Frank Sinatra

August 23, 1957 – The Curtain Rises on “The Sun Also Rises”


On August 23, 1957, Ernest Hemingway’s classic novel, The Sun Also Rises, came to life on silver screens across America.  Set in 1920s France and Spain during the dissolute backlash following World War I, the story centers around wounded expatriate American journalist Jake Barnes, lovely but careless British Lady Brett Ashley, her fiance Mike Campbell, Jake’s college friend Bill Gorton, Jake’s other college friend Robert Cohn (Jewish, tortured, ex-boxer), and a young hunk bullfighter named Pedro Romero.

Hemingway shared his obsessions and passions for drinking, bullfighting, fishing, writing, and sex in The Sun Also Rises.  In producer Darryl F. Zanuck’s and director Henry King’s film treatment, Tyrone Power plays the semi-autobiographical role of Jake.  Jake loves Lady Brett but, to the infinite frustration of both, can’t sustain a relationship with her for a mysterious reason related to his “war wound.”  Ava Gardner (Frank Sinatra’s at-the-time main squeeze) played Lady Brett with her liberated short hair, short skirt, and tendency to short lead-time-before-hopping-in-the-sack with Robert, Mike, Jake, and finally, Pedro.  Errol Flynn played Mike, Eddie Albert played Bill, Mel Ferrer played Robert, and a young actor named Robert Evans played the initially pure and beautiful artist of the bullring, Romero.

Yes, that Robert Evans.  Bob claims he was a persona non grata on the set.  Hemingway, Power, Gardner, and most of the cast and crew wanted him fired from the production, he later wrote in his autobiography, The Kid Stays in the Picture.  Zanuck refused to get rid of Evans, saying – you guessed it – “the kid stays in the picture.”

Later in his career, Robert certainly proved his prowess as a producer of blockbuster hits.  Starting in the 1970s with Chinatown, Marathon Man, and Black Sunday, in the 1980s with Urban Cowboy, Popeye, and The Cotton Club, and tapering off in the 1990s with The Two Jakes, The Phantom, and The Saint, Evans made a big name and a big fortune for himself in Hollywood – where success is possibly more tricky to achieve and survival more in doubt than in any bullfight ring.

Image Credit: 20th Century Fox

July 10, 1957 – Night at the Movies: “The Pride and the Passion”, or, “Loving You”?

On July 10, 1957, American filmgoers had two movie premiers to choose from: The Pride and the Passion, with Cary Grant, Frank Sinatra, and Sophia Loren; or Loving You, with Elvis Presley, Lizabeth Scott, and Wendell Corey.

The Pride and the PassionThe Pride and the Passion, produced and directed by Stanley Kramer, was an adaptation of The Gun, by C. S. Forester.  The setting is Spain during the war with Napoleon, and British Captain Anthony Trumbull (Cary Grant) is on a mission to transport an abandoned cannon to the British lines.  Spanish guerilla leader and hothead Miguel (Frank Sinatra) hates Trumbull but signs on to help, bringing along the sultry Sophia Loren, playing his mistress Juana.  Anthony and Miguel fight for Juana’s affections on screen. Off-screen, Grant was said to be participating in the film to avoid wife Betsy Drake and Sinatra only signed on to be near his wife, Ava Gardner, in Spain herself on the set of The Sun Also Rises.

Opening to mixed reviews, The Pride and the Passion grossed 8.75 million to become one of the twenty highest-grossing movies of 1957.  Two quotes from reviews: “The panoramic, long-range views of the marching and terribly burdened army, the painful fight to keep the gun mobile through ravine and over waterway – these are major pluses,” from Variety; and “overblown, empty, epic nonsense,” from Ephraim Katz of The Film Encyclopedia.

Loving You, which premiered in Memphis and was released nationwide on July 30th, was Elvis’ second movie.  He played truck driver and undiscovered singer Deke Rivers who is “found” and promoted by Glenda Markle (Lizabeth Scott) who becomes his agent (essentially a female version of Colonel Parker).   Glenda sees a financial opportunity in signing Deke to open for her ex-husband Walter “Tex” Warner’s (Wendell Corey) down-and-out country band.  Deke becomes a singing sensation, especially with female members of the audiences, and finds himself attracted both to manipulative Glenda and to Tex’s young and innocent lead singer, Susan Jessup (Delores Hart).

