FILMS III (1956-1960)
  IV V

NOTE: By the late 50's, Sinatra's film roles became more dramatic, harder-edged, with even the musicals moving away from the light, frothy vehicles they had been in the early part of the decade, especially with the unsympathetic portrayal of the lead character in Pal Joey.  War and crime films alternated on his schedule, with the occasional epic or western thrown in.  It seemed that Sinatra was willing to tackle anything, and took greater latitude in the roles he was willing to assume.   And by 1960, the Rat Pack was in full force, and Frank brought them with him into Hollywood.

Johnny Concho (1956)
Kent Productions/United Artists;
Screenplay by David P. Harmon and Don McGuire, based on the story "The Man Who Owned The Town" by David P. Harmon;
Directed by Don McGuire,
84 min.

Frank Sinatra ....  Johnny Concho aka Johnny Collins
Keenan Wynn ....  Barney Clark
William Conrad ....  Tallman
Phyllis Kirk ....  Mary Dark
Wallace Ford ....  Albert Dark
Dorothy Adams ....  Sarah Dark
Christopher Dark ....  Walker
Howard Petrie ....  Joe Helguson, Blacksmith
Harry Bartell ....  Sam Green
Dan Riss ....  Judge Earl Tyler
Willis Bouchey ....  Sheriff Henderson
Robert Osterloh ....  Duke Lang
Jean Byron ....  Pearl Lang
Leo Gordon ....  Mason
Claude Akins ....  Lem
John Qualen ....  Jake
Wilfred Knapp ....  Pearson
Ben Wright ....  Benson
Joe Bassett ....  Harry, Bartender

Frank Sinatra is cast in the role of Johnny Concho, who is a town bully who lives off the reptutation of his older brother, who is a notrious gunfighter.  The entire town despises and avoids him, with the exception of Mary Dark, played by the doe-eyed Phyllis Kirk, and the town sheriff, Barney Clark, (the inimitable Keenan Wynn) who both see beneath Johnny's crusty exterior into the scared little boy within.  When word arrives that two gunmen (played with gritty intensity by William Conrad and Christopher Dark) have shot and killed Johnny's brother in a gunfight, and are coming to the town to take it over, Johnny in confronted by his own cowardice and flees the town.  Only when he's alone does he finally face up to his past and finds the courage to return.  At first, Johnny tries to rally the townspeople behind him to face the gunmen, but finding that no one will back him, he has to face the villians alone.  The film manages to straddle both real-life events (the McCarthy inquisitions) and remains a fine stand-alone film; although Sinatra in later years vilified the movie (and the awful theme song which he performed), the film is actually a good western that deserves greater scrutiny for it's stance on standing together as a community.  Unfortunately not available in any format at present, Johnny Concho still shows up on television a few times a year, and is worth watching for fans who wish to see a great performance by Sinatra.

Around The World In 80 Days (1956)
Michael Todd Company/United Artists;
Screenplay by James Poe, John Farrow, and S.J. Perelman, based on the novel by Jules Verne;
Directed by Michael Anderson,
167 min.


David Niven ....  Phileas Fogg
Cantinflas ....  Passepartout
Finlay Currie ....  Whist Partner
Robert Morley ....  Ralph, Reform Club Member
Ronald Squire ....  Reform Club Member
Basil Sydney ....  Reform Club Member
Noel Coward ....  Hesketh-Baggott, Employment Agent
John Gielgud ....  Mr. Foster, previous valet to Mr. Fogg (as Sir John Gielgud)
Trevor Howard ....  Denis Fallentin, Reform Club Member
Harcourt Williams ....  Hinshaw, Reform Club Attendant
Martine Carol ....  Tourist
Fernandel ....  French Coachman 

Charles Boyer ....  Monsieur Gasse, Travel Agent
Evelyn Keyes ....  The Flirt
José Greco ....  Flamenco Dancer (as Jose Greco)
Luis Miguel Dominguín ....  Bullfighter (as Luis Dominguin)
Gilbert Roland ....  Achmed Abdullah
Cesar Romero ....  Achmed Abdullah's Henchman
Alan Mowbray ....  Consul
Robert Newton ....  Mr. Fix
Cedric Hardwicke ....  Sir Francis Gromarty (as Sir Cedric Hardwicke)
Melville Cooper ....  Mr. Talley, Captain of the 'Rangoon'

