WON: "Call Me Irresponsible," Papa's Delicate Condition
SHOULD'VE WON: "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World," It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
"Call Me Irresponsible," composed by the same legendary Sammy Cahn-Jimmy Van Heusen team that also scored Oscars for "All the Way" and "High Hopes," is an unimpeachably iconic tune, a piece that emerged a standard through fine covers by the likes of Judy Garland, Dinah Washington and, perhaps most notably, Frank Sinatra. There was a fascinating debate between Van Heusen and Cahn over just who exactly the song was originally written for - the former has said Garland, as a sort of parody of her diva reputation, while the latter claimed Fred Astaire, the initially cast leading man of the picture Papa's Delicate Condition.
Regardless of whether it was meant for Garland or Astaire, the latter was ultimately unable to star in Papa's Delicate Condition on account of contractual issues, leaving the debut of "Call Me Irresponsible" to be performed by, of all people...Jackie Gleason.
In a turn that makes the lifeless likes of Marlon Brando in Guys and Dolls and Clint Eastwood in Paint Your Wagon sound like Crosby and Astaire, Gleason drunkenly sleepwalks his way through the song. The unpleasant experience suggests the apparent strengths we've seen in "Call Me Irresponsible" might well stem less from the Cahn-Van Heusen tune itself and more from the amazing performers who've tackled it since Gleason's original.
Unfortunately, the rest of 1963 Best Original Song isn't remarkably better. I suppose I was spoiled by the immense strength of '62 (my favorite year thus far in this category).
The team of Dimitri Tiomkin and Paul Francis Webster have impressed me greatly with their appearances in this category - I even went with their "Town Without Pity" over the uber-legendary "Moon River" two years back - but they did have one nominated clunker ("Strange Are the Ways of Love" in '59) and I'm afraid their song this year, the maudlin "So Little Time" from the Charlton Heston-Ava Gardner bomb 55 Days at Peking, marks their second underwhelmer for me.
Mondo Cane's "More" and Charade's, well, "Charade" are fine, if rather unremarkable instrumental tracks. "Charade" does have a nice Bernard Herrmannesque vibe to it, though I don't think I would ever label it top-tier Henry Mancini.
Ultimately, my pick this year is the only nominee I have any real fun with - the charmingly goofy title theme to the comparably charmingly goofy It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. It has a peppy Broadway showtune quality to it, with music and lyrics that no doubt inspired future musical comedies like The Producers and Spamalot. Is it among the most well-performed/composed, interesting or unforgettable tunes to have been nominated for Best Original Song? Not exactly. But at least it gets my toes tapping, which is far more than I can say about Jackie Gleason's "singing."
On a final note, what a shame (and surprise) Judy Garland's "I Could Go on Singing" (from the film of the same name) - the final Garland tune that would've been eligible in Best Original Song, prior to her death in '69 - wasn't recognized here. It's an infinitely more stirring song (written by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg, the same team from "Over the Rainbow") than all of the Academy's picks this year.
The Oscar-winners ranked (thus far)...
- "Over the Rainbow," The Wizard of Oz (1939)
- "The Way You Look Tonight," Swing Time (1936)
- "High Hopes," A Hole in the Head (1959)
- "Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)," The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
- "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)
- "Moon River," Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)
- "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)
- "Days of Wine and Roses," Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
- "All the Way," The Joker Is Wild (1957)
- "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)
- "Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing," Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955)
- "Never on Sunday," Never on Sunday (1960)
- "Three Coins in the Fountain," Three Coins in the Fountain (1954)
- "Call Me Irresponsible," Papa's Delicate Condition (1963)
- "Swinging on a Star," Going My Way (1944)
- "Gigi," Gigi (1958)
- "The Continental," The Gay Divorcee (1934)
- "Sweet Leilani," Waikiki Wedding (1937)
- "Buttons and Bows," The Paleface (1948)