May 4th, 2008

carole lombard 07
  • vp19

This month, be Frank

"In tomorrow's entry, we'll salute an entertainer who was influenced by Bing...so much that he rose to stardom by adopting a slightly different style, avoiding becoming yet another Crosby imitator."

Well, that "tomorrow" is today, and I hope that most of you knew of whom I was writing. It was, of course, Frank Sinatra, who passed away 10 years ago this month (May 14, to be precise) at age 82. We're also saluting Sinatra because

* A stamp is to be issued in his honor, and

* Turner Classic Movies has named him its Star of the Month, and will present many of his movies throughout May (beginning tonight), with some other goodies to boot, We'll tell you more shortly.

Did Sinatra ever meet Carole Lombard? Highly unlikely. Nevertheless, Lombard -- whose fondness for popular music went back to her days dancing at the Cocoanut Grove in Los Angeles -- certainly knew who Sinatra was; the Tommy Dorsey band, for whom he sang in the early '40s, was one of the premier outfits in the country. In 1940, it had a huge hit with "I'll Never Smile Again." Unlike most big band records of the time which had only brief vocal refrains, the lyric dominated the song, putting Frank in the forefront.

That October, the Dorsey band opened the new Hollywood Palladium;



I've never heard any stories about Carole and Clark Gable being there; as husband and wife, they didn't go out all that much.

Anyway, I've been a Sinatra fan for many years and was fortunate to see him in concert twice, both in the mid-1980s. While his voice wasn't quite as sparkling as it had been in his heyday, he could still put over a song beautifully.

What made Frank so special? He was the supreme storyteller of song, making you feel the nuances of a lyric better than just about anyone else. And it's why so many of his versions of songs are the definitive ones.

Before telling you about the Sinatra offerings from TCM in the U.S., some recommendations on a few starter CDs to buy for those of you just beginning to get into his music:



* "The Voice" (Sony). Before CDs, there were LPs. Before LPs, there were 78 rpm albums, so called because they resembled a photo album, usually with four records and eight sides. Sinatra did this collection of eight intimate songs for Columbia in 1946, and it became a huge seller; along the way, he influenced scores of younger singers (Dean Martin often cited this album). Sony reissued this on CD a few years ago, adding a few alternate takes and extra tracks. So much of Frank's Columbia work was out of print until the early nineties, and hearing it is a revelation.



* "In The Wee Small Hours" (Capitol). Released in the spring of 1955 and for my money, the greatest pop album ever made. A total of 16 tracks, all exploring the anatomy of melancholy, but without any touch of wallowing. Sinatra looks into his soul in these reflective ballads, including the title track, "Can't We Be Friends" and "What Is This Thing Called Love." Essential.



* "Songs For Swingin' Lovers" (Capitol). A year after making his greatest ballad album, Frank cut his best uptempo album...both arranged by the superlative Nelson Riddle. "I've Got You Under My Skin," "You Make Me Feel So Young" and "We'll Be Together Again" would influence vocalists for decades to come. But unlike them, Frank makes it seem so easy.



* "Sinatra & Strings" (Reprise). Cut in 1961 with Don Costa arrangements, this lush album has a few surprises, such as a version of "Stardust" that reworks the song by including the verse only, no chorus (several years later, Frank did likewise with "MacArthur Park"). He also does a splendid version of Russ Columbo's "Prisoner Of Love," and beautifully remakes his old chestnuts "Night And Day" and "All Or Nothing At All."

Now to list TCM's Sinatra schedule, which largely breaks down into musicals on Sunday nights, non-musicals on Wednesdays. In addition, each Sunday at 8 (both Eastern and Pacific), TCM is airing a Sinatra music special that originally aired on TV.

Frank's three children are introducing many of the films and specials. We'll list those introduced by Nancy Sinatra as "n," Frank Sinatra Jr. as "f" and Tina Sinatra as "t." All times Eastern.

Sunday, May 4:
8 p.m. --
"Frank Sinatra: A Man And His Music" (1965)
9 p.m. -- "Higher And Higher" (1944)
10:45 p.m. -- "The House I Live In" (1945) Sinatra explains the importance of racial tolerance to a group of tough kids. Directed by Mervyn LeRoy.
11 p.m. -- "Frank Sinatra: A Man And His Music" (1965)
midnight -- "Step Lively" (1944)
1:45 a.m. -- "Ship Ahoy" (1942)
3:30 a.m. -- "Reveille With Beverly (1943)

Wednesday, May 7:
8 p.m. --
"From Here To Eternity" (1953) n
10:15 p.m. -- "Kings Go Forth" (1958) t
12:15 a.m. -- "Never So Few" (1959) f
2:30 a.m. -- "None But The Brave" (1965) n. Frank not only acted in this film, but directed it.

Sunday, May 11:
8 p.m. --
"Frank Sinatra: A Man And His Music, Part 2" (1966) n
9 p.m. -- "It Happened In Brooklyn" (1947)
11 p.m. -- "Frank Sinatra: A Man And His Music, Part 2" (1966)
midnight -- "Guys And Dolls" (1955)
2:45 a.m. -- "The Kissing Bandit" (1948)
4:30 a.m. -- "Till The Clouds Roll By" (1946)

Wednesday, May 14:
8 p.m. --
"The Tender Trap" (1955) t
10:15 p.m. -- "Marriage On The Rocks" (1965) n
12:15 a.m. -- "High Society" (1956) f
2:15 a.m. -- "The Pride And The Passion" (1957) t
4:45 a.m. -- "A Hole In The Head" (1959)
6:45 a.m. -- "Dirty Dingus Magee" (1970)

Sunday, May 18:
8 p.m. --
"Frank Sinatra: A Man And His Music + Ella + Jobim" (1967)
9 p.m. -- "Pal Joey" (1957)
11 p.m. -- "Frank Sinatra: A Man And His Music + Ella + Jobim" (1967)
midnight -- "Young At Heart" (1954)
2 a.m. -- "The Joker Is Wild" (1957)
4:15 a.m. -- "Double Dynamite" (1951)

Wednesday, May 21:
8 p.m. --
"Ocean's Eleven" (1960) f
10:15 p.m. -- "Sergeants Three" (1962) f
12:15 a.m. -- "Robin And The Seven Hoods" (1964) t
2:30 a.m. -- "Four For Texas" (1963) n
4:45 a.m. -- "Some Came Running" (1958)

Sunday, May 25:
8 p.m. --
"Frank Sinatra: Ol' Blue Eyes Is Back" (1974)
9 p.m. -- "On The Town" (1949)
11 p.m. -- "Frank Sinatra: Ol' Blue Eyes Is Back" (1974)
midnight -- "Anchors Aweigh" (1945)
2:30 a.m. -- "Take Me Out To The Ball Game" (1949)

Wednesday, May 28:
8 p.m. --
"The Man With The Golden Arm" (1955) t
10:15 p.m. -- "The Manchurian Candidate" (1962) t
12:30 a.m. -- "Not As A Stranger" (1955) n
2:30 a.m. -- "Suddenly" (1954) f
3:45 a.m. -- "Cast A Giant Shadow" (1966)
  • Current Mood
    creative creative