Reginald Denny ....  Police Chief
Ronald Colman ....  Railway Official
Robert Cabal ....  Elephant Driver-Guide
Shirley MacLaine ....  Princess Aouda
Charles Coburn ....  Steamship Company Clerk
Peter Lorre ....  Japanese Steward
George Raft ....  Saloon Bouncer
Red Skelton ....  Drunk in Saloon
Marlene Dietrich ....  Saloon Hostess
John Carradine ....  Col. Proctor Stamp
Frank Sinatra ....  Saloon Pianist
Buster Keaton ....  Train Conductor
Tim McCoy ....  Colonel, U.S. Cavalry (as Col. Tim McCoy)
Joe E. Brown ....  Stationmaster
Andy Devine ....  First Mate of the 'Henrietta'
Edmund Lowe ....  Engineer of the 'Henrietta'
Victor McLaglen ....  Helmsman of the 'Henrietta'
Jack Oakie ....  Captain of the 'Henrietta'
Beatrice Lillie ....  Revivalist
John Mills ....  Carriage Driver
Glynis Johns ....  Sporting Lady's Companion
Hermione Gingold ....  Sporting Lady
Edward R. Murrow ....  Himself/Prologue Narrator
A.E. Matthews ....  Club Member
Ronald Adam ....  Club Member
Walter Fitzgerald ....  Club Member
Frank Royde ....  Club Member

The most ridiculous film ever to win an Academy Award for Best Picture, Around The World In 80 Days is sheer spectacle, and nothing more. It's as if Florenz Zeigfeld had taken over motion pictures and decided to stuff as many stars, locations, and "bits" onto the screen as humanly possible and call it entertainment. Well, this film is certainly entertaining as a spectator event, sort of a "see how many stars you can spot" extravaganza, but there's no character development, the barest bones of a plot, and oh, look! There's Frank Sinatra as a piano player in a saloon! Moving right along... I can't even sit through this exercise in mass entertainment in one sitting, but it's fun to try to figure out just how director Michael Anderson juggled all the different locations, actors, schedules, and elephants to make this a semi-coherent picture. I imagine the only reason that the film won best picture was that every single voting member of the Oscars is in it. The plot involves Phineas Fogg (the unflappable David Niven) who wagers 20,000 pounds that he can travel around the circumrence of the earth in 80 days, with his loyal and practical servant Passepartout. He travels by every means available, pursued by Inspector Fix (Robert Newton) who believes that Fogg has stolen the 20,000 pounds from the Bank Of England. On their journeys they rescue a princess (Shirley MacLaine) and travel to Hong Kong, Japan, San Franciso and India. Does he make it? Who cares? Just sit back and enjoy the excess.

The Pride And The Passion (1957)
Stanley Kramer Productions/MGM/UA;
Screenplay by Edna and Edward Anhalt, from the novel "The Gun" by C.S. Forester;
Directed by Stanley Kramer,
132 min.


Cary Grant ....  Anthony
Frank Sinatra ....  Miguel
Sophia Loren ....  Juana
Theodore Bikel ....  Gen. Jouvet
John Wengraf ....  Germaine
Jay Novello ....  Gallinger
José Nieto ....  Carlos
Carlos Larrañaga ....  José
Philip Van Zandt ....  Fidal
Paco El Laberinto ....  Manolo
Julián Ugarte ....  Enrique
Félix de Pomés ....  Bishop
Carlos Casaravilla ....  Leonardo
Juan Olaguivel ....  Ramón
Nana DeHerrera ....  María
Carlos De Mendoza ....  Francisco
Luis Guedes ....  French soldier

