Caftan Woman

Caftan Woman

Thursday, December 10, 2015

SINATRA CENTENNIAL BLOGATHON: Frank's Musical Oscar Legacy


Frank Sinatra
(1915 - 1998)

The Sinatra Centennial Blogathon runs December 10 - 13 and is co-hosted by The Vintage Cameo and Movie Classics.  Our thanks to Emily and Judy for this opportunity to celebrate Frank Sinatra.  Day #1 entries HERE.  Day #2 is HERE.  Day #3 is HERE.  Day #4 is HERE.

Frank Sinatra is one of the most successful of the popular singers who turned to acting, proving the depth of his talent.  Previously at this corner of the blogosphere we looked at Bing Crosby's enviable record of introducing 14 film songs that were nominated for the Oscar, including 4 winners, and Doris Day's 6 nominations and 2 wins for songs she introduced.  Frank's film career spans the 1940s to the 1980s and the variety of musicals, comedies and dramas of quality is impressive.  Frank introduced 8 songs into the Oscar nomination roll, with 3 standards in the win column.

Click on the song title links for YouTube performances where available.

Frank made his feature film debut as part of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra in 1941s Las Vegas Nights.  Funnily enough, the movie features an Oscar nominated song, Dolores by Frank Loesser and Louis Alter sung by Bert Wheeler of Wheeler and Woolsey fame.  Frank appeared singing the Dorsey recording hit I'll Never Smile Again by Canadian Ruth Lowe.  The Oscar of the season went to Kern and Hammerstein's The Last Time I Saw Paris featured in Lady Be Good.




1943s Higher and Higher was adapted from a 1940 Broadway show with music by Jimmy McHugh and Harold Adamson.  RKO purchased the rights for the film to showcase Frank Sinatra and  one of the new songs composed for the film, I Couldn't Sleep a Wink Last Night, was nominated for the Oscar.  The Oscar winner that year was Swinging on a Star from Going My Way.  Among the 12 nominees are The Trolley Song from Meet Me in St. Louis and Long Ago and Far Away from Cover Girl.


MGMs splashy big budget musical of 1945, Anchors Aweigh won George Stoll the Oscar for Best Scoring of a Musical Picture.  The film was also nominated for Best Picture, Best Leading Actor for Gene Kelly, Best Color Cinematography and a Best Song nomination for Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn's ballad I Fall in Love Too Easily.  The song was introduced by Frank as the shy sailor Clarence who pines for Kathryn Grayson while Pamela Britton patiently waits on the sidelines.  The Academy awarded Rodgers and Hammerstein's It Might as Well Be Spring from State Fair.  Other nominees include Accentuate the Positive from Here Come the WAVES, I'll Buy that Dream from Sing Your Way Home and Victor Young's theme to Love Letters.



In 1954 an uncredited Frank Sinatra sang the title track to Three Coins in the Fountain which won the Best Song Oscar for Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn.  The other nominees were Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep from White Christmas, the theme to The High and the Mighty, Hold My Hand from Susan Slept Here and (my personal choice), Arlen and Gershwin's The Man That Got Away from A Star is Born.  As Judy, who pointed out this early omission on my part noted, surely Sinatra's performance helped sell the number.

The remaining 5 songs on Frank's Oscar list are all composed by Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn.  Van Heusen, in particular, was a close friend of Frank's and his swinging lifestyle was an inspiration to the crooner.  Van Heusen was nominated for 12 Oscars.  Johnny Burke was the lyricist on 3 nominations including one win and Van Heusen and Cahn had 3 wins from 9 nominations.  First up -



The theme to the 1955 comedy The Tender Trap was nominated for Best Song losing to Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster's timeless theme to Love is a Many-Splendored Thing.  Among the nominees we find Johnny Mercer's Something's Gotta Give from Daddy Long Legs and Unchained Melody, Alex North and Hy Zaret's theme to the prison picture Unchained.





We have ourselves a winner!  The biopic of entertainer Joe E. Lewis is directed by Charles Vidor who had such success with Ruth Etting's story in Love Me or Leave Me.  The winning song, All the Way was not only perfect for the character, but perfect for Frank and became one of his famous signature tunes.  Also nominated that season were the themes from An Affair to Remember, April Love, Tammy and Wild is the Wind.



1958s Some Came Running, based on James Jones novel and directed by Vincente Minnelli, garnered 3 acting nominations for Shirley MacLaine, Martha Hyer and Arthur Kennedy, Walter Plunkett's costumes and the Van Heusen and Cahn theme song, To Love and Be Loved.  The winner for the year was Gigi from the Lerner and Loewe musical.




The 1959 Frank Capra picture A Hole in the Head grows on you with its quirky charm.  In the eyes of his brother played by Edward G. Robinson, Frank's character is a wastrel not doing right by his motherless son played by Eddie Hodges.  The conflict gives rise to many trials and a great musical moment with our second winner.  The imagery in High Hopes makes it popular with children and the positive message a timeless favourite.  The line-up of nominees included themes for The Best of Everything, The Five Pennies, The Hanging Tree and Strange Are the Ways of Love from The Young Land.




