- "The Way You Look Tonight," Swing Time (1936)
- "Mona Lisa," Captain Carey, U.S.A. (1950)
- "You'll Never Know," Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943)
- "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe," The Harvey Girls (1946)
- "Baby, It's Cold Outside," Neptune's Daughter (1949)
- "High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, On My Darlin')," High Noon (1952)
- "Secret Love," Calamity Jane (1953)
- "White Christmas," Holiday Inn (1942)
- "When You Wish Upon a Star," Pinocchio (1940)
- "Thanks for the Memory," The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938)
- "Lullaby of Broadway," Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
- "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah," Song of the South (1947)
- "It Might As Well Be Spring," State Fair (1945)
- "The Last Time I Saw Paris," Lady Be Good (1941)
- "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening," Here Comes the Groom (1951)
- "Three Coins in the Fountain," Three Coins in the Fountain (1954)
- "Swinging on a Star," Going My Way (1944)
- "Sweet Leilani," Waikiki Wedding (1937)
- "The Continental," The Gay Divorcee (1934)
- "Buttons and Bows," The Paleface (1948)