one of the great musical treasures of popular music, Frank Sinatra was
much more than just a singer. As a public personality, Sinatra helped
defined an age along with his cohorts in the "Rat Pack" during
the 1960's. As a curious and casual alternative to the emerging hippie
culture, Sinatra and his hipsters made great copy for the ever hungry
burgeoning tabloid press. But you have to give the man his due as a
With a career starting as a light-weight singer
in musicals made for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Sinatra's best known films of
the forties co-starred hoofer Gene Kelly. Anchor's Aweigh, Take
Me Out to the Ball Game and On the Town were wonderful,
ebullient movies. When 1950 around, there seemed to be less demand for the
talents of Sinatra and after a couple of minor films that were less than
successful, the actor felt his screen career was in serious jeopardy. Then
came From Here to Eternity. Sinatra lobbied hard for the role,
practically getting on his knees to secure the role of the street smart
punk G.I. Maggio. He sensed this was a role that could revive his career,
and his instincts were right. There are lots of stories about how Columbia
Studio head Harry Cohn was convinced to give the role to Sinatra, the most
famous of which is expanded upon in the horse's head sequence in The
Godfather. Maybe no one will know the truth about that. The one truth
we do know is that the feisty New Jersey actor won the Academy Award as
Best Supporting Actor for his work in From Here to Eternity. It was
no looking back from then one.
Sinatra's film career found a new edge in serious
roles. This is my favorite Sinatra. The dark Sinatra. The Sinatra of Suddenly
leading a gang in an attempted presidential assassination. Or Frankie
Machine, the drug addict card dealing would-be drummer beating a
tattoo of desperation in The Man with the Golden Arm. Or the
moody writer, Dave Hirsh in Some Came Running. The Manchurian
Candidate is the last of Sinatra's best work. As Major Bennett Marco
in the 1962 film, Sinatra found himself embroiled in an exciting project,
once again about an assassination attempt. This time Sinatra was the good
guy and his work was terrific. Through the years to his final feature film
role in 1980's The First Deadly Sin, it seemed like Sinatra was
more or less sleepwalking through the movies. His heart was elsewhere, and
he continued to entertain for live audiences who were thrilled to
experience the singing icon in person.
So, another of the great stars of yesteryear
passes on into Hollywood legend. Sinatra was an amazing force, a survivor
and a fighter that thrilled audiences in song and film. There will never
be another "Chairman of the Board."
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