Yet another spectacle, and with Frank playing a Spaniard once again! (Apparently he learned nothing from his fiasco in The Kissing Bandit) The story takes place during the Napoleonic Wars, when the Spanish are defeated by the French army. During their retreat they have left a potent weapon: a giant seven-ton cannon, which Naval Captain Anthony Trumbell (Grant) is ordered to return to allied lines. On the way he meets the leader of the insurgent forces, peasant Miguel (Sinatra) who insists that the cannon be used to destroy the French fort, Aliva. Sultry Sophia Loren comes along as Miguel's girl Juana, but finds herself attracted to the dashing Navy Captain, and as they struggle to move this behemoth canon across the countryside, tensions erupt between the lover's triangle. Director Stanley Kramer, still years away from his greatest film successes, finds great visuals in the Spanish countryside where the film was shot, and manages to capture the epic stuggles of the two armies with astounding action sequences, but he has no idea how to direct his three stars. Their bickering and strident speeches quickly become tiring, although the film is supposed to rest on their shoulders, I got the feeling that the film would have been more interesting without them. Frank reportedly was at his worst while filming this movie, rejecting the car the studio ordered for him, and having his own Thunderbird flown over at the studio's expense, and displaying public insults for the country's leader from his hotel room window. The film is interesting for the spectacle and the panoramic sweep of the visuals, but as an emotional kicker, it's a dud.

The Joker Is Wild (1957)
Paramount Pictures;
Screenplay by Oscar Saul, adapted from the novel "The Life Of Joe E. Lewis" by Art Cohn;
Directed by Charles Vidor,
126 min.

Frank Sinatra ....  Joe E. Lewis
Mitzi Gaynor ....  Martha Stewart
Jeanne Crain ....  Letty Page
Eddie Albert ....  Austin Mack
Beverly Garland ....  Cassie Mack
Jackie Coogan ....  Swifty Morgan
Barry Kelley ....  Capt. Hugh McCarthy
Ted de Corsia ....  Georgie Parker
Leonard Graves ....  Tim Coogan
Valerie Allen ....  Flora
Hank Henry ....  Burlesque comedian

Sinatra tackles a film that is easily one of his most underrated roles.  Taking the role of real-life comedian Joe E. Lewis, Sinatra easily steps into the shoes of Lewis as a popular vocalist who is a rising star on the concert circuit.  This unfortunately draws the attention of Al Capone and his mob, who try to strong-arm Lewis into an "exclusive" contract, which Lewis firmly, but politely declines.  The mob brutalizes Lewis, slitting his throat, which irreparably damages his vocal cords.  Although he otherwise recovers from the attack, the loss of his voice grinds on Lewis's mood, turning him into a dark and caustic figure, spitting out biting humor.  His friend Austin Mack, played by Eddie Albert in a sincere and grounded performance, leads Lewis to taking his humor on stage, where he becomes a hit all over again with his ascerbic brand of humor.  On this second rise to fame, he meets and falls in love with two different women, the rich Letty Page, played by wonderful Jeanne Crain, and the sultry chorus girl Martha Stewart (!), played by blond ingenue Mitzi Gaynor.  The struggle Lewis has in his feelings between these two women and his never resolved bitterness over the loss of his voice slowly drive Lewis to alchoholism, which threatens to destroy him.  Frank again gets a powerhouse soundtrack for this film, with the instant standard "All The Way" introduced, as well as "At Sundown", "I Cried For You", "If I Could Be With You", "Out Of Nowhere", and Bing Crosby's signature song "Swingin' On A Star".  The Joker Is Wild is one of those films that has been unjustly forgotten and deserves to be released on DVD. 

Pal Joey (1957)
Columbia Pictures;
Screenplay by Dorothy Kingsley, from the musical play by John O'Hara;
Directed by George Sidney,
111 min.

Rita Hayworth ....  Vera Simpson
Frank Sinatra ....  Joey Evans
Kim Novak ....  Linda English
Barbara Nichols ....  Gladys
Bobby Sherwood ....  Ned Galvin
Hank Henry ....  Mike Miggins
Elizabeth Patterson ....  Mrs. Casey

