The Chairman of the Board
. Ol' Blue Eyes. The Voice.
Francis Albert Sinatra (December 12, 1915 — May 14, 1998) is one of the best known and best loved singers in the history of popular music. (He was also a pretty popular and acclaimed actor.) His music and voice are some of the most recognizable in the world, and his work has been featured in numerous other media. An overview of his long and storied career would take too much space, so one should look to The Other Wiki's
article on him for that. A native son of New Jersey
, his hometown of Hoboken honors him with a large mural covering an entire intersection.
Interestingly, serious historians of music consider him to be the true inventor of the Concept Album
, with 1955
's In The Wee Small Hours
(it's about men feeling lonely and isolated in, well, the wee small hours
of the morning). He also won an Oscar
three times (and was nominated for two more) for Best Original Song.
Also probably had strong ties to The Mafia
, although it's impossible to say where the truth ends and fantasy begins. One fact most historians agree on is that working in Vegas and rubbing elbows with guys named "Bugsy" was a package deal in those days. More controversial was his political activism, which branded him a Communist in some circles. It wasn't until he became a registered Republican and sang for President Nixon
(largely due to the Kennedy family snubbing him) that those rumors died down and his career revitalized.
ahead of the curve regarding race relations. In one case, he forced a hotel to desegregate by announcing that either they would allow Sammy Davis Jr. (and other black people) to stay there, or he and a number of other members of the Rat Pack
would not only not
stay there, they wouldn't perform there, either. The pressure applied by him and his fellow Rat Packers was instrumental in causing Las Vegas
to become one of the first cities to fully desegregate.
Perhaps one of the first performers to induce loud shrills and fainting
in the female population - or, at least, he seemed to
Was a huge tipper. Huge
. His minimum tip was $100 — back in the Fifties
. Today, that's like tipping somebody one thousand dollars. Don Rickles
once said, "If you got Sinatra's table, you were buying real estate in Paris the next day." Story goes, he asks the kid who brings his car around outside the restaurant what's the biggest tip he ever got. Kid says $100. Sinatra gives him $200, then asks who gave him the $100 tip. "You did, sir, last week."
Notable appearances in Film
- Anchors Aweigh: Alongside Gene Kelly and Jerry
- The House I Live In: A ten minute short which spoke out against anti-Semitism.
- Take Me Out To The Ball Game : Another film co-starring Gene Kelly.
- On the Town: The last of three musicals co-starring Gene Kelly.
- From Here to Eternity: Won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.
- Suddenly: Featured Sinatra playing an assassin with a high-powered rifle planning to kill the president, well known both for Lee Harvey Oswald having supposedly watched it a month prior to the assassination of Kennedy and because Sinatra tried to have the film removed from circulation after the event. Now in the public domain.
- The Man with the Golden Arm
- Guys and Dolls
- High Society with Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly
- Pal Joey
- A Hole in the Head
- Oceans Eleven with the rest of the Rat Pack
- The Manchurian Candidate
- Robin and the 7 Hoods
- Von Ryan's Express: Where he was NOT asked to sing!
- The Naked Runner: His behavior behind the scenes turned the film into a disaster, with him walking out in mid-production.
- The Detective: Based on the book of the same name from the novel series that spawned Die Hard. When the sequel novel Nothing Last Forever was getting a film adaptation, there were talks of casting Sinatra for the part. Eventually the adaption of NLF morphed into the first Die Hard film and Bruce Willis was given the role.
Notable appearances on Television
- Magnum, P.I.: He was apparently a big fan of the show and asked for a guest appearance.
- Whats My Line : Sinatra had a running feud with Line panelist Dorothy Kilgalian and refused to appear on the show until after she had died.
