FILMS II (1951-1956)
  IV  V

NOTE: Sinatra's films in the 50's had a decidedly harder, more world-wise edge to them than the froth that marked his films of the 1940s.  Although the decade began with a whimper, he gained critical respect and newfound direction with the runaway success of From Here To Eternity, and he used the critical leverage this gave him to boost both his recording career and change his washed up boy-singer persona into an adult, swinging, two-fisted contender for entertainer of the Century.

Double Dynamite (1951)
RKO Radio Pictures;
Screenplay by Melville Shavelson based on a story by Leo Rosten and characters by Mannie Manheim;
Directed by Irving Cummings,
80 min.


Jane Russell ....  Mildred 'Mibs' Goodhug
Groucho Marx ....  Emile J. Keck
Frank Sinatra ....  Johnny Dalton
Don McGuire ....  R.B. 'Bob' Pulsifer Jr.
Howard Freeman ....  R.B. Pulsifer Sr.
Nestor Paiva ....  'Hot Horse' Harris, the Bookie
Frank Orth ....  Mr. Kofer
Harry Hayden ....  J.L. McKissack
William Edmunds ....  Mr. Baganucci
Russell Thorson ....  IRS Tailman (as Russ Thorson)

REVIEW: It certainly sounds good on paper: Frank Sinatra and Jane Russell (in a character named "Mildred Goodhug" eek!) play co-workers at a large bank, who fall in love and want to get married. They don't have the cash to take the plunge, and Frank is unwilling to take the advice of a zany waiter (Groucho) and rob the bank. Luckily, Frank stumbles upon a fight, and breaking it up, discovers that he is the benefactor of a gambler named "Hot Horse Harris" who, in gratitude, places a bet on a sure-fire horse in Frank's name, netting him $60,000! The catch is that soon afterwards, the bank reports $70,000 has been embezzled, and guess who's the prime suspect? Like I said, it sounds like it should be a fun romp, especially with wise-cracking Groucho in tow, but lackluster direction, an aimless script woefully free of laughs, and on-set tension between studio chief Howard Hughs and Sinatra, doomed this film from frame one. Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn again provide the music here, but neither "It's Only Money" or "Kisses And Tears" are worthy of repeat hearing. The film's obvious flaws kept it from general release for over a year before RKO shoved it on the market; but Frank's slide in his recordings carried over to this film, and despite his runaway success a couple of years earlier with On The Town, by this time he was being beaten up in the press, his recordings were slipping on the charts, and this film did nothing to halt the slide. 

Meet Danny Wilson (1952)
Universal International Pictures;
Screenplay by Don McGuire;
Directed by Joseph Pevney,
88 min.


Frank Sinatra ....  Danny Wilson
Shelley Winters ....  Joy Carroll
Alex Nicol ....  Michael Francis (Mike) Ryan
Raymond Burr ....  Nick Driscoll alias Joe Martell
Vaughn Taylor ....  T.W. Hatcher
Tommy Farrell ....  Tommy Wells
Donald MacBride ....  Police Desk Sergeant
Barbara Knudson ....  Marie
Carl Sklover ....  Cab driver

REVIEW: Meet Danny Wilson was a daring picture in its way, and despite several flaws, remains interesting for Sinatra fans for a couple of reasons: first, the soundtrack is first rate; Sinatra gets to sing songs that actually mean something to him, and which he would return to again and again: "She's Funny That Way", "That Old Black Magic", "When You're Smiling", "All Of Me", "I've Got A Crush On You" and "How Deep Is The Ocean" are make an appearance, foreshadowing many of Sinatra's albums to come. Second, the character of Danny Wilson is bears an almost uncomfortable resemblance to Sinatra himself, who plays an unsympathetic prima-donna vocalist who has risen from rags to riches, and has no hesitations about mouthing off, or even throwing a fist or two. Raymond Burr is his usual magnetic self as a nightclub owner with more than a few ties to the mob, who contracts with Sinatra's character for 50% of his profits, a contract that chafes Danny Wilson once he begins to taste success. Solid support is given from Shelly Winters as Sinatra's liason to Burr, and Alex Nichol deserves kudos as Sinatra's loyal pianist. That said, the film feels padded, and the characters are not much more than one-dimensional cut-outs, and partly due to the unlikable subject matter, partly due to Sinatra's abrasive relationship with the press (not to mention his highly publicized affair with Ava Gardiner and concurrent divorce from his first wife) the film was panned when first released. But as a sleek and stylish noir thriller, (not to mention that glorious music) it's worth checking out. VHS only.

