Start spreading the news: a new book about Frank Sinatra’s films has been released. Old blue eyes is the subject of this luscious little book of illustrations and quotes that present the world of Frank Sinatra in the cinema. It incorporates all the roles he played, from the musical and dance pictures, where he learned dancing choreography from Gene Kelly whilst receiving direction from Stanley Donen, something that would be important in the amusing dance numbers with Bing Crosby in the splendid High Society (1956); the rat-pack heist film Ocean’s 11(1960) also features, of course, as do a variety of Sinatra’s genre films from western to war. His only film as director, None But The Brave (1965), featuring a cast that was half American and half Japanese was one of the earliest films to show the characters’ dialogue in their own language (with subtitles) and, as such, was ahead of its time. And then are the films for which Sinatra had significant dramatic roles, characters that remain compelling viewing such as Suddenly (1954), The Man With The Golden Arm (1955) and The Manchurian Candidate (1962). Indeed Suddenly is the focus of a commentary by Frank Sinatra Jr in one of three essays in the book where his children recall their personal experiences of watching their father making films. Frank Jr discusses his recollections of the shoot when he was aged 10 and noted Sinatra’s angry letter to have the film removed from a television broadcast some years later as he considered viewing on the small screen to be tasteless following the recent assassination of JFK.
The quotes that accompany the photographs and poster reproductions range from contemporary reviews to those of those filmmakers who worked with him (there are some great ones from Doris Day) as well as from Sinatra himself. This is especially notable when he recalls witnessing a heroin addict undergo cold turkey in preparation for his remarkable performance in The Man With The Golden Arm and how it upset him but helped him place his role in perspective.
Winning an Oscar for From Here To Eternity (1953) was something he apparently didn’t want and this is reflected in the words from him and the reactions of those working with him – he comes across as an enthusiastic but simple man doing his job, something that perhaps his fame as a singer and member of the Rat Pack has overshadowed. Be in no doubt, though, this is a book that aims to celebrate Sinatra. David Wills starts with an introductory essay to his film career and then follows this will a rich selection of stills, posters, quotes and reflections of those who knew Sinatra.
This is a lavish book that almost croons at you. The addition of brief essays by Nancy, Tina and Frank jr add a personal perspective to a book that is well produced and visually stunning.