Appearances in Fiction
- Frank Sinatra was subject to many parodies in Western Animation during its Golden Age. Such appearances include:
- Tex Avery's Little 'Tinker, in which a lonely skunk attempts to woo the other forest creatures by putting on a Frank Sinatra suit and singing "All Or Nothing At All". The female bunnies watching all go insane at the sight of him, and while on stage (in a rather cruel parody of how skinny Sinatra was in the late '40s) falls through a knothole, has plasma being injected into him, sings from an iron lung, gets measured for a casket, and stands on a scale and gets out-weighed by a feather, among other things.
- Similarly, there's the Frank Tashlin Looney Tunes short, Swooner Crooner, in which Sinatra and Bing Crosby are portrayed as roosters, singing for a hysterical audience of hens. At one point, the microphone completely obscures the Sinatra-rooster's body, except for the arms and legs.
- In the Bob Clampett Looney Tunes short, Book Revue, Sinatra is portrayed as so thin and frail that he requires a wheelchair and orderly to get around.
- In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Eddie Valiant accidentally draws a singing sword against Judge Doom, which has Sinatra's face on it singing (appropriately enough) "Witchcraft".
- In one installment of Popeye, after Popeye and Bluto spend the entire episode fighting over Olive Oyl, in the end she falls head over heels for (an animated) Frank Sinatra.
- Dino Spumoni from Hey Arnold! is an Expy (and Affectionate Parody) of late-career Sinatra.
- Johnny Fontaine from The Godfather is a flagrant No Celebrities Were Harmed version.
- Mario Puzo never confirmed or denied this, but Sinatra himself threatened at least one newspaper that printed the "Fontane was based on Sinatra," theory with a lawsuit if they did not retract the statement. They did, and it was dropped.
- Similarly, Sinatra had a very memorable offscreen appearance in Doonesbury. He swears so frequently that the censored bleeps struggle to keep up. Sinatra (unamused) was quoted as saying Garry Trudeau is as funny as cancer, which wound up being his 'dedication' for the book edition.
Get me your [obscene gerund
] boss, you little [anatomically explicit epithet
]! Card Dealer
: ("Obscene gerund?
- Sinatra and the Rat Pack feature in a series of mystery novels by Robert Randisi.
- He and the Rat Pack are the inspiration for The Chairmen of Fallout: New Vegas, especially their leader Benny. Their songs Blue Moon and Ain't That a Kick In The Head play on the radios, and the latter is the name of the very first quest.
- Harvey Finevoice, a recurring character on Atop the Fourth Wall, a send-up of Vegas-golden-age Sinatra, complete with references to playing "all da rooms in Vegas" and romancing.
- A fictionalised version of him appeared in an episode of Epic Rap Battles of History, in a rap battle against Freddie Mercury.
- Harry Plinkett of RedLetterMedia is evidently a fan of the Rat Pack and swing music in general. Each of his "Mr. Plinkett" reviews has featured instrumentals from a song by Frank or Dino. The courtship of Anakin Skywalker and Padme is set to the strings of "Nice n' Easy", "My Way" plays over George Lucas' homages to Ridley Scott, and Titanic featured "Strangers in the Night" (in this case, the Peter Hughes cover from Eyes Wide Shut). This is owing to the fact that Plinkett sold toupees to the singer at some point in the past.
Tropes invoked by him:
- 10-Minute Retirement: He "retired" several times beginning in the early 1970s, but it never stuck.
- Astro Turf: Those squealing bobbysoxers who made him famous? Actresses hired by his publicist.
- Berserk Button: Frank had a legendary short fuse. Just one example: when Woody Allen was found to have been, er, behaving inappropriately with his girlfriend's adopted daughter, Frank called Mia Farrow (the girlfriend and one of Frank's ex-wives) and offered to have Woody's legs broken.
- Bigger Is Better in Bed: Ava Gardner got together with Sinatra at a point where his career appeared to be over, and was asked by a reporter what she wanted with a "119-pound has-been." She answered: "Well, honey, I'll tell you - 19 pounds is c***.”
