Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Happy Birthday Frank Sinatra... 12-12-12


On December 12, 1915, Francis Albert Sinatra was born in Hoboken, New Jersey. He was thought to be stillborn until his grandmother revived him under cold water. He was the only child of Italian immigrants Anthony Martin and Natalie Della "Dolly".
Sinatra dropped out of high school at 15 and decided he would follow in the footsteps of his idol, Bing Crosby. In 1935 he entered a radio talent program called Major Bowes Amateur Hour. For the performance Frank partnered up with a singing and dancing trio called the Three Flashes and formed the Hoboken Four. They won first prize and went on to more performances with Major Bowes' traveling show. Within a few years, Sinatra was singing regularly on several radio stations. He got his big break while working as a singer and waiter at an Englewood, N.J. restaurant, the Rustic Cabin. There, trumpet extraordinaire Harry James found the young Sinatra and decided he would fit well as the lead singer for his band The Music Makers.
Sinatra quit James’ band after 7 months and joined Tommy Dorsey's swing orchestra. It was with Tommy Dorsey’s orchestra that the classic Sinatra crooning began and the idol began to form. By the early forties Sinatra had made a name for himself and he bought out his contract with Dorsey to pursue a solo career. Success followed him and so did swarms of adoring teenage girls just to hear his unique phrasing and emotional performances.
The first Frank Sinatra hit song was recorded in 1939 with the Harry James Orchestra. "All or Nothing at All," was actually released in 1943 after Sinatra had left James’ group and signed on with Tommy Dorsey’s Big Band.
In 1946, Sinatra signed a five-year film contract with M-G-M which diverted his primary focus away from music and toward acting. Just as on stage, Sinatra’s charisma came through on film and he went on to star in a variety of films that often featured his songs. The most successful of the early films was Anchors Aweigh with Gene Kelly in 1945 and On the Town in 1949.
The tough times began in the early 1950s. In 1951, Frank left his first wife Nancy and his three children for movie starlet, Ava Gardner. Their five-year relationship was a precursor to the more modern tabloid headline grabbers of today. In 1952, Sinatra suffered a severe blow to his career when his vocal cords hemorrhaged. At this point in his career the music was painful and the movie roles were poor. Professional abandonment came for Sinatra at age 37 when he was dropped by Universal, CBS-TV, Columbia Records and his agent.
The downhill road began to show incline thanks to Ava Gardner’s assistance in securing husband Frank the role of Angelo Maggio in 1953's From Here to Eternity. Sinatra himself loved the role and knew he was born to play it. He fought hard to convince the producers the same and even agreed to take a huge pay cut and take the role for only $8,000. His performance as Maggio opposite Burt Lancaster and Donna Reed showed that he could hang with the big boys of Hollywood. The fitting reward for his dramatic performance was the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his work in the film.
His acting prowess wasn’t a flash in the pan as Sinatra went on to give a riveting performance as a heroin addict in the 1955 Otto Preminger film The Man With the Golden Arm. He received critical acclaim for his role in the 1962 Cold War psychodrama The Manchurian Candidate. Along with the dramatic roles, Sinatra maintained his involvement in more light hearted, entertaining musical feature films like Guys and Dolls (1955), High Society (1956), and Pal Joey (1957).
The Rat Pack was formed by Humphrey Bogart in 1955. The then "Holmby Hills Rat Pack" was meant to be a gathering of the guys for nights of drinking and fun. After Bogart's death in 1957, the Rat Pack as we know it today was born under the leadership of the Pack Master, Frank Sinatra. The new Pack was comprised of Sinatra's pals, namely Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop. Later honorary members included Milton Berle, Shirley MacLaine, and Tony Curtis. Sinatra actually preferred the title "The Summit" for his group but the Rat Pack is the name that stuck. From the late 50s to the early 60s, the Rat Pack was booming. They hammed it up on stage and screen with a huge fan base to feed the growing attraction. They performed together with a relaxed yet intimate humor the likes of which is not often seen today. It was a unique and classy bunch of entertaining friends.
