Frank Sinatra was one of the most influential vocal stylists of the century, but the magnitude of his musical gifts shouldn’t eclipse his talents as an actor. Sinatra the thesp, like Sinatra the vocalist, was the real thing.
He swung through his acting roles the same way he cut a swath through the songbooks. Though he later appeared to squander his thesping gifts on material that was less than first-rate, his body of film work holds up well. He could move deftly between pics that capitalized on his vocal gifts to gritty actioners, to epics to intimate dramas, often with themes and subject matters that were daring for their time.
On the Cote d’Azur, showbizzers paid tribute to him as a force in both music and film.
Fest programmer Gilles Jacob said, “Cannes has learned with sadness of the death of Frank Sinatra. Crooner with a worldwide reputation, idol of the adolescents, he entered into cinema via the door of the musical comedy.”
Jacob described Sinatra as an “actor of contrasting roles,” noting that his first major dramatic part was in “From Here to Eter-nity,” which appeared here in 1954.
Fest jury president Martin Scorsese on May 15 noted “Words can’t express my sadness about the passing of Frank Sinatra. He was an idol to me as a great Italian-American and a great singer. He was an inspiration to me as a great actor in such films as ‘Some Came Running,’ ‘From Here to Eternity,’ ‘The Man with the Golden Arm,’ ‘Manchurian Candidate’ and many others.”
Many singers try to make the transition into acting, but few have found Sinatra’s success. He worked with top-caliber helmers including William Wyler, Otto Preminger, Stanley Kramer, John Frankenheimer, John Huston, Gene Kelly & Stanley Donen, George Sidney, Mark Robson, Vincente Minnelli and Joseph L. Mankiewicz.
Count “On the Town,” “Young at Heart,” “Guys and Dolls,” “Can-Can,” “High Society” and “Pal Joey” to his film musicals scorecard; “Suddenly,” “Kings Go Forth,” “The Devil at Four O’Clock,” “Von Ryan’s Express” to his actioners resume; and “From Here to Eternity” (for which he won the supporting actor Oscar), “Not as a Stranger,” “The Man with the Golden Arm,” “Some Came Running” and “The Manchurian Candidate” to the dramas ledger and you have a career that racked up nearly 60 credits and solid work.
Along the way, he picked up another Oscar nom (for “Golden Arm”), as well as the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, two Golden Globe acting trophies, the Globes’ Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award and ditto for the Screen Actors Guild. He is currently being lionized and emulated by a new generation fans drawn to the antics of Sinatra and his film and music cronies dubbed the Rat Pack, as well as their archetypal ’60s comedy-adventures such as “Ocean’s Eleven,” “Robin and 7 Hoods” and “Sergeants Three.”
But so far, no pretender has come close to matching the success of the original.
(Michael Williams contributed to this story.