From Here To Eternity (1953)
Columbia Pictures Corporation;
Screenplay by Daniel Taradash, from the novel by James Jones;
Directed by Fred Zinnemann,
118 min.


Burt Lancaster ....  1st Sgt. Milton Warden
Montgomery Clift ....  Pvt. Robert E. Lee 'Prew' Prewitt
Deborah Kerr ....  Karen Holmes
Donna Reed ....  Alma Burke (Lorene)
Frank Sinatra ....  Pvt. Angelo Maggio
Philip Ober ....  Capt. Dana 'Dynamite' Holmes
Mickey Shaughnessy ....  Supply Sgt. Leva
Harry Bellaver ....  Pvt. Mazzioli
Ernest Borgnine ....  SSgt. James R. 'Fatso' Judson
Jack Warden ....  Cpl. Buckley
John Dennis ....  Sgt. Ike Galovitch
Merle Travis ....  Sal Anderson
Tim Ryan ....  SSgt. Pete Karelsen
Arthur Keegan ....  Treadwell
Barbara Morrison ....  Mrs. Kipfer (owner, New Congress Club)

REVIEW: It can't be overstated how important this film was for Frank Sinatra. At the lowest point in his career, vilified by the press, considered a has been, having starred in two flop movies in a row, he muscled his way into a supporting role as the unsympathetic character of Private Angelo Maggio, and struck gold. From Here To Eternity isn't my idea of a great movie, although it has some great moments; this pre-wartime soap opera has plenty of conflict, from Ernest Borgnine's hideously effective portrayal of sadistic Sgt. 'Fatso' Judson who torments Sinatra's character; to Deborah Kerr's note-perfect role of bored wife of the company commander who carries on a torrid affair with Burt Lancaster's 1st Sgt. Warden; to Montgomery Clift's heart-wrenching character of Private Robert E. Lee Prewitt, an ex-boxer who refuses to fight again for reasons that become clear later - this film is chock-full of acting moments that virtually scream 'Oscar!' And not surprisingly, at that year's Academy Awards, it swept the floor with eight wins, including best supporting actor for Frank. Many authors have speculated that it was the sight of Frank beaten to death in the film that changed many people's minds about him; that it was a cathartic moment for the public and press who had been 'beating him up' figuratively in the press. Whatever the reason, this film, for all its unsavory, overblown characters and melodramic tendancies is vital watching for Sinatra fans: you see Frank killed in this movie, and then be reborn, phoenix-like, in his career.

Suddenly (1954) 
Libra Productions;
Screenplay by Richard Sale;
Directed by Lewis Allen, 75 min.


Frank Sinatra ....  John Baron
Sterling Hayden ....  Sheriff Tod Shaw
James Gleason ....  Pop Benson
Nancy Gates ....  Ellen Benson
Kim Charney ....  Peter Benson III (Pidge)
Paul Frees ....  Benny Conklin, Baron's Accomplice (also uncredited TV announcer voice)
Christopher Dark ....  Bart Wheeler
Willis Bouchey ....  Dan Carney, Chief Secret Service Agent
Paul Wexler ....  Deputy Slim Adams, Suddenly Police Dept.
James O'Hara ....  Jud Hudson (as Jim Lilburn)
Kem Dibbs ....  Wilson (as Ken Dibbs)
Clark Howat ....  Haggerty
Charles Smith ....  Bebop

