Sinatra Films Repackaged/Remastered:Happy Centennial, Ole Blue Eyes
By: Ellis Nassour
As the celebration of the centennial of Frank Sinatra’s birth [December 12] continues, fans are in for a treat: Frank Sinatra: 5 Film Collection [Warner Home Video; Blu-ray; SRP $70], dropping May 5.
The set will contain three re-mastered titles: Anchors Aweigh (1945), On the Town (1949), and Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964) along with the film adaptation of Frank Loesser/Abe Burrows/Jo Swerling’s Guys and Dolls (1955) and the Las Vegas heist Ocean’s 11 (1960). In addition to a 32-page illustrated booklet, there’s a slew of bonus material, including featurettes, making-of docs, commentary by Frank Sinatra Jr., five cartoons, and a slew of musical features on the Guys and Dolls disc.
In addition, to his more than 1,400 recordings [31 of his albums went Gold, nine Platinum, three double Platinum, and one triple Platinum], the Chairman of the Board – a Kennedy Center Honoree and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal – was big box office.
Best Picture nominee Anchors Aweigh, about sailors on shore leave in Hollywood in search of a dame, you might say was M-G-M’s attempt to copy the success of the Bernstein/Comden and Green hit On the Town, running strong on Broadway since December 1944. It’s more story than sightseeing; and at 143minutes, much too long. Styne/Cahn provided the popular tunes, including "The Charm of You" and Best Song nominee "I Fall in Love Too Easily." Best Actor nominee Gene Kelly and his fancy foot work steals the movie in quite an innovative live/animated sequence where he dances with Jerry of Hanna-Barbera’s famous cartoon franchise Tom and Jerry. Stunning soprano Kathryn Grayson has her moments trilling on classical tunes.
M-G-M won the rights to the film adaption of On the Town [adapted from Bernstein’s ’44 Fancy Free ballet], which closed on Broadway in ’46 after 462 performances. This story of three sailors – Sinatra, Gene Kelly, Jules Munshin – on 24-hour shore leave is also a love letter to NYC, but a great departure from the Broadway show. Shot on location by Stanley Donnen and Kelly, it co-stars Betty Garrett, the always-watchable Ann Miller [who’s given more to do than just tap], and stunning Vera-Ellen, a perfect dance partner for Kelly. Songs include "New York, New York," "I Feel Like I’m Not Out of Bed Yet," and "Come Up to My Place," but under the category of If it’s not broken, Why fix it the poignant "Some Other Time," "Lonely Town," and "Lucky to Be Me" and "I Can Cook, Too" were eliminated for songs written by Roger Edens and Comden and Green, which led to a rupture in the latter’s friendship/relationship with Bernstein. The film is #19 on the American Film Institute’s list of best musicals.
[Trivia: the very respected Edens labeled much of Bernstein’s score "too complex and too operatic." Furious Bernstein boycotted the film.]
Reset from Sherwood Forest to Chicago, the comic romp Robin and the 7 Hoods is a mob farce co-starring Dean Martin and Peter Falk. Ocean’s 11, the precursor to the Clooney films, is set against a Las Vegas heist and a comic romp for Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., and Sinatra’s Rat Pack..
The lush Technicolor, widescreen adaptation of Frank Loesser/Abe Burrows/Jo Swerling’s Guys and Dolls attempted to capture the Runyonesqe capers of its Broadway pedigree, but fell awfully short – except in its 152 minute length. It opened as a big road show attraction, but never gathered momentum. Sinatra is Nathan Detroit and Marlon Brando – yes, that Marlon Brando, is Sky Masterson. Director Joseph L. Mankiewicz thought he’d seen it all working with Bette Davis on All About Eve, but Sinatra and Brando proved to be his Waterloo. Filming was plagued by ego tantrums, jealously, and the stars’ animosity for each other [Sinatra felt he should be playing Sky]. While not exactly a great singer, Brando’s not half bad. Loesser wrote "(You’re) A Woman in Love" for him to serenade Jean Simmons. It became a huge hit – for Frankie Laine. Thankfully, Vivian Blaine reprises her stage role as Miss Adelaide; and Stubby Kaye, his Nicely-Nicely.
A DIGITAL BUNDLE OF 15 SINATRA FILMS
March 31,15 of his films will be available in a HD digital bundle Frank Sinatra: The Ultimate Collection [SRP $100]. It may not be the penultimate salute to his body of screen work [in excess of 50 starring roles], but there’re worthy films – several of which are classics – that cover his six-decade career of musicals, comedies, and high drama.
In addition to the above five titles, highlights are Sinatra’s stark Oscar-nominated turn as a drug addict in The Man with The Golden Arm (1955; Kim Novak, and Elmer Bernstein’s sensational Oscar-nominated jazz score), the musical adaptation of The Philadelphia Story with Cole Porter score – High Society (1956, opposite Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly), as a bitter, alcoholic post- WWII vet in Some Came Running (1958; Martin, Shirley MacLaine), and as an OSS operative alongside Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson training natives in WWII Burma in Never So Few (1959; featuring Gina Lollobridga).
The bundle also includes the lavish 132-minute Jerome Kern bio-light pic Till the Clouds Roll By (1946), featuring renditions of songs from and recreations of his musicals. Sinatra is featured with such headliners as June Allyson, Judy Garland, Miss Grayson, Lena Horne, and Tony Martin — not to mention dances by Cyd Charisse and Gower Champion.