Fun? Wow!  Robin and the 7 Hoods spoofs old-time gangster flicks with scene stealing turns from Peter Falk and Bing Crosby.  Van Heusen and Cahn give Frank another one of his signature tunes and Frank's last musical trip to the Oscars.  My Kind of Town competed with the team's own title theme to Where Love Has Gone, Mancini's Dear Heart, DeVol's Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte and they all bowed to the Sherman Brothers winner, Chim Chim Cheree from Mary Poppins.

Frank Sinatra won the Oscar's Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 1971, the Best Supporting Acting trophy for From Here to Eternity in 1954 and was nominated in the Best Leading Role category for 1955s The Man with the Golden Arm.  In 1945 Frank was the featured lead and shared in an Honorary Award with Mervyn LeRoy, Frank Ross, Albert Matz, Earl Robinson and Lewis Allen for the short The House I Live In

17 comments:

  1. It's interesting to see what songs won and what has stood the test of time. In my opinion, any nominated song of Frank's should have won just because he was a fantastic conveyor of lyrics and melody. But hey, I'm not an Academy member. Nice post.

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    1. There are many wonderful songs, but it takes the right singer to put them over. I imagine for many songwriters having Sinatra take your song and make it his own was a dream come true.

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  2. Thanks for this great contribution to the blogathon and for including links to the songs - I will look forward to listening to them all! I love 'I Fall in Love Too Easily' from 'Anchors Aweigh' - a film I'm always ready to watch one more time. :)

    I know this doesn't come under the scope of your article as he wasn't actually in the film, but Sinatra also performs the theme tune of 'Three Coins in the Fountain', which won the Oscar for best song, over the opening titles of the film in 1954, though for some reason he wasn't credited. That's another one by Styne and Cahn. A choir sings it at the end, but I'm sure it must be Frank's version which swung the Academy jury!

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    1. "Three Coins in the Fountain" certainly should have made this post. It is incomplete without it. Although I'm familiar with the song, I haven't seen the movie and that lack of credit put it under my radar. An amendment will be made. Thanks a lot!

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    2. Thanks, Patricia - I do love his performance of that one, the best thing about that movie apart from the gorgeous widescreen Technicolor footage of Rome!

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  3. I didn't know "All The Way" was from a movie. I've always liked that song.

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    1. Now you'll have to check out the movie. The classic movie universe always finds a way to pull us in and keep us tied to it.

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  4. What a great idea for a post. Sinatra had such a great catalogue of music listening to his stuff is alike a history listen in The Great American Songbook. It's had to pick just one favorite Sinatra track, but of the one you mention, ALL THE WAY I love. Great job.

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    1. I suppose if you wanted to introduce someone to Sinatra who had never heard him (!!), "All the Way" might be a perfect starting point. That song lives.

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  5. Thanks for including links to these songs. There were a couple I wasn't familiar with.

    I was listening to an interview re: Frank Sinatra this morning, and they were talking about how his music is intergenerational. Some of the music may sound a bit dated, but Frank himself does not – if that makes any sense?

    Loved your tribute to Mr Sinatra. Music is the perfect way to celebrate his 100th.

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    1. Ruth, your intergenerational comment reminded me of a post I wrote way back in 2008: http://www.caftanwoman.com/2008/08/frank-for-all-generations.html#comment-form

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  6. All the songs are made better by Sinatra's voice, and the winners realy deserved the Oscar (I have to disagree with you and say Three coins in a Fountain deserved the award!). All the Way is a marvelous song and High Hopes is a good tune inside the great surprise that is A Hole in the Head.
    Thanks for the kind comment!
    Kisses!
    Le

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    1. So many songs become favourites and I sometimes forget that they came from the movies. The Oscar lists are a great stroll down Memory Lane. Thanks for reading, my friend.

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    2. First, I must say this was one your best posts--very information and also a great topic. Second, I knew Jimmy Van Heusen wrote a lot of hit songs (my dad had bunches of Bing Crosby featuring songs co-written by JVH). But I had no idea that Van Heusen was nominated for so many Oscars. Impressive!

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    3. Van Heusen has to be right up at the pantheon of the Great American Songbook. Once you start listing his songs, it is almost ridiculous!

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  7. Love your approach to honoring Sinatra. I couldn't help but fall into the state of agitation that always seems to come over me when I read lists of Oscar winners and losers. The Trolley Song didn't win an Oscar!?! The Man That Got Away didn't win!?! Unchained Melody lost!?! My Kind of Town lost to Chim Chim Cheree!?! On the other hand, there's the satisfaction that some of my own picks did win (The Last Time I Saw Paris, All the Way, High Hopes). Oh well, as they say (and as Sinatra sang), that's life.

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    1. I feel your pain! I can't help but wonder at the some of the tin ears that get to vote for the awards. Were they bought off? Were they friends of some composers and enemies of others? What gives?

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