- Born Lucky: A somewhat literal example; because his birth went rough, and he had a high birth weight (13 1/2 pounds), Sinatra was thought to been stillborn until his grandmother revived him with cold tap water.
- Sinatra died lucky as well. When he suffered the heart attack that would kill him, it happened to occur at the same time the Seinfeld series finale was premiering on the U.S. West Coast. Most people in Los Angeles were inside watching the show, meaning there was very little traffic on the normally busy streets. His ambulance was able to get him to the hospital very quickly because of that.
- Christmas Songs: He recorded a great many of these, and even helped to co-write one ("Mistletoe and Holly").
- Of particular note is his 1957 recording of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas", which was the first to substitute the now-standard lyric "hang a shining star above the highest bough" for the rather darker original "until then we'll have to muddle through somehow". The change came about when Sinatra told composer Hugh Martin, "The name of my album is A Jolly Christmas. Do you think you could jolly up that line for me?"
- Combat Pragmatist: Sinatra was this with regard to his own voice. When he was young, he had a relatively weak voice but he compensated by emulating Bing Crosby and becoming a master of mic control. As he became middle-aged, his voice deepened and he changed his singing style to compensate; for those who prize his Capitol-era recordings above the others, this was when he grew the beard. All the way along, whenever his voice changed, he made the change his own rather than fight against it. The result was that he had an exceptionally long career.
- Cool Old Guy: Frankie was definitely more likeable and suave from The Fifties on forward (when he was in his forties), and his tenure with the Rat Pack, and his staying in showbiz into The Nineties was pretty badass (even if his voice and skills were deteriorating). When he first broke into showbiz in the '30s, he seemed like just another big band singer.
- The Dreaded: One memorable account by Tina Sinatra has a papparazzo snooping around her dad's house, then suddenly finding himself nose-to-nose with the Chairman himself. Terrified, the photographer leaped into a pool (despite being unable to swim), requiring Frank to fish him out.
- Dude, Where's My Reward?: Another example of Frank's legendary temper: When JFK was president he planned a trip to Los Angeles and was going to stay at Frank's house as a "thank you" for campaigning in support of him. Frank immediately began construction of a helicopter pad outside his house to accommodate the president. But the president's brother, Bobby Kennedy, talked JFK out of it, feeling that it would be a bad political move for the president to stay at the home of a man with known mafia connections. JFK canceled and instead chose to stay at the home of Sinatra's biggest rival, Bing Crosby. The horror! When Sinatra found out he was furious, and immediately grabbed a sledgehammer and began demolishing the newly-constructed helipad. After that incident Frank not only abandoned his support of Kennedy, he abandoned his support of Kennedy's entire party and became a Republican.
Gore Vidal: "...But then no Democratic President asked him to perform at the White House. It was sly old Nixon, whose House committee had smeared him, who asked Sinatra to perform "The House I Live In'."
- As a point of trivia, Kennedy would later go 2-for-2 by disinviting Sammy Davis Jr to a gala because he was afraid Davis' marriage to a (white) Scandinavian actress would hurt his election chances. This led Sammy to defect from the party and go stump for Nixon, as well. Not a promising start for the Kennedy administration.
- Every Scar Has A Story: Frank was delivered clumsily, with forceps, by a back alley doctor which resulted in a cleft running from his ear to the jawline. But that's not the extent of it: the cartilage of his left ear was mashed, giving the appearance of "cauliflower ear." Sinatra later told his daughter Nancy that when he was eleven, after some playmates began to call him "Scarface," he stormed over to the house of the physician who had delivered him. Fortunately, the doctor wasn't home, and a singing career wasn't abruptly canceled on account of murder.
- Mr. Fanservice: "OH FRANKIE!!" *faint* As you can tell from the sheer number of parodies, he was a Trope Codifier.
- Have a Gay Old Time: Don't think Frankie's got the stones when you hear the phrase "make love" during Night And Day, You're Sensational, or, of course, Mind If I Make Love To You?. It just meant to make small talk with a lover.