REVIEW: Sinatra, after the success of From Here To Eternity, began to take his acting very seriously; and here, in a grim and noir-ish portrait of a deranged killer, Sinatra evinces a talent for complex, ambiguous characterizations that he would continue to explore for the rest of his film career.  Sinatra plays the part of John Baron, a hit man who comes to the town of Suddenly to await the arrival of the President of the United States by train.  He takes hostage a local family and the town sheriff, and the bulk of the film involves Frank as he gradually unfolds to his hostages his plan, and in the meantime reveals his deteriorating mental state.  For Sinatra, it's a real powerhouse acting showcase, almost a one-man play as he rambles on about his duty, and how the shady people who hired him to assasinate the President are the true patriots: "I'm not a traitor - I won the silver star!" Frank's character insists.  What's best about this low-budget picture is the slow unwinding suspense that it builds - from the quiet, folksy opening that begins to unravel as Frank appears in the guise of an FBI agent sent to make sure things are safe for the arrival of the President's train, to the final reel where the plot dances on the edge of a razor - this tightly written and edited film is a small masterpiece of the noir genre, and remains a fascinating portrayal of obsession.  Purportedly viewed by Lee Harvey Osward before he murdered President Kennedy, Sinatra publicly disavowed Suddenly, forbidding it to be shown, but it has since fallen into public domain, with numerous poor-quality prints flooding the market.

Young At Heart (1954)
Warner Brothers;
Screenplay by Lenore Coffee, Julius J. Epstein, and Liam O'Brien, from the novel by Fannie Hurst;
Directed by Gordon Douglas,
117 min.


Doris Day ....  Laurie Tuttle
Frank Sinatra ....  Barney Sloan
Gig Young ....  Alex Burke
Ethel Barrymore ....  Aunt Jessie Tuttle
Dorothy Malone ....  Fran Tuttle
Robert Keith ....  Gregory Tuttle
Elisabeth Fraser ....  Amy Tuttle
Alan Hale Jr. ....  Robert Neary
Lonny Chapman ....  Ernest Nichols
Frank Ferguson ....  Bartell

REVIEW: A musical remake of a 1938 tear-jerker Four Daughters, this update doesn't necessarily improve upon it, but is a charmer in its own right. Gig Young is Alex Burke, a musical-comedy composer who comes to board with Robert Keith and his three (one was written out) musical prodigy daughters. Alex immediately becomes the object of all three's attentions, much to his discomfort, and when he gets stuck in a score he is writing, he brings in his abrasive friend Barney Sloan (Sinatra) to help out (and to deflect some of the daughters' attention over to Frank), leading to escalating sparks between Laurie (Day) and Barney. Frank is fine in his role as the brittle Sloan, putting himself and those around down with a cutting remark, but in the big change from the original film, this adaption tacks on a happy ending, which to my mind, is for the better. The biggest problem with Young At Heart is the choice of songs and their use within the film. The songs here are all top-drawer - mostly standards by this time, including Cole Porter's "Just One Of Those Things", the Gershwin's "Someone To Watch Over Me", "Make It One For My Baby (And One More For the Road)" by Arlen & Mercer, and the newly-written title track, by Johnny Richards & Caroline Leigh which immediately earned a place in Frank's repetoire. But the use of the songs never push the film forward, or illuminate our understanding of the characters; they match the mood and style of the moment, but aren't really necessary to the story or the characters who sing them. Ah well, this is still a wonderful film to watch, both for the performances and for the music, and Doris Day and Frank Sinatra both are totally immersed in the film. (Side note: Sinatra reportedly took an immediate dislike to Doris's husband at the time, Marty Melchner, and banned him from the set - years later, after his death, it was revealed that he had squandered all her money).

Not As A Stranger (1955)
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/United Artists;
Screenplay by Edna & Edward Anhalt, from the novel by Morton Thompson;
Directed by Stanley Kramer,
135 min.


