This song was written by Ray Evans and Jay Livingston for the movie Captain Carey, U.S.A.
It won an Oscar for Best Song. Others songs Evans and Livingston wrote include "Silver Bells," "Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)
" and "Buttons And Bows." They also composed the theme songs for the TV shows Bonanza
and Mr. Ed
Livingston told American Songwriter Magazine
July/August 1988 the story behind this song: "There was a picture called OSS
, which took place during World War II, and Alan Ladd was in a little Italian town where the clandestine radio was, and they needed a song to warn them that the German patrol was coming. There was this blind accordion player who wasn't blind playing on the street and every time he saw the Germans coming he would play a certain melody, so we wrote 'Mona Lisa' and they said that it sounded Italian and they liked it. Then they called us and said they had changed the title from OSS
to After Midnight
and we had to write a song with that title. They loved title songs because it sold their picture. So we threw away the lyrics of 'Mona Lisa' and wrote 'After Midnight.' A month later we picked up Variety
and read where Alan Ladd's new picture was going to be called Captain Carey, USA
We went back to the studio and asked for 'Mona Lisa' back, and then pitched it to Nat King Cole and he liked it and recorded it on the back of 'The Greatest Inventor Of Them All.' So we went on a junket for Paramount about that time, and we took the records with us and we must have been on 25 or 30 radio shows, and when we got back the song was a hit. But the original ads for the record didn't even mention 'Mona Lisa,' just 'The Greatest Inventor.' I think us pushing it really made the difference in that song being a hit."