1954 Oscar Flashback: Judy Garland classic from ‘A Star is Born’ loses Best Original Song to Frank Sinatra standard

This article marks Part 6 of the Gold Derby series analyzing 84 years of Best Original Song at the Oscars. Join us as we look back at the timeless tunes recognized in this category, the results of each race and the overall rankings of the Academy Awards winners.

The 1954 Oscar nominees in Best Original Song were:

“The High and the Mighty” from “The High and the Mighty”
“The Man That Got Away” from “A Star Is Born”
“Hold My Hand” from “Susan Slept Here”
“Three Coins in the Fountain” from “Three Coins in the Fountain”
“Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep)” from “White Christmas”

Won: “Three Coins in the Fountain” from “Three Coins in the Fountain”

Should’ve won: “The Man That Got Away” from “A Star Is Born”

Sure, the 1954 Oscar ceremony could have gone a lot worse. “On the Waterfront” and leading man Marlon Brando could have, for instance, fallen short to the inferior “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” and Bing Crosby (“The Country Girl”). Yet, this is still a rather disheartening year, and for one key reason – Judy Garland’s loss in Best Actress for “A Star Is Born.” No disrespect to winner Grace Kelly (“The Country Girl”) but Groucho Marx wasn’t far off when he famously lamented that Garland’s loss was “the biggest robbery since Brink’s,” in reference to the infamous Brink’s Building robbery of 1950.

In fact, “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 contended for the unforgettable “The Man That Got Away.” Garland’s performance is riveting and the music and lyrics by the incomparable Harold Arlen and Ira Gershwin are phenomenal.

With that said, there’s a pretty substantial gap in quality between the Garland tune and the rest.

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“Three Coins in the Fountain,” gracefully performed here by Frank Sinatra, with music by Jule Styne, is, much like the film it’s featured in, plenty pleasant and agreeable. In another year, it’d be hard to protest its win but against “The Man That Got Away”? There’s just no comparison. 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.” “Sisters” from the same picture would’ve been a more deserving nominee.

“Hold My Hand” isn’t anything to write home about – it’s featured in “Susan Slept Here,” an obscure Debbie Reynolds picture, yet isn’t even performed by the great Reynolds and instead plays 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 inferior original song, performed by Johnny Desmond, to a nomination.

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The Oscar winners ranked (thus far):

1. “Over the Rainbow” from “The Wizard of Oz” (1939)
2. “The Way You Look Tonight” from “Swing Time” (1936)
3. “Mona Lisa” from “Captain, Carey, U.S.A.” (1950)
4. “You’ll Never Know” from “Hello, Frisco, Hello” (1943)
5. “On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe” from “The Harvey Girls” (1946)
6. “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” from “Neptune’s Daughter” (1949)
7. “High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin’)” from “High Noon” (1952)
8. “Secret Love” from “Calamity Jane” (1953)
9. “White Christmas” from “Holiday Inn” (1942)
10. “When You Wish Upon a Star” from “Pinocchio” (1940)
11. “Thanks for the Memory” from “The Big Broadcast of 1938” (1938)
12. “Lullaby of Broadway” from “Gold Diggers of 1935” (1935)
13. “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” from “Song of the South” (1947)
14. “It Might As Well Be Spring” from “State Fair” (1945)
15. “The Last Time I Saw Paris” from “Lady Be Good” (1941)
16. “In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening” from “Here Comes the Groom” (1951)
17. “Three Coins in the Fountain” from “Three Coins in the Fountain” (1954)
18. “Swinging on a Star” from “Going My Way” (1944)
19. “Sweet Leilani” from “Waikiki Wedding” (1937)
20. “The Continental” from “The Gay Divorcee” (1934)
21. “Buttons and Bows” from “The Paleface” (1948)

SEE Best Original Songs of the 1930s, including ‘Over the Rainbow,’ ‘The Way You Look Tonight’

SEE ‘When You Wish Upon a Star’ is first Disney winner in Best Original Song

SEE Best Original Songs of the early 1940s, including ‘White Christmas’ and ‘You’ll Never Know’

SEE Best Original Songs of the late 1940s, including ‘Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah’ and ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’

SEE Best Original Songs of the early 1950s, including ‘Mona Lisa,’ ‘High Noon’

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