Production on Loving You began January 21, 1957 and finished in early March.  Elvis had his naturally light brown hair dyed black for the film (inspiration: Tony Curtis) and, except during his military service and one brief period in the early sixties, he continued to color his hair for the rest of his life.  Director and screenwriter Hal Kantor spent research time at Presley’s “Louisiana Hayride” concert prior to filming what was orginally titled Lonesome Cowboy, then changed to Running Wild, and finally named Loving You after the song written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller for Elvis to perform in the movie.  Cameo appearances by Elvis’ parents, Vernon and Gladys, as audience-members, and casting of several of Presley’s current band members added to the promotion value of equating fictional Deke and real-life Elvis.  Loving You eventually rose to #7 on the Variety National Box Office Survey.

Image Credits: Wikimedia Free Use; Paramount Pictures (imdb.com)

October 18, 1957 – The Frank Sinatra Show Debuts on ABC

On October 18, 1957 (“It Was a Very Good Year“!), the first episode of The Frank Sinatra Show was aired on ABC.  Viewers could be excused a slight feeling of deja vu (“A Foggy Day“?), however.  An earlier television show starring Sinatra had appeared on CBS between 1950 and 1952 – also called The Frank Sinatra Show (“They Can’t Take That Away From Me“).  ABC’s sequel (“The Second Time Around“) was to include thirteen variety shows (“Let’s Face the Music and Dance“), thirteen dramas starring Frank, and ten dramas hosted by Frank, all taped in advance at the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood (Not “My Kind of Town“?) and lasting a half-hour (“Come Rain or Come Shine“).  Sinatra would have total artistic control (“I Did It My Way“) and receive $3 million (“Nice Work if You Can Get It“) for the series.

Frank’s guests were a stellar bunch.  Bob Hope (“I’ve Got You Under My Skin“), Kim Novak (“The Girl Next Door“), and Peggy Lee helped Sinatra kick off the series opener, one of the variety offerings.  Other big names during the season included Dean Martin (“I Get a Kick Out of You“), Bing Crosby, Robert Mitchum, Sammy Davis, Jr., Eddie Fisher (“Love and Marriage“), Ethel Merman, Ella Fitzgerald, Natalie Wood, Van Johnson, Eydie Gorme, Dinah Shore, Shirley Jones, the McGuire Sisters (“Young At Heart“), Ann Bancroft, Lloyd Bridges, and his daughter, Nancy Sinatra (“Nancy“!).

Low ratings for the drama offerings led to schedule adjustments (“In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning“?).  ABC switched to more variety shows, and a majority of them ended up being live broadcasts (“The Way You Look Tonight“).  By the time the series ended in June of 1958, fourteen live variety shows had been broadcast, eight filmed varieties, four dramas starring Sinatra, and six dramas which Frank hosted.  Critics weren’t generous to Ol’ Blue Eyes (“Please Be Kind“!)- and Frank doesn’t seem to have put his all into making the show a success (“Fly Me to the Moon“!).  Reports were he hated to rehearse (“Don’cha Go ‘Way Mad“).  As a result, filming for eleven shows was shoehorned into fifteen days (“Luck Be a Lady“), with an understandable but unfortunate loss of quality (“The Best is Yet to Come“?).

Despite the series’ cancellation, Sinatra’s successful career would continue for decades (“Pocketful of Miracles“).  Frank always remained a great favorite with the American public (“Let’s Fall in Love“!)(“All the  Way“!)

October 13, 1957 – The Edsel Show Broadcast

Louis Armstrong; Frank Sinatra; Rosemary Clooney; Bing Crosby. Photo: CBS

On October 13, 1957, CBS aired a live (on the East Coast) broadcast of The Edsel Show, essentially a one hour “infomercial” promoting the recently released-but-doomed new Ford Motor Company brand.  The broadcast is now primarily famous not for the car, and not for the impressive list of musical talent involved, but for the fact that it is the oldest surviving television show on videotape (made for the three-hour air delay on the West Coast).

Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra hosted the star-studded evening which included musical performances by Louis Armstrong, Rosemary Clooney, “mystery guest” Bob Hope, and the Norman Luboff Choir.  The Edsel Show, a one-time special, replaced CBS’s usual Sunday night powerhouse, The Ed Sullivan Show.  “Edsel: The Show”, as opposed to “Edsel: The Car”, was ironically one of the year’s most successful and popular broadcasts.  The show served as Bing Crosby’s television breakthrough, after which he signed a two-special-a-year, highly-compensated contract with ABC.

The real star – the car! Photo: CBS

Rosemary Clooney reported in her autobiography, Girl Singer, an amusing (or embarrassing) moment on the day of the show.  “The only Edsel I ever saw was one they gave me to drive while I was rehearsing.  I came out of the CBS Building, up those little steps to the street where my purple Edsel was waiting, like the Normandie in drydock.  Mr. Ford was right behind me, heading for his Edsel.  I opened the door of my car and the handle came off.  I turned to him, holding it out to him.  “About your car . . . .”

October 7, 1957 – Time’s People in the News

On October 7, 1957, the weekly installment of Time magazine included their regular feature on the doings of famous movers-and-shakers, the People column.  During a week which included continuing reports of the forced integration of – and military presence at –  Little Rock Central High School, and the announcement of the USSR’s launch of Sputnik 1, the American public probably enjoyed a lighter moment catching up on high-society and high-celebrity.  Some of the high-points:

Embed from Getty Images

Ernest and Mary Hemingway in Venice, 1954.

“With plenty of works in progress but no finished manuscript under his arm, Novelist Ernest Hemingway arrived incognito with wife Mary at a midtown Manhattan hotel for a quiet holiday far from his Cuban finca.  Meanwhile, two short stories, the first new Hemingway fiction to be published since The Old Man and the Sea in 1952, were being put to bed for the centennial issue of the Atlantic, which will be out at the end of October.  Apparently stemming from the experience Hemingway underwent when he was temporarily blinded after his plane crash in Africa in 1954, the stories are paired under the title “Two Tales of Darkness”.

“Following the long antarctic night, the sun rose over the U.S. base at the South Pole last week, and Polar Explorer Paul Siple (Time cover, Dec. 31, 1956) led 17 scientists and servicemen into the open for the reveille that comes there technically only once every six months.  With the temperature at a numbing  minus 88°F and an 18-knot wind blowing across the polar wastes, the ceremonial hoisting of Old Glory turned out to be about the most frenzied since the famed planting of the flag under fire at Iwo Jima.”

Embed from Getty Images

LOS ANGELES – OCTOBER 10: Singer Frank Sinatra and actress Lauren Bacall attend a party for the musical ‘Pal Joey’ on October 10, 1957 in Los Angeles, California.

“In seclusion since the death last January of Cinemactor Humphrey Bogart, his widow, Cinemactress Lauren Bacall, was stepping out with an old family friend, Cinemactor Frank Sinatra.  Lauren was recently draped on Frankie’s arm for the Las Vegas premiere of his new movie The Joker is Wild, last week went along with him to a closed-circuit telecast of the Sugar-Ray Robinson – Carmello Basilio fight in a Hollywood theater from which they emerged looking as happy as if they had bet on Winner Basilio.  But though Hollywood gossips buzzed, both Lauren and Frankie denied a wedding is in the wind.”

Eleanor Roosevelt guides visiting Nikita Khrushchev through the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library at Hyde Park, September 18, 1959. Photo: US National Archives & Records Administration, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Public Domain

Eleanor Roosevelt guides visiting Nikita Khrushchev through the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library at Hyde Park, September 18, 1959. Photo: US National Archives & Records Administration, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Public Domain

“Describing the Russian people as ‘wonderful’, Globetrotter Eleanor Roosevelt, 72, climaxed her first trip to the Soviet Union by interviewing Communist Boss Nikita S. Khrushchev for almost three hours at his summer villa on the Black Sea near Yalta.  ‘War is unthinkable,’ Khrushchev told Mrs. Roosevelt, who called the hard-drinking, explosive Soviet leader ‘a cordial, simple, outspoken man who got angry at certain spots and emphasized the things he believed.’  But when Khrushchev accused her of hating Communists, Mrs. Roosevelt quickly replied: ‘Oh no, I don’t.  I don’t hate anybody.  I don’t believe in Communism as an ideological way of life.'”