This film, recast from the revolutionary stage musical of the early 1940's, had less impact in 1957 when Sinatra immortalized it, since the social norms it had challenged a decade earlier had already grown more cynical and jaded, but it's still what many consider the ideal vehicle for Frank.  Sinatra plays Joey Evans, an egotistical, selfish nightclub singer who has no qualms about stepping on anything and anyone is his quest for self-gain.  The subject matter was actually toned down in the film version, although the subject matter was nearly fifteen years old, turning the character of Joey into more of a con-man with a heart of gold, but Sinatra is the ideal figure for this unsavory character, and the classic Rodgers and Hart songs that make up the majority of the score are sung with the biting witticism that Lorenz Hart's lyrics demand. "The Lady Is A Tramp" is particularly zinging, as Sinatra sings it to a classy lady who's expecting something more reverential or romantic. Kim Novak co-stars as the chorus girl who's probably the ideal woman for Joey, but to him, she's just a pit stop on his road to better things; their scenes together are heart-breaking. Not really a great musical, since it's so seedy and cynical in its sensibilities, but it's an ideal showcase for the Sinatra of the Fifties, and the music, which also includes "There's A Small Hotel", "I Could Write A Book", "My Funny Valentine", "I Didn't Know What Time It Was," "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" and "Zip" is the very best. The DVD includes an interesting bonus reel of Frank Sinatra instrucing the audience on the different slang phrases found in the film.

Kings Go Forth (1958)
Frank Ross-Eton Production/
Screenplay by Merle Miller from the novel by Joe David Brown;
Directed by Delmer Daves,
109 min.

Frank Sinatra ....  1st Lt. Sam Loggins
Tony Curtis ....  Cpl. Britt Harris
Natalie Wood ....  Monique Blair
Leora Dana ....  Mrs. Blair
Karl Swenson ....  Lt. Col. Loggins
Ann Codee ....  Mme. Brieux
Eddie Ryder ....  Cpl. Lindsay (as Edward Ryder)
Jacques Berthe ....  Jean-François Dauvah
Pete Candoli ....  Musician (uncredited)
Cyril Delevanti ....  Blairs' Butler (uncredited)
Marie Isnard ....  Old Woman with Wine (uncredited)
Red Norvo ....  Musician (uncredited)

REVIEW:  Kings Go Forth is one of Hollywood's more ignored "message movies" where the theme that's explored (race relations and bigotry) overshadow everything else.  Sinatra stars as Leutenant Sam Loggins, a hard-nosed gunnery man, and Curtis is the cocky, swaggering radio operator  Britt Harris.  Fighting in Southern France during World War II, the two men are as different as night and day: Curtis is smooth and sophisticated, with dashing good looks and a wealthy family back home.  Sinatra is rough around the edges and street-wise, but when the two of them meet the ravashing Monique, played by Natalie Wood, they go head to head in competition for her affections.  Monique is initially attracted to Curtis's character, but then Monique's mother (played by Leora Dana) reveals that Monique's father was black, classifying Monique as a mulatto.  Back in the late Fifties, this topic was all the rage, with Sidney Poitier taking point in several race-related films during this era that helped break down the color barriers in films (in fact, Tony Curtis's next film, The Defiant Ones would tackle the same subject, this time co-starring with Poitier).  But for such a high-minded subject, it's interesting to note that there are no black characters present,  just all these Italian-Americans discussing the subject at length.  Britt Harris, despite his sophisticated upbringing, drops Monique like a hot potato, and vociferously rails against interracial relationships, which of course means he gets killed in action later in the picture (ultimate justice).  Frank's character also initially balks at the implications of Monique's heritage, but is able to later reconcile his feelings and reunites with Monique after the war.  Although the film isn't as daring as it would like to think, Frank shows himself to be equal to the task of acting side by side with his co-stars in this earnest wartime melodrama.  

Some Came Running (1958)
Screenplay by John Patrick & Arthur Sheekman, based on the novel by James Jones; Directed by Vincente Minnelli,
152 min.

Frank Sinatra ....  Dave Hirsh
Dean Martin ....  Bama Dillert (professional gambler)
Shirley MacLaine ....  Ginny Moorhead
Martha Hyer ....  Gwen French (schoolteacher)
Arthur Kennedy ....  Frank Hirsh
Nancy Gates ....  Edith Barclay (Frank Hirsh's secretary)
Leora Dana ....  Agnes Hirsh
Betty Lou Keim ....  Dawn Hirsh
Larry Gates ....  Prof. Robert Haven French
Steven Peck ....  Raymond Lanchak (Ginny's suitor)
Connie Gilchrist ....  Jane Barclay (Edith's mother)
Ned Wever ....  Smitty (owner, Smitty's Bar)

