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Tuesday, 3 April 2018

On Frank Sinatra as actor - John Conomos praises his key 50s performances.


Since last week I have had unfortunately cellulitis in my right leg and despite the two intravenous antibiotics treatment per day, the itch is horrendous, reminding me of Frank Sinatra in Otto Preminger's 1955 noir classic The Man with the Golden Arm. Quite a drag to have a cannula in your arm for the last week. (Click on the link to find the trailer.)

Frank Sinatra, Young at Heart
BTW, if you are doubtful that Sinatra was a lousy actor have a look at his finely calibrated performance as the addict drummer in Preminger's film. It is a performance that matches, in my opinion, his Oscar-winning one in Fred Zinnemann's From Here to Eternity. In my Cinema Papers obituary of Sinatra I also singled out Sinatra as the dark composer pianist in Gordon Douglas' noteworthy 1955 musical Young At Heart with its existential undercurrents as epitomised by Sinatra 's sinuously crafted performance as the gloomy romantic musician out of joint in a world of mass-produced nondescript entertainment. 

Frank Sinatra, Suddenly
As a kid I can recall seeing Lewis Allen's noir crime drama Suddenly at the Kings Theatre, Marrickville in 1954, and Frank Sinatra excelling as the neurotic psychopath assassin. A riveting electric performance signaling dramatically the film's taut thriller mise-en-scène. 

In all four films what we encounter is Sinatra's singularly deeply felt and understood familiarity , both as a vocalist and actor, of the underlying behavioural, cultural and psychological factors that made up the so-called "Age of Anxiety" ( W.H.Auden). Sinatra's awe-inspiring ability to emotionally colour the lyrics of his songs and to directly address his naked feelings to his listeners in such intense intimate, romantic and persuasive terms is, also, abundantly evident overall especially in his neurotically charged film performances of the 1950s.

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