1966 Best Original Song - Dionne Warwick Did It Better

WON: "Born Free," Born Free

SHOULD'VE WON: "Alfie," Alfie

The legendary Dionne Warwick's 1967 rendition of "Alfie" is among my all-time favorite records. Warwick had such a sterling way with Burt Bacharach and Hal David - she so beautifully captured the spirit of their music and lyrics, and "Alfie" found the duo very much operating at the top of their game. "Alfie," "Anyone Who Had a Heart," "Don't Make Me Over" - all unimpeachable classics, a dazzling teaming of just the right vocalist and composers.

Alas, Warwick's was not the original "Alfie," included in the '66 Michael Caine film - that honor went to Cilla Black, in the UK release, and Cher, on the US side. I'm afraid neither Black nor Cher quite capture the magic Warwick did the following year - Black's vocal is something of an acquired taste (I have a tough time loving it) and Cher sounds quite splendid, but the production on her version, conducted by then-husband Sonny Bono, is a loud and distracting Phil Spector imitation that ultimately overwhelms her fine vocal. The Warwick cover has a romantic nuance and subtlety that is sorely missing in the previous versions.

With that said, even taking into account my criticisms of the Black/Cher originals, I still rather handily give "Alfie" the prize here. The Bacharach/David music and lyrics can't be beat and it's a rather unremarkable year otherwise.

John Barry and Don Black, the team behind several fine James Bond themes, prevailed here for "Born Free," from the picture of the same name. The tune wants to be a soaring, inspirational experience, and with a boffo vocal performance by Matt Monro, it comes reasonably close, but ultimately I think is more cheesy than anything else. Still, there have been far worse winners here.

I enjoy The Seekers' "Georgy Girl," from the eponymous film that put Lynn Redgrave on the map as leading lady material. Much like "Town Without Pity" reeked (in a good way, of course) of early '60s pop-rock, "Georgy Girl," more than any other song that has played thus far, very much brings to mind the more folksy pop-rock from later in the decade.

Less notable are "My Wishing Doll," performed by Julie Andrews for a hot second in George Roy Hill's overblown Hawaii, and "A Time for Love," performed by Jackie Ward (dubbing for Janet Leigh) in the massive box office and critical disaster An American Dream - the latter is pretty much the epitome of elevator music.

As for the snubbed this year, an instrumental version of "Strangers in the Night," later performed to immense success by Frank Sinatra, was actually first showcased in the obscure James Garner comedy A Man Could Get Killed, winning the Golden Globe that year for Best Original Song. I think it's very nice but surely not as memorable without the Sinatra vocal.

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. "Born Free," Born Free (1966)
  24. "Never on Sunday," Never on Sunday (1960)
  25. "Three Coins in the Fountain," Three Coins in the Fountain (1954)
  26. "Chim Chim Cher-ee," Mary Poppins (1964)
  27. "Call Me Irresponsible," Papa's Delicate Condition (1963)
  28. "Swinging on a Star," Going My Way (1944)
  29. "Gigi," Gigi (1958)
  30. "The Continental," The Gay Divorcee (1934)
  31. "Sweet Leilani," Waikiki Wedding (1937)
  32. "Buttons and Bows," The Paleface (1948)
  33. "The Shadow of Your Smile," The Sandpiper (1965)