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Sinatra in Hollywood

Sinatra in Hollywood

by Tom Santopietro

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Oscar-Winning Actor, Acclaimed Director, and Recipient of the Golden Globe Award for Lifetime Achievement in Film, Frank Sinatra carved out one of the biggest careers in the history of Hollywood, yet his screen legacy has been overshadowed by his achievements as a recording artist. Until now. Sinatra in Hollywood offers an analytical yet deeply personal look at his


Oscar-Winning Actor, Acclaimed Director, and Recipient of the Golden Globe Award for Lifetime Achievement in Film, Frank Sinatra carved out one of the biggest careers in the history of Hollywood, yet his screen legacy has been overshadowed by his achievements as a recording artist. Until now. Sinatra in Hollywood offers an analytical yet deeply personal look at his screen legend.

Examining each of Sinatra's sixty-one feature films in depth, Tom Santopietro traces the arc of his astonishing sixty-year run as a film actor, from his rise to stardom in "boy next door" musical films through his fall from grace to the near-mythic comeback with his Oscar-winning performance in From Here to Eternity. Santopietro deals head-on with the tumultuous marriage to Ava Gardner and Mia Farrow, and directly addresses the rumors of Mob involvement in Sinatra's Hollywood career.

In Sinatra in Hollywood, the film icon receives his full due as the serious artist he was, the actor about whom director Billy Wilder emphatically stated, "Frank Sinatra is beyond talent."

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Santopietro, who spent two decades as the manager of two dozen Broadway shows, has previously delivered well-received biographical career assessments of Doris Day and Barbra Streisand. Although Sinatra is covered in countless books, including several focusing on his films, Santopietro's approach attempts to seamlessly blend Sinatra's life, movies and public persona. Sinatra's tough-guy behavior masked a "wounding tenderness," observed ex-wife Mia Farrow, and an underlying thesis of this book is that a similar quality permeated his onscreen characters, "confident and brash, yet very often vulnerable." Striving for honest critiques and a witty, encyclopedic coverage, Santopietro begins with Sinatra's 1935 short subjects; dances through the grandiose 1940s MGM musicals; documents Sinatra's "professional and personal despair" and decline in such "giant turkey" disasters as The Kissing Bandit(1948); and analyzes his Oscar-winning comeback in From Here to Eternity(1953). The book verges on the speculative ("Sinatra sensed...") as it bounces from heavy hype ("one of the immortals") to pseudo-hip-in a writing style that sometimes works and sometimes simply annoys. Despite such lapses, this mammoth movie compendium, filled with forgotten facts, 53 b&w photos and a detailed filmography, is certain to satisfy Sinatra's legions of fans. (Nov. 11)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Countless books have been written about Frank Sinatra, though they typically focus on his music or broad biography. Santopietro (Considering Doris Day) directs his attention to Sinatra's film career with great success. This work is both highly readable and extensively researched, providing an absorbing look at Sinatra's part-time career. Santopietro has crafted a straightforward appreciation of Sinatra's roles, his growth as an actor, and his personal and professional relationships with the men and women he worked on-screen with, thus producing a book that should guarantee a wide readership. This is the second book to be released this year about Sinatra's film work; Karen McNally's When Frankie Went to Hollywood more specifically counterpoints Sinatra's film roles with his influence on male identity in the 1940s and 1950s, and she presents a more academic approach both in content and in writing style. Taking a thorough interest in all of Sinatra's films, successful and otherwise, Santopietro ably fills a long-standing gap in Sinatra biography, and his book is highly recommended for all libraries.
—Peter Thornell

Kirkus Reviews

The king of the saloon singers was a top-notch actor…when he cared to be.

So argues Santopietro (Considering Doris Day, 2007, etc.), who proves an ideal guide to Ol' Blue Eyes' spotty career as a screen actor. Combining a fan's ardor and enthusiasm with keen critical insight, he convincingly makes the case for Sinatra as a major acting talent while taking the famously mercurial entertainer to task for wasting his prodigious gifts on frivolous projects. In conversational prose, Santopietro covers Sinatra's family life, romances and recording career as they relate to his picture making, demonstrating an encyclopedic knowledge of every theatrical and television film's production details. The author analyzes each movie, often scene-by-scene, wittily explaining what works, what doesn't and why. Clunkers like The Kissing Bandit receive the same close attention as triumphs like On the Town and The Man with the Golden Arm, the better to fully explicate the evolution of Sinatra's craft and attitude toward the medium. Santopietro is engagingly thoughtful about the sources of the Sinatra mystique. He draws intriguing parallels between the singer's storied insistence on "one take" and his neurotic drive to banish boredom and loneliness. The author relates Sinatra's distinctively snappy way with a line of dialogue to his masterly phrasing of lyrics as a singer. Readers less inclined to this sort of Actors Studio musing will content themselves with irresistible gossip about Sinatra and various Hollywood legends, plus an authoritative accounts of the glory days of the MGM musicals that cemented Sinatra's screen stardom. Film buffs will find much to savor as well. The section on The ManchurianCandidate, for example, illuminates the greatness of that strange film and of Sinatra's performance. The Rat Pack, the Mafia, the washouts and comebacks…every aspect of the legend is intelligently addressed, but Santopietro's interest is in Sinatra's work. In the final analysis, that's what fascinates.