The Pack performed on stage together, partied together and made movies together. Ocean's Eleven (1960), Sergeants 3 (1962), Four for Texas (1963), and Robin and the Seven Hoods (1964) reflected the creative lifestyle of living it up till all hours of the night. More than just a party, the Pack had social influence, no one more than the Pack master himself with his increasing political and cultural power.
In 1953, Sinatra’s musical career was reborn when he signed on with Capitol Records. His collaborations with arranger Nelson Riddle produced some of the most popular albums of the time, such as Songs for Young Lovers, A Swingin' Affair, Come Fly With Me, Swing Easy, In the Wee Small Hours, and Songs for Swingin' Lovers. During this period Sinatra went through a vocal evolution from the crooning heartthrob to the more mature and interpretive artist. He covered the gamut of emotions with his albums and pulled it off each time. He described his bipolar accuracy with the quote “being an 18-karat manic-depressive and having lived a life of violent emotional contradictions, I have an over acute capacity for sadness as well as elation.”
The hit songs kept coming and the persona and success ballooned during Sinatra’s so called “come-back” in the late ‘50s. Yet, it’s hard to call it a comeback when he ended up surpassing where he had been in the first place. It was more like a come back followed by unbelievable yet well-deserved achievement. He was back at the top of the music, movie and even TV world. Entertainment was synonymous with Sinatra. Here the legend took form as a result of the way he handled himself during such fruitful times. Always cool and collected, he carried himself in a way that most in the limelight do not. He worked hard to maintain the standards he set with sold-out concerts, hit records, and popular films and television specials. "The Chairman of the Board" added successful businessman to his resume with many successful deals including the co-founding of his own recording label in 1961 dubbed Reprise Records.
The up and down love affair/marriage with Ava Gardner ended in divorce in 1957. Sinatra the bachelor was back and he pursued such Hollywood sex symbols as Elizabeth Taylor, Judy Garland, and Lauren Bacall. He ended up marrying the little known actress Mia Farrow (30 years his junior) in 1966. They divorced in 1968 and in 1976 Sinatra married his fourth and final wife, Barbara Jane Blakely Marx, Zeppo Marx's widow.
Sinatra announced his retirement from both recording and acting in 1971. He was far from finished, however, and in 1973 released the television special and album, Ol' Blue Eyes Is Back. In 1980 he appeared in the urban crime drama The First Deadly Sin. He appeared sporadically on TV (Who’s the Boss and others) and in film throughout the ‘80s.
In 1988 Sinatra launched a hugely successful Rat Pack reunion tour with Sammy Davis, Jr. and Dean Martin but when Dean pulled out due to the strenuous schedule, Liza Minnelli provided a very qualified replacement. The release of two albums featuring Sinatra with other popular artists of the times, Duets (1993) and Duets II (1994), proved his style of music was still in demand. The two Duets albums outsold any of his albums. Frank proved he could cross-generational barriers with as much ease as he sang a song.
Many people overlook the generosity of Frank Sinatra throughout his life. He was a favorite of the media due to his alleged mob ties and the focus usually centered on what he did wrong instead of the many things he did right. In 1971, the Motion Picture Academy awarded him the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for his many charitable deeds. He received the Kennedy Center Life Achievement Award in 1983 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1985. In 1987, Sinatra was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the N.A.A.C.P. If any of those accolades can be topped, they were in 1997 when Frank Sinatra received the highest honor the U.S.A. can bestow upon a civilian in a Congressional Gold Medal for his countless accomplishments as a singer, actor, and humanitarian.
Frank Sinatra passed away as a result of a heart attack on May 14, 1998 at the age of 82.
Most people wish for success during their lives and to be happy in their occupation. Frank succeeded in just about every thing he attempted professionally. He regretted not being physically able to serve his country but he gave back and served in his own way. He lived a full life that many people admire, whether fans of his music or not. It’s easy for great music or theatrical performances to live on, but for a persona to persist as long as Mr. Sinatra’s shall is a true testament to his legacy.

No comments:

Post a Comment