1961 Best Original Song - Sorry, Holly Golightly...

WON: "Moon River," Breakfast at Tiffany's

SHOULD'VE WON: "Town Without Pity," Town Without Pity

Nope, your eyes are not deceiving you.

When I first approached this category, I experienced a bit of a double-take - I either forgot or simply hadn't realized singer Gene Pitney's "Town Without Pity," which I've long considered one of the most underrated, perhaps even greatest rock tunes of the early '60s, in fact made its debut in the gripping (and itself underappreciated as well) Kirk Douglas drama Town Without Pity. To boot, I certainly had no idea that Dimitri Tiomkin and Ned Washington, the same brilliant team behind the Oscar-winning High Noon theme, were responsible for composing this terrific record.

"Town Without Pity," which was actually the first-ever Golden Globe winner for Best Original Song, has always struck me as basically the greatest Elvis Presley song that Elvis never recorded - it's a sultry, passionate, expertly produced and performed record that no doubt scored heaps of jukebox airtime back in the day. I can imagine upcoming rock acts like The Beatles heard and were greatly inspired by "Town Without Pity" and there's no doubt producer Phil Spector, who hired Pitney to write "He's a Rebel" the following year, was too very much enamored with the track.

My gushing over "Town Without Pity" complete, I really like "Moon River" too. I can't knock the American Film Institute for ranking it #4 on their list of "100 Years...100 Songs" a number of years back. Henry Mancini is an unimpeachable genius (I have no doubt I'll give him the win at some point) and Audrey Hepburn's delivery of the tune couldn't be lovelier. I just admittedly don't feel considerable passion for the song. It's a moving, restrained, immensely listenable piece, and I'd probably support it in most other Best Original Song years, but I'm having a tough time chalking up over-the-top enthusiasm for it.

After the terrific "Town Without Pity" and "Moon River," it's a pretty significant gap in quality to the remaining nominees.

"Bachelor in Paradise" (also composed by Mancini) and "Pocketful of Miracles," like the pictures they've featured in, are admirably peppy but awfully slight and not too memorable. "The Falcon and the Dove," the love theme from the overblown Charlton Heston-Sophia Loren epic El Cid, is a bit of a curiosity - composer Miklós Rózsa's score to the film is actually quite splendid, yet the picture's original song, performed by Billy Storm, is just as overbaked as most of the film itself. Not sure what happened there.

What a shame these three tunes were recognized, yet 101 Dalmations' marvelous "Cruella De Vil" and Blue Hawaii's "Can't Help Falling in Love," which is right up there with "Town Without Pity" as one of the best Billboard hits of this era, were given the cold shoulder.

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. "All the Way," The Joker Is Wild (1957)
  18. "It Might As Well Be Spring," State Fair (1945)
  19. "The Last Time I Saw Paris," Lady Be Good (1941)
  20. "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening," Here Comes the Groom (1951)
  21. "Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing," Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955)
  22. "Never on Sunday," Never on Sunday (1960)
  23. "Three Coins in the Fountain," Three Coins in the Fountain (1954)
  24. "Swinging on a Star," Going My Way (1944)
  25. "Gigi," Gigi (1958)
  26. "The Continental," The Gay Divorcee (1934)
  27. "Sweet Leilani," Waikiki Wedding (1937)
  28. "Buttons and Bows," The Paleface (1948)