REVIEW:  A slow-burning drama, Some Came Running has Frank cast as Dave Hirsh, a burned-out writer and ex-G.I. who, after a disasterous late-night card game, retreats to his home town of Parktown, Indiana with a dizzy call-girl, played by Shirley MacLaine, (who received her first Oscar nomination for the role).  Frank's character, Dave Hirsh, is a bitter, hardened man who casts a cynical eye on his former town's inhabitants, who reveal themselves to be concealing demons under a veneer of small town facades.  Arthur Kennedy plays Dave Hirsh's brother, Frank, who is a half-owner of the town's bank, but who sees his burned dreams in his brother's successes; Dean Martin plays the boozy town gambler whose worst intincts are kindled by Hirsh's sharp observations; and Martha Hyer is the local schoolteacher who finds herself attracted to both Hirsh's writings and the man.  Shirley is the firecracker in the film, both hilarious and heartbreaking as the simple-souled 'bad girl' who finds refuge in Hirsh's arms, even though he considers her nothing more than a diversion.  Minnelli's direction is both cool and taut and the during the course of the two and a half hour film, he gradually unravels the deceptions within the town, and sparks the fuse that's lit in the tragic characters lives.  The film's tragic denoument, occuring at the town carnival, is a nightmarish homage to Hitchcock's direction, and fittingly closes the door on what can only appear as the character's fitting fates.

A Hole In The Head (1959)
United Artists; Screenplay by Arnold Schulman, adapted from the his own play; Directed by Frank Capra,
120 min.

Frank Sinatra ....  Tony Manetta
Edward G. Robinson ....  Mario Manetta
Eleanor Parker ....  Eloise Rogers
Carolyn Jones ....  Shirl
Thelma Ritter ....  Sophie Manetta
Keenan Wynn ....  Jerry Marks
Joi Lansing ....  Dorine
Connie Sawyer ....  Miss Wexler
James Komack ....  Julius Manetta (as Jimmy Komack)
Dub Taylor ....  Fred (the clerk)
George DeWitt ....  Mendy Yales
Benny Rubin ....  Abe Diamond
Ruby Dandridge ....  Sally
B.S. Pulley ....  Hood (as B.S. Pully)
Joyce Nizzari ....  Alice (Jerry's secretary)
Pupi Campo ....  Master of Ceremonies
Eddie Hodges ....  Alvin 'Ally' Manetta

REVIEW:  A family-friendly film, and one of Capra's last efforts, A Hole In The Head finds Frank as Tony Manetta, an impractical divorcee who's trying to hang on to his finances and his 12-year-old son Julius, who has an unshakeable faith in his wayward father.  Tony owns a hotel in Florida, but his uneasy grasp of fiscal matters has put his business at risk.  His well-off brother and sisiter-in-law, (played with perfection by Edward G. Robinson and Thelma Ritter, respectively) travel down to Florida to visit, and Tony tries to get his brother to loan him money for another crazy scheme (get this - Tony wants to build a theme park in Florida, this was years before Disney World was built).  But Mario and Eloise have other plans - they hope to pair Tony up with a widow (played by Eleanor Parker), and hopefully she'll plant some sense in his hair-brained skull.  A hole in the head has all the Capra touches that fans will appreciate; the innate goodness in the characters, the family-conscious camraderie between Edward and Frank's characters, and the love between a father and son.  But where Capra's best films have always striven to reach a higher plateau in the messages they preach, A Hole In The Head feels a little thin.  The story is the main problem, with the conflicts smaller and less worthy of attention than Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, or It's A Wonderful Life.  Frank also seems less involved in this character than the harder-hitting dramas he'd been investing in, and the result is a pale shadow of other films.  Frank again plays a loveable cad, but he's not as much of a cad, and he's not as loveable here as he was in say, Pal Joey.  But these are really small quibbles - this is a fine film that the whole family can enjoy, and a real twist from other Sinatra films.

Never So Few (1959)
Canterbury Production/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer;

Screenplay by Millard Kaufman, adapted from the novel by Tom T. Chamales;
Directed by John Sturges,
125 min.


