Wednesday, December 02, 2015

TCM Star of the Month: Frank Sinatra

This month the Turner Classic Movies Star of the Month is Frank Sinatra.

TCM previously honored Sinatra as Star of the Month in November 2000. His selection this month is in honor of the December 12th centennial of his birth.

35 Sinatra movies will be shown on Wednesdays in December, beginning this evening, December 2nd. TCM will also be filling out the Sinatra schedule with some excellent TV concerts.

The Sinatra offerings kick off tonight with the superb TV concert FRANK SINATRA: A MAN AND HIS MUSIC (1965); by all means, make it a point to see that one!

That's followed by three Sinatra musicals of varying quality: GUYS AND DOLLS (1955), PAL JOEY (1957), and CAN-CAN (1960). I like PAL JOEY, costarring Rita Hayworth and Kim Novak, the best of the three. GUYS AND DOLLS has its moments, but casting which led to Marlon Brando singing "Luck Be a Lady" instead of Sinatra has never computed for me.

Five more films from 1951 through 1970 fill out the evening.

On December 9th SINATRA SINGS (2011) will be shown, followed by the film which was the most important in Sinatra's long career, FROM HERE TO ETERNITY (1953). He received an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and also turned around a career slump. As an aside, the Oscar can be seen today in the Frank Sinatra Hall in the Norris Theater on the campus of the University of Southern California.

Eight more films air on the 9th, including the excellent SUDDENLY (1954). Sinatra is terrific in that one, gradually peeling back the layers of a warped psyche as a man who aspires to assassinate the President of the United States.

For me December 16th is the best evening on the month's Sinatra schedule. After the TV special OL' BLUE EYES IS BACK (1973) the evening focuses first on his '40s MGM years and then his early RKO and Columbia musicals.

The three films he made with Gene Kelly are shown in reverse order, ON THE TOWN (1949), TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALL GAME (1949), and ANCHORS AWEIGH (1945); I like them all, and ON THE TOWN is probably the best, but I've always been very partial to ANCHORS AWEIGH, in which Hollywood is a Technicolor wonderland. Sinatra is adorable, whether he's bouncing on beds with Kelly or singing "I Fall in Love Too Easily."

The evening also includes the MGM musicals IT HAPPENED IN BROOKLYN (1947) and THE KISSING BANDIT (1947), then goes back in time to STEP LIVELY (1944), REVEILLE WITH BEVERLY (1943), and HIGHER AND HIGHER (1943). HIGHER AND HIGHER is a personal favorite which ran on TV many times when I was growing up.

Don't miss the TV special HAPPY HOLIDAYS WITH BING AND FRANK (1957) on December 23rd; it's half an hour of pure music which I like to play every Christmas.

The evening includes two mid-'50s MGM gems, HIGH SOCIETY (1956) and THE TENDER TRAP (1955). HIGH SOCIETY is a remake of THE PHILADELPHIA STORY which stands on its own two feet, boasting a marvelous cast (Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly, Celeste Holm, and John Lund) and a Cole Porter score, while THE TENDER TRAP is a small gem which I included on my list of Underrated Films of 1955. Both movies were directed by Charles Walters.

Also showing on the 23rd are THE MIRACLE OF THE BELLS (1948) and ROBIN AND THE SEVEN HOODS (1964).

December 30th begins with the TV special SINATRA (1969) leading into a five film evening which includes THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM (1955), THE JOKER IS WILD (1957), and SOME CAME RUNNING (1958).

There are a couple of key Sinatra films not showing this month, such as OCEAN'S 11 (1960) and THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (1962), but overall it's an excellent month covering all aspects of his long screen career.

As a postscript, I was fortunate to see Sinatra in concert, along with Buddy Rich, at the Long Beach Arena in 1983. He may have been past his prime by then, but he was always an exciting entertainer, and it was a special thrill to see the greatest singer of the 20th Century in person.

For more on TCM this month, please visit TCM in December: Highlights and TCM in December: Christmas Movies.


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