Olivia de Havilland ....  Kristina Hedvigson/Marsh (surgical nurse)
Robert Mitchum ....  Dr. Lucas Marsh
Frank Sinatra ....  Alfred Boone (medical student/Lucas' best friend)
Gloria Grahame ....  Harriet Lang (horse breeder)
Broderick Crawford ....  Dr. Aarons
Charles Bickford ....  Dr. Dave W. Runkleman (of Greenville)
Myron McCormick ....  Dr. Clem Snider
Lon Chaney Jr. ....  Job Marsh (Lucas' father)
Jesse White ....  Ben Cosgrove (adult babysitter)
Harry Morgan ....  Oley (Bruni's husband)
Lee Marvin ....  Brundage (medical student)
Virginia Christine ....  Bruni (Oley's wife)
Whit Bissell ....  Dr. Dietrich (surgeon)
Jack Raine ....  Dr. Lettering
Mae Clarke ....  Miss Odell
William Vedder ....  Carlisle Emmons (typhoid patient)
John Dierkes ....  Hospital bursar

REVIEW: One of those films that was initially released with the oh-so-serious title Morton Thompson's Not As A Stranger, this straight melodrama casts Frank as the best friend of medical student Robert Mitchum.  Both Frank and Robert are working their way through medical school in the hopes of becoming rich doctors, with all the money and presitge that the position brings.  Frank doesn't need the money, coming from an upper-crust family, but Mitchum as Lucas Marsh, is fighting against his scarred past; particularly his drunken wreck of a father, played brilliantly by screen legend Lon Chaney Jr.  Gloria de Havilland co-stars as the homely (!) Kristina Hedvigson who helps Marsh both financially and emotionally through school and is rewarded with a marriage proposal - but it soon becomes clear that Mitchum's character is not in love with her, but merely want her to be the 'perfect' doctor's wife to his 'perfect' doctor.  He soon begins a torrid affair with horse breeder Gloria Grahame, and in the film's memorable love scene, seduces her in her own stables!  Frank plays his role perfectly in an understated performance that doesn't draw attention to himself as he tries to talk sense into his wayward friend.  This film is also notable as one of the first to tackle realistically the problems of doctors' lives.  Medical terminology, operating room scenes (including a scene involving a real heart), and practical situations are all handled with attention to detail, and while the movie will strike many as pure melodrama, it still packs a dramatic flair, thanks mostly to the fabulous cast.  The soaring theme song written by Jimmy Van Heusen, can be found on disc four of Rhino's Sinatra In Hollywood box set.  VHS only.

Guys And Dolls (1955)
Screenplay by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, adapted from the stage play by Abe Burrows & Jo Swerling, characters taken from stories by Damon Runyon;
Directed by Jospeh L. Mankiewicz,
152 min.


Marlon Brando ....  Sky Masterson
Jean Simmons ....  Sergeant Sarah Brown
Frank Sinatra ....  Nathan Detroit
Vivian Blaine ....  Miss Adelaide
Robert Keith ....  Lieutenant Brannigan
Stubby Kaye ....  Nicely Nicely Johnson
B.S. Pulley ....  Big Jule (as B.S. Pully)
Johnny Silver ....  Benny Southstreet
Sheldon Leonard ....  Harry the Horse
Danny Dayton ....  Rusty Charlie (as Dan Dayton)
George E. Stone ....  Society Max
Regis Toomey ....  Arvide Abernathy
Kathryn Givney ....  General Cartwright
Veda Ann Borg ....  Laverne
Mary Alan Hokanson ....  Agatha, Mission Member
Joe McTurk ....  Angie the Ox
Kay E. Kuter ....  Calvin, Mission Member (as Kay Kuter)
Stapleton Kent ....  Mission Member
Renee Renor ....  Cuban Singer
The Goldwyn Girls ....  Performers