Frank Sinatra ....  Capt. Tom Reynolds
Gina Lollobrigida ....  Carla Vesari
Peter Lawford ....  Capt. Grey Travis
Steve McQueen ....  Cpl. Bill Ringa
Richard Johnson ....  Capt. Danny De Mortimer
Paul Henreid ....  Nikko Regas
Brian Donlevy ....  Gen. Sloan
Dean Jones ....  Sgt. Jim Norby
Charles Bronson ....  Sgt. John Danforth
Philip Ahn ....  Nautaung
Robert Bray ....  Col. Fred Parkson
Kipp Hamilton ....  Margaret Fitch
John Hoyt ....  Col. Reed
Whit Bissell ....  Capt. Alofson
Richard Lupino ....  Mike Island
Aki Aleong ....  Billingsly

REVIEW:  You have about two thirds of a good film here, with intriguing locales and explosive action sequences in the first and last thirds of the picture, and the middle third dragged down by a superfluous (and improbable) romance
. Frank here is O.S.S. Operative Captain Tom Reynolds, who is training a group of Burmese guerilla fighters (Kachins) in modern warfare, they can badger the Japanese forces during World War II. It's an interesting premise, especially in light of modern terrorist activities which were fostered by the same goodwill efforts. But director John Sturges isn't interested in studying the rights or wrongs of these efforts; he gives the audience some spectacular war battles, with real, gritty moments of action that still are impressive. But the film takes a sharp left turn when Frank is ordered to take some time off and pick up both a doctor (the bland Peter Lawford), and medical supplies. While on this enforced holiday, Captain Reynolds meets up with other characters, including driver Steve McQueen, a shady war profiteer (Paul Henried) and his mistress, Carla Vesari (Gina Lollobrigida). The romance that heats up between Frank and Gina is not only pointless to the rest of the film, it practically grinds the film to a halt as we half-heartedly wonder whether these two will hit it off, even though they share no on-screen chemistry. Thankfully, the film picks up again as the main characters return to the theater of action for some closing action pieces. While not a great war picture, it's worth seeing for Frank's square-jawed performance and the exceptional war scenes. You can make popcorn during the middle.

Can-Can (1960)
Twentieth Century Fox;
Screenplay by Dorothy Kingsley and Charles Lederer, based on the musical play by Abe Burrows;
Directed by Walter Lang,
131 min.


Frank Sinatra ....  François Durnais
Shirley MacLaine ....  Simone Pistache
Maurice Chevalier ....  Paul Barriere
Louis Jordan ....  Philipe Forrestier
Juliet Prowse ....  Claudine
Marcel Dalio ....  Andre (head waiter)
Leon Belasco ....  Arturo (orchesra leader)
Nestor Paiva ....  Bailiff
John A. Neris ....  Photographer
Jean Del Val ....  Judge Merceaux
Ann Codee ....  League president

REVIEW:  No,no,no,no.  If you're going to do a musical Frank, make sure that 1.) it's not one of Cole Porter's later shows, almost all of which have dull scores, and 2.) that you don't have to pretend you're French.  Obviously believing that he still can pull off a foreign accent, after the twin spanish disasters of Kissing Bandit and Pride and the Passion (actually, he doesn't even try), Frank signs on to star again with the inimitable Shirley MacLaine and two stars who know how to act French because they ARE French: Maurice Chevalier and Louis Jordan.  But this ain't Gigi by a long shot.  Easily one of Cole Porter's weaker 'hits' on Broadway, Can-Can tells the story of a nightclub owner, one Simone Pistache (MacLaine), who is contantly getting shut down by the police because she allows a salicious dance called the Can-Can to be performed there every night.  Sympathetic judge Paul Barriere (Chevalier) is willing to look the other way (with a few backward glances), but hard-nosed lawman Philipe Forrestier (Jordan) will go to any length to uphold morality (or is it morali-TAY?).  Frank plays Francios, Simone's beau, who helps out, but once Simone begins playing both sides of the field and Philipe falls for her hard, things get tricky.  Frank and Shirley barely show up for their roles, singing the songs well, but only marginally there for the line readings, and Jordan, usually unflappable, looks embarrassed to be here, but Chevalier is all oily charm, though he is given little to do.  I know a lot of people enjoy this film, but place it side by side to any of the greats, and its seams begin to show.  It was a creaky show on Broadway, and here, blown up onto the big screen, it really feels like leftovers.  Songs Frank sings include:  "C'est Magnifique", "Let's Do It", "It's All Right With Me", "Montmart'", and "I Love Paris".  

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