- You should take into consideration that the last two songs were sung to... Grace Kelly. Rawr!
- Also, the page image above.
- "I Am Great!" Song: "My Way." Frank went on the record as disliking the song, but it fit his persona so perfectly that he was obliged to top off every concert with it.
- Jack-of-All-Trades: Some music aficionados don't see him as the best in any particular field, but agree that he was extremely talented and a great singer in each field he performed in. Owing to his time with Goodman, he was also extremely good at fine-tuning his musicians and technicians.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: See "Berserk Button" above, then listen to Jill St. John, Angie Dickinson, Shirley MacLaine, Patty Duke, Doris Day, Juliet Prowse, etc. etc. etc. etc. talk about how Frank was always a perfect gentleman to the ladies. Mia Farrow called Sinatra "sweet", twenty years after their divorce.
- It's widely thought that Ava Gardner was the great love of Sinatra's life. They remained close all their lives even after the divorce, and when heard she was sick (with her final illness) in 1990, he arranged for his own doctors to see her. Being in poor health himself at the time, he couldn't get to her funeral in North Carolina, but made sure that a prominent floral tribute was there.
- Nice to the Waiter: Studio musicians adored him. Accounts by people who worked with him agree that although he didn't exactly gush with praise for people's performances, he was an absolutely focused professional who knew exactly what he wanted and was quick to express his satisfaction when he got it. There are also various stories of him being generous with money to musicians who were in trouble.
- Nice Hat: One of the few men capable of truly pulling off the fedora.
- Old Shame: The Kissing Bandit, a very silly musical he didn't even have a choice of being in.
- Serial Spouse: Married four times.
- The Prima Donna/Wag the Director: Frank Sinatra the actor was a bit of a handful as kept demanding only one take per scene. The first attempt felt the most genuine, so why bother with another? This was mostly true of his vanity projects (Ocean's Eleven) or brief cameo appearances, such as in Cannonball Run.
- Tom Hanks Syndrome: In the '40s, he played a culture-shocked sailor in Anchors Aweigh and On the Town. Hoping to finally earn top billing, he campaigned for the role of Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls, but was railroaded into playing Nathan Detroit (yet another Butt Monkey), to his vocal frustration. This began to change in 1953's From Here to Eternity, which reignited his career: he played a loose-cannon Army private. In 1955's The Man With The Golden Arm, he plays a fresh-out-of-prison drug addict, in an era where the topic was highly controversial, no less.
- And don't get us started on his collaborations with The Rat Pack. No wonder the FBI thought he had ties to The Mafia.
- Let's also not forget The Manchurian Candidate. He carried the whole movie, and not a single song or martini to be found.
- True Companions: The Rat Pack, of course, named after the True Companions of another Hollywood legend, Humphrey Bogart. Sinatra was the founder, and its other chief members were Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop, and Peter Lawford. If you ever find a clip featuring one of their songs or skits on YouTube (especially Frankie and Deano), it'll have you rolling in the aisles.
- In point of fact, as Lauren Bacall, for one, relates in her autobiography, the Rat Pack was in fact the same group that Bogart led; Sinatra was part of it. Sinatra simply took over the leadership position after Bogie died and transformed it into the more famous version.
- Creator Backlash: Sinatra reportedly disliked his clique being named "Rat Pack", and insisted that Bogart's group was the only true "Rat Pack". He preferred the the name of "The Summit".
- When Sinatra made it clear the Summit wouldn't patronize any hotels or casinos that wouldn't admit Sammy, segregation in Las Vegas pretty much vanished.
- What Beautiful Eyes: He was nicknamed "Ol' Blue Eyes" after all.
- What Could Have Been: Was offered the role of Harry Callahan, but broke his wrist and couldn't do it.
- Your Cheating Heart: His extramarital affairs (especially those during his first marriage) were highly publicized.
- He was also arrested once for having an affair with a married woman.