April 20, 2008
May will soon be here, and that means Frank Sinatra will return. Well, not quite. But we'll have him on Turner Classic MoviesWednesdays and Saturdays.
The tribute will include some of his best movies and even a few of his television specials from the 1960's and 70's. I remember one called Francis Albert Sinatra's Bag, titled to bring the old boy up to date, and another that brought his young rival for the bra-throwing crowd, Elvis Presley -- who was, shall we say, dating his daughter at the time. To be honest, I don't know if either of these will be including in TCM's replays, but I would expect the Elvis one. In it, the man who would be King deferred almost sheepishly to his current girl friend's father, and the older performer, always a gent before the camera, was more than tolerant of his guest. Both of them sang at their very best.
Sinatra movies are something else. I look forward to The Tender Trap, that most typical relic of 1950's sexism, in which Frank played the kind of swinger role that brought him to the center of what came to be called The Rat Pack. From Here To Eternity had given him the first chance to show his chops as an actor, and to my mind he -- plus that horizontal beach scene with Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr -- walked away with the picture, no matter how sensitive and nuanced Montgomery Clift's performance was. I hope they'll show the original The Manchurian Candidate. The new one was on television recently, and with all the 21st Century electronics and gimmicks, it just didn't have the impact of that old black-and-white thriller, in which Sinatra, subtle and tortured, was spectacular.
He'll be at his best in the musicals, we know. I look forward to another chance to see Take Me Out to the Ball Game, with him, Gene Kelly, and Esther Williams (not in the swimming pool, as I recall). On the Town was one of the best movie musicals of the period if not of all time, as well as one of Sinatra's best -- with the youthful hunk literally fighting off the predatory Betty Garrett.
There's a sweet little latter-day Sinatra film that I hope will be on the schedule. A Hole in the Head featured a somewhat flustered and vulnerable Edward G. Robinson, the always acerbic Thelma Ritter, the eternally undaunted Eddie Hodges, and the elegant Eleanor Parker, plus a favorite song ("High Hopes") that garnered an Oscar. Also, the sentimental remake of the old Three Sisters, known as Young at Heart, pairing Sinatra with Doris Day, his old partner from the radio show "Your Hit Parade." I'm sure we can expect a rerun of Some Came Running, which brought him together with Dean Martin and Shirley MacLaine, both of whom became his drinking buddies and denizens of the Rat Pack from the outset.
Frank Sinatra cranked these movies out like clockwork once his movie career really took off -- beginning with the aforementioned From Here To Eternity. Up to that time he had been a singer who occasionally made movies, after that he was a full-fledged star in both movies and on records and in stage appearances. Always he exhibited that talent, charm, and unique personality that comes through in every performance. Many men imitated him, but he was the one who started it all. Before there were rock stars, even before there was rock, he was a rock star.
Oh, and he was born in Hoboken.