1965 Best Original Song - Nat King Cole's Swan Song

WON: "The Shadow of Your Smile," The Sandpiper

SHOULD'VE WON: "The Ballad of Cat Ballou," Cat Ballou

On February 15, 1965, at the mere age of 45, Nat King Cole, unimpeachably one of the all-time great vocalists and jazz pianists, died of lung cancer. Cole tunes were nominated on three occasions at the Oscars - in 1950 (for the winning "Mona Lisa"), in 1953 (for "My Flaming Heart," which I argued should have won that year) and finally posthumously, in 1965, for Cat Ballou's "The Ballad of Cat Ballou."

"The Ballad of Cat Ballou" is not quite in the same league as the other two Oscar-recognized Cole songs - it's a giddy, enjoyable tune for sure, but a tad silly and isn't the greatest showcase for Cole's legendary voice - but nonetheless, on account of some truly lackluster competition, it is rather easily my pick for the win in '65.

In fact, the winner in '65, "The Shadow of Your Smile," from the atrocious Elizabeth Taylor-Richard Burton yarn The Sandpiper, is the worst Oscar-winner in this category I've encountered thus far. The track was later covered to slightly better effect by a wide array of artists, including Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra and, most notably, Tony Bennett, whose version won the Song of the Year Grammy in '66 (inexplicably, over The Beatles' "Yesterday"). The film's version, however, is a real snooze - it's tough to even pay attention to the lyrics, as the vocals and production are so uninspired.

Henry Mancini's "The Sweetheart Tree," performed by Natalie Wood in Blake Edwards' egregiously overlong The Great Race, features some reliably moving Mancini instrumentals but is otherwise pretty fleeting and forgettable stuff. Johnny Mathis later did a cover that was a bit more interesting. As for "What's New, Pussycat," the first (and far from last) Burt Bacharach-Hal David tune to make an appearance in Best Original Song, I've long considered it among my least favorites from the Bacharach-David catalogue. (I do, however, look greatly forward to "Alfie" next year.)

My runner-up here would have to be "I Will Wait for You," from the truly glorious The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, though it's admittedly more on account of Michel Legrand's lovely music than the rather so-so vocals.

In terms of tunes that were snubbed this year, I suppose I would have nominated "Thunderball" (from the Bond flick of the same name), even though I've never really counted it among my favorites from the series. It's just such a ho-hum year for Original Song.

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. "High Hopes," A Hole in the Head (1959)
  4. "Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)," The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
  5. "Mona Lisa," Captain Carey, U.S.A. (1950)
  6. "You'll Never Know," Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943)
  7. "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe," The Harvey Girls (1946)
  8. "Baby, It's Cold Outside," Neptune's Daughter (1949)
  9. "High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, On My Darlin')," High Noon (1952)
  10. "Secret Love," Calamity Jane (1953)
  11. "White Christmas," Holiday Inn (1942)
  12. "Moon River," Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)
  13. "When You Wish Upon a Star," Pinocchio (1940)
  14. "Thanks for the Memory," The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938)
  15. "Lullaby of Broadway," Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
  16. "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah," Song of the South (1947)
  17. "Days of Wine and Roses," Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
  18. "All the Way," The Joker Is Wild (1957)
  19. "It Might As Well Be Spring," State Fair (1945)
  20. "The Last Time I Saw Paris," Lady Be Good (1941)
  21. "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening," Here Comes the Groom (1951)
  22. "Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing," Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955)
  23. "Never on Sunday," Never on Sunday (1960)
  24. "Three Coins in the Fountain," Three Coins in the Fountain (1954)
  25. "Chim Chim Cher-ee," Mary Poppins (1964)
  26. "Call Me Irresponsible," Papa's Delicate Condition (1963)
  27. "Swinging on a Star," Going My Way (1944)
  28. "Gigi," Gigi (1958)
  29. "The Continental," The Gay Divorcee (1934)
  30. "Sweet Leilani," Waikiki Wedding (1937)
  31. "Buttons and Bows," The Paleface (1948)
  32. "The Shadow of Your Smile," The Sandpiper (1965)