REVIEW: A near perfect movie-musical, Guys and Dolls marks a stellar turn for Sinatra in the role of Nathan Detroit as a small-time operator of a travelling high-stakes poker game.  Sinatra is hilarious and utterly convincing as the weasilly Detroit, whose moll-girlfriend, Miss Adelaide, is worrying herself sick over their 14-year "engagment".  The intertwining loves and lives of Damon Runyan's cast of characters is brought vividly to life on the screen in this immortal film.  Full of unforgettable players, from the bloodhound-like doggedness of Lieutenant Brannigan (played by steely Robert Keith), to the knock-'em-out showstopper "Look Out You're Rocking The Boat" by Stubby Kaye, to the street-smart patter of the characters, pulled right from Runyan's playbook - this is a film that does almost everything right.  Even the controversial casting of Marlon Brando is spot on - he seethes with the underworld sexuality that Sky Masterson is supposed to have - unfortunately hamstrung in his singing (the one pitfall of the movie).  Otherwise it's all perfection - from the street-ball interplay of the opening number "Fugue For Tinhorns" to the pitch-perfect mood of the ballads, the music by Frank Loesser is justifiably lauded for its canny rhythms and smart scatting lyrics.  Frank has all comedy numbers here, from the newly-penned "Adelaide" to the titular title song, from the pathetic pleading of "Sue Me" to the barbershop stylings of "The Oldest Established", this score is classic in every sense of the word. An almost perfect blending of song, story, and dance, and one of my personal favorites.  Also available as a two-disc special edition DVD

The Tender Trap (1955)
Screenplay by Julius J. Epstein, adapted from the play by Max Shulman and Robert Paul Smith;
Directed by Charles Walters,
111 min.


Frank Sinatra ....  Charlie Y. Reader
Debbie Reynolds ....  Julie Gillis
David Wayne ....  Joe McCall
Celeste Holm ....  Sylvia Crewes
Jarma Lewis ....  Jessica
Lola Albright ....  Poppy
Carolyn Jones ....  Helen
Howard St. John ....  Mr. Sayers
Joey Faye ....  Sol Z. Steiner
Tom Helmore ....  Mr. Loughran
Willard Sage ....  Director
Marc Wilder ....  Ballet-Actor
Jack Boyle ....  Audition Dancer
James Drury ....  Eddie

REVIEW: The Tender Trap has always struck me as an extremely cynical film; it has a mean-spiritedness to it that has always left me a little cold. Frank Sinatra stars as Charlie Y. Reader, a jet-set, swinging, hedonistic bachelor who has a large penthouse with a view, martinis as his elbow, and, oh, yeah, his married buddy (played with somber gravity by David Wayne) who thinks its time for Frank to settle down. But Charlie has discovered an interesting statistic: in New York City there are more women than men, so he's going to take advantage of this fact and play the field. Gal pal Sylvia, played with wonderully dry wit from the always-watchable Celeste Holm, thinks that she has first tabs on Charlie's pad, but in sweeps husband-hunter Debbie Reynolds, and she's targeted Charlie as her own. Reynolds is fine, if more than a little frightening as a man-chaser, and Sinatra seems to be simply himself as the care-free bachelor, but the static camera work and pedestrian script lack sparkle; there's a flatness to everything that irons out what should have been a whip-snapper of a comedy. The title song also makes too many appearances; by my count it shows up five times! Nothing like repetition to pound the song into the patron's brains, huh? An OK movie, but not what it could have been.  VHS only.

The Man With The Golden Arm (1955)
United Artists;
Screenplay by Walter Newman and Lewis Meltzer, adapted from the novel by Nelson Algren;
Directed by Otto Preminger,
119 min.


Frank Sinatra ....  Frankie Machine
Eleanor Parker ....  Zosch Machine
Kim Novak ....  Molly
Arnold Stang ....  Sparrow
Darren McGavin ....  Louie
Robert Strauss ....  Schwiefka
John Conte ....  Drunky
Doro Merande ....  Vi
George E. Stone ....  Sam Markette
George Mathews ....  Williams
Leonid Kinskey ....  Dominiwski
Emile Meyer ....  Detective Bednar

