Given the pre-eminence of Frank Sinatra among singers of the great American songbook, and the lasting appeal of his recordings which spanned many decades, it's sometimes easy to overlook the solid body of film work left behind by Ol' Blue Eyes.
Now on the 10th anniversary of his death, Warner Home Video has issued several boxed sets, all looking good, but curiously short on the generous extras customary on these releases.
None have been rated by the Motion Picture Association of America. (Warner Home Video)
With "Frank Sinatra: The Early Years" (1943-1951), there are no extra features on this collection of Sinatra's earliest films -- and rather shamefully, there are not even any chapter stops -- but the picture quality is fine.
Double Dynamite (1951)
Tepid comedy directed by Irving Cummings flounders in misunderstandings when mousy bank teller Sinatra is suspected of embezzlement after gangster Nestor Paiva tips him to winning a fortune on the horses, then lavishes expensive gifts on co-worker Jane Russell with encouragement from friendly waiter Groucho Marx. Minor stylized violence and sexual innuendo. A-II -- adults and adolescents.
Higher and Higher (1943)
Low-budget musical comedy directed by Tim Whelan revolves around bankrupt millionaire Leon Errol, who contrives to revive the household fortunes by marrying off scullery maid Michele Morgan to phony English nobleman Victor Borge, with neighbor Sinatra helping out occasionally with a song. Dizzy romantic complications and mild sexual innuendo. A-II -- adults and adolescents.
It Happened in Brooklyn (1947)
Sinatra stars as a returning GI after World War II who falls in love with Kathryn Grayson. The Jule Styne-Sammy Cahn songs include the standard "Time After Time." Co-starring Peter Lawford and Jimmy Durante. Directed by Richard Whorf. A-I -- general patronage.
The Kissing Bandit (1948)
Witless musical comedy set in Spanish-ruled California where the bookish son (Sinatra) of a famous bandit reluctantly agrees to lead his father's old gang, then falls in love with the governor's daughter (Grayson) and winds up masquerading as the king's envoy. Directed by Laslo Benedek, this emerges as a weak vehicle for its bemused star. Romantic complications. A-II -- adults and adolescents.
Step Lively (1944)
Genial musical version of "Room Service," the madcap comedy about a small-town playwright (Sinatra) showing up in New York where his penniless producer (George Murphy) and the play's cast have been living on credit in a hotel whose manager (Walter Slezak) demands immediate payment. Director Tim Whelan keeps the wacky proceedings good-natured. Some mild romance. A-II -- adults and adolescents.
"Frank Sinatra: The Golden Years" (1955-1965) features Sinatra near the height of his acting powers, even if the vehicles themselves weren't worthy.
The Man with the Golden Arm (1955)
Sinatra gave a powerful performance in this screen version of Nelson Algren's novel about a drug addict who kicks the habit by going cold turkey with the help of a friend (Kim Novak). Produced and directed by Otto Preminger. Sordid atmosphere and situations. The DVD includes a new making-of featurette. A-III --adults.
Marriage on the Rocks (1965)
Clunky romantic comedy in which an over-busy advertising executive (Sinatra) takes his long-suffering wife (Deborah Kerr) on a second honeymoon in Mexico, then a bizarre series of mistakes end in their divorce and her remarriage to his woolly business partner (Dean Martin). Directed by Jack Donohue, the contrived proceedings are sluggishly dragged out. Light treatment of marriage and sexual innuendo. A-III -- adults.
None But the Brave (1965)
Sinatra directs as well as stars in this anti-war movie set in World War II on an out-of-the-way Pacific island where crew members of a downed American plane are pitted against a small Japanese outpost. The story's message of brotherhood is clearly stated but a bit too violently. A-II -- adults and adolescents.
Some Came Running (1958)
Overblown melodrama from James Jones' novel about an ex-GI novelist with writer's block (Sinatra) returning to his Indiana hometown where he embarrasses his successful brother (Arthur Kennedy) by taking up with a gambler (Martin) and a prostitute (Shirley MacLaine). Directed by Vincente Minnelli, Sinatra plays for sympathy as a surly but misunderstood hero. Stylized violence, alcoholic excess and sexual situations. The DVD contains a new making-of featurette. A-III -- adults.
The Tender Trap (1955)
Soppy romantic comedy about a theatrical agent (Sinatra) who enjoys being a bachelor playing the field until he falls for a singer (Debbie Reynolds) who won't settle for anything but marriage. Director Charles Walters tries to keep it bright and breezy but what works best is the bittersweet romance between one of the agent's girlfriends (Celeste Holm) and a married pal (David Wayne). Contains a "Frank in the Fifties" featurette. A-III -- adults.
"The Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly Collection" (1945-1949) pairs one of the era's favorite singers with one of Hollywood's top film dancers. This set includes:
Anchors Aweigh (1945)
Musical romance on the home front with a shy sailor (Sinatra) and his slick buddy (Kelly) on a four-day shore leave in Hollywood where they meet an aspiring singer (Grayson). Directed by George Sidney, the thin plot offers period nostalgia along with some well-staged musical numbers. A-I -- general patronage.
On the Town (1949)
Bright and breezy musical about three sailors (Kelly, Sinatra and Jules Munshin) who find romance (Vera-Ellen, Betty Garnett and Ann Miller, respectively) on a 24-hour shore leave in New York City. Imaginatively directed by Kelly and Stanley Donen, the story line is sweetly lightheaded yet sturdy. Romantic situations. A-II -- adults and adolescents.
Take Me Out to the Ball Game (1949)
Genial musical comedy about a turn-of-the-century baseball club whose new owner is a woman (Esther Williams) and heads for the World Series until its star shortstop (Kelly) gets sidetracked by a crafty gambler (Edward Arnold). Sinatra plays the team's second baseman in love with the new owner. Director Busby Berkeley combines the colorful period setting with some zestful song-and-dance numbers. Smoothly contrived, easy-to-take family fare. Contains two deleted musical numbers. A-I -- general patronage.
These movies have been evaluated for artistic merit and moral suitability by the media reviewing division of Catholic News Service. The reviews include the CNS rating, the Motion Picture Association of America rating, and a brief synopsis of the movie.
The classifications are as follows:
A-I -- general patronage;
A-II -- adults and adolescents;
A-III -- adults;
L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. L replaces the previous classification, A-IV.
O -- morally offensive.
Note: Some movies previously were designated A-IV. Older films with this classification should be regarded as classified L.