A terrifically lucid and entertaining look at an undervalued area of Sinatra's achievement.

From the Publisher

“It's high time someone wrote a serious book about Frank Sinatra's significant movie career. With his knowledge of both movies and music, Santopietro has put one of the biggest careers in Hollywood film history in full perspective.” —Jeanine Basinger, author of The Star Machine

“This work is both highly readable and extensively researched….Santopietro ably fills a long-standing gap in Sinatra biography.” —Library Journal (starred review)

“A terrifically lucid and entertaining look at an undervalued area of Sinatra's achievement.” —Kirkus Reviews

“This mammoth movie compendium, filled with forgotten facts, fifty-three black-and-white photos, and a detailed filmography, is certain to satisfy Sinatra's legions of fans.” —Publishers Weekly

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.80(d)

Read an Excerpt


March 25, 1954

MARCH 25, 1954: Total silence envelops the star-studded audience inside the RKO Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, California, as actress Mercedes McCambridge begins to read the names of the five nominees for Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture at the 26th Annual Academy Awards ceremony: Eddie Albert—Roman Holiday, Brandon de Wilde—Shane, Jack Palance—Shane, Frank Sinatra—From Here to Eternity, Robert Strauss—Stalag 17. Pausing briefly and opening the envelope, McCambridge exclaims:


"And the winner is—Frank Sinatra in From Here to Eternity."


Upon hearing those long-coveted words, Frank Sinatra does what every Oscar winner has ever done—he exhales. As the applause turns into cheers, he kisses both of his dates for the glittering occasion—daughter Nancy, thirteen, and son Frank, ten—and bounds up the aisle to excitedly accept his award. Taking the stage and grasping the golden statue, Frank Sinatra pronounces himself "deeply thrilled and very moved." Briefly cracking wise—"And I'd just like to say, however, that they're doing a lot of songs here tonight, but nobody asked me"—Frank professes his love for the crowd, expresses his thanks, and strides offstage, where, Oscar clasped firmly in hand, he runs the gauntlet of photographers. Flashbulbs pop and hundreds of photos are snapped. Frank Sinatra is back on top of the show business world.

Never mind the two studios that had dropped Frank's contract, the back-to-back flops of Double Dynamite and Meet Danny Wilson, and the three years spent in the wilderness of turned backs and unreturned phone calls. Tonight's a new night—and in that marvelously phony "Hooray for Hollywood" fashion always at its white hottest on Oscar night, everyone wants to congratulate Frank. Everyone wants a piece of the comeback Variety almost instantly termed "the greatest comeback in theatre history." And after backs are slapped, hands shaken, and hugs exchanged, Frank Sinatra, Mr. "Center-of-the-Action," does something quintessentially Sinatra—he walks out. Leaves all the festivities, the glittery Governors Ball, where everyone in Hollywood could pay homage, and walks the streets of Beverly Hills. Alone. As if no one else could understand the true distance of his journey.

Reflecting on the night years later, Frank mused, "I couldn't even share it with another human being. I ducked the party, lost the crowds, and took a walk. Just me and Oscar. I think I relived my entire life as I walked up and down the streets of Beverly Hills." In an entire adult lifetime spent onstage and now onscreen, through all the cheering crowds and boozy camaraderie with friends, Frank Sinatra never could outrun the loneliness that had haunted him since his solitary childhood. Loving parents? Yes. Parents who were always there? Most decidedly not. And as Frank grew up, and the desire—no, need—to perform grew, the reverent attention of the crowds provided consolation for his lonely nature. The years rolled on, and stardom arrived, but records and public performances no longer sufficed; Frank Sinatra had made a willful decision that the worldwide fame and immortality afforded by Hollywood movies would be the ticket, and tonight, Oscar night, he had proved it to every last person in America.

Through sheer force of talent and willpower, Frank Sinatra had fulfilled his dream of movie stardom, won Hollywood's top honor, and reminded everyone in filmland—hell, everyone in the world—that he had officially arrived as a top-flight dramatic actor. This was no mere singing-and-dancing routine alongside Gene Kelly. This was powerful dramatic work—"a whole new kind of thing," as he said in his acceptance speech—and there'd be plenty more of it to follow if Frank had anything to say about it. And he did.

Rattling off no fewer than seventeen major motion pictures in the next sixyears alone, Frank Sinatra served notice over and over again that he was a very big and important film actor. A movie star. One of the immortals.

But nothing was ever simple with Frank Sinatra, especially when it came to Hollywood. In his own words: "I made some pretty good pictures ... and I tried a few things that turned out to be mistakes ... ."

Right on both counts.

SINATRA IN HOLLYWOOD. Copyright © 2008 by Tom Santopietro. All rights reserved. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.

Meet the Author

Tom Santopietro has worked for the past twenty years in the New York theater as a manager of over two dozen Broadway shows. He is also the author of The Importance of Being Barbra and Considering Doris Day. He lives in New York.

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