REVIEW: Frank teamed up with renowned director Otto Preminger (Laura, Stalag 17, Carmen Jones) to paint a portrait of a heroin addict named 'Frankie Machine' who returns from prison determined to make a clean life for himself as a drummer, but his pushed-over-the-edge wife (played with frightening intensity by Eleanor Parker) and his old drug pusher are there to help him back to his old ways.  The icy beauty Kim Novak, who would re-team with Sinatra years later on Pal Joey, is here playing 'Molly' a lost soul, and stablizing influence for Frank.  This film generated a lot of controversy when it was first released, party due to it's racy subject matter (drug addition), which caused the film to lose it's Seal Of Approval from Hollywood's Production Code, which only helped to promote the film and eventually lead to the dismantling of the Production Code.  The other controversial aspect is due to Sinatra's terrifying portrayal of an addict.  The scenes of Frank going cold turkey still have a visceral power to punch the viewer in the gut.  Sinatra reportedly visited a clinic for recovering addicts when studying the part, and his finely measured acting was worthy of the Best Actor nomination he received (he lost to Ernest Borgnine).  But this film also has several checks against it: the characters, especially the side players, are all one-note cut-outs, who have no depth or development at all; even the roles of Zosch and Molly begin and end the film without drifting from the path the script sets out for them.  Frank comes off best as the haunted, tormented addict torn between what he knows is right and the inevitable pull of the world he's drowning in, but this film offers no answers, only accusations against society - it's all shock treatment without compassion, or solutions.  Frank's next film appearance would be a short cameo in Meet Me In Las Vegas.

Also available is the 50th Anniversary 2-Disc Edition with loads of bonus features:
Original Theatrical Trailer
Commentary by film historian, Ken Barnes
Exclusive archive interview with Frank Sinatra
Interview with Academy Award winning composer, Elmer Bernstein
Stills and Posters gallery
Audio Visual Montage of "The Man with the Golden Arm" recording featuring the DVD debut of Frank Sinatra's vocal of the title song (not used in the film's commercial release)
Cast and Crew Bios
Production Background

High Society (1956)
Screenplay by John Patrick, based on the play by Phillip Barry (The Philadelpia Story);
Directed by Charles Walters,
111 min.


Bing Crosby ....  C.K. Dexter-Haven
Grace Kelly ....  Tracy Samantha Lord
Frank Sinatra ....  Mike Connor
Celeste Holm ....  Liz Imbrie
John Lund ....  George Kittredge
Louis Calhern ....  Uncle Willie
Sidney Blackmer ....  Seth Lord
Louis Armstrong ....  Himself
Margalo Gillmore ....  Mrs. Seth Lord
Lydia Reed ....  Caroline Lord
Gordon Richards ....  Dexter-Haven's butler
Richard Garrick ....  Edward (Lords' butler)

REVIEW: High Society is a fun, if needless remake of 1940's Philadelphia Story, this musical update substitutes the sharp-tongued wit of Kathyn Hepburn for the glamour of Grace Kelly, and the suave surety of Cary Grant's role goes to the 'old groaner' and Sinatra foil Bing Crosby!  OK, I can watch Grace Kelly in anything, but Crosby as her ex?  The love triangle (or is it a square?) that simmers between Kelly, Sinatra, Crosby and John Lund (as Grace's fiancee) never really convinces, especially when Sinatra tries to put the moves on Grace's character - I mean, she already has such disdain for reporters, and now Frank wants to woo her?  Oh well, with so much talent to burn, this film still manages to entertain.  Frank Sinatra pairs up again with Celeste Holm, this time as paparazzi who are out to snap photos of socialite Kelly's upcoming nuptials.  Pity the fool who makes her mad.  Adding to the mix are Louis Armstrong, under the pretense of rehearsing as part of Bing's new band, and the amusing side-men of Louis Calhern as the befuddled 'Uncle Willie', Sidney Blackmer and Margalo Gillmore as the side-splittingly droll parents, and little Lydia Reed as butt-insky brat sister 'Caroline'.  Like I said, none of the romantic entanglements are even romotely plausible, but the actors are having fun, the music is both lush ("True Love"), jazzy, ("Now You Has Naz") and pure musical comedy ("Well, Did You Evah?"), and the direction by Charlie Walters has a sure touch.  Strangely, Sinatra returns to the role of bobby-soxer crooner here, singing two slushy ballads: "You're Sensational", and "Mind If I Make Love To You" - which again, go against the grain of his character's supposedly hard-nosed facade.  A middling 50's musical, worth renting once or twice. 

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