The films are being shown at the "Museum Of The Moving Image" in Astoria, Queens. Screening Schedule
Presented in collaboration with The Paley Center for Media
Frank Sinatra was one of the biggest show business stars of the 20th century. In addition to his phenomenal success and influence as a recording artist, he was also a prolific star in movies and television. In August and September, Museum of the Moving Image and the Paley Center for Media will join forces to celebrate Sinatra’s legacy as a performer on the big screen and on television. From the 1940s to the 1980s, he made more than 60 films. After his early success for MGM in a number of lightweight musicals, he lobbied for the substantial dramatic role of Maggio in From Here to Eternity, and won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. He then showed his range in a surprising variety of roles—in comedies, melodramas, gangster films, action movies—revealing surprising depth and ambition as an actor. In September, The Paley Center for Media will present a number of television specials, focusing on Sinatra’s collaboration with the Count Basie Band. For more information, visit paleycenter.org.
The 1950’s had been good to Frank Sinatra. After years of struggling in Hollywood, he finally received his due with an Academy award-winning performance in From Here to Eternity. He had also transformed himself from teen idol to tough-guy-in-a-trench-coat with a series of string-laden albums for Capitol records. After his contract was up, and longing for creative control, he formed his own record label, Reprise records in 1960. The first release for the new company was Ring-a-ding-ding, celebrating its 50th anniversary with this new remaster.
Immediately noticeable is a toughness to these recordings that was absent from his previous work; the horns are in your face and Sinatra’s voice is grittier (there’s also less echo than on the Capitol sides – making him feel more human). Part of this transformation can be accredited to his choice of arranger – Nelson Riddle and Billy May, whom he had had previous success with, were both under contract to his old record company. Instead, Sinatra chose up and comer Johnny Mandel (who would later gain fame for penning the theme to the M*A*S*H* TV show).
The disc opens with the title cut: a drum roll, then trumpets blazing, and finally Sinatra, singing and swinging behind the beat. That’s followed by “Let’s Fall in Love,” where the singer pauses three whole seconds at the :56 mark to great effect. Next up, Sinatra digs back to his days with Tommy Dorsey for “Be Careful, It’s My Heart.” A quick comparison of the two recordings show just how far the singer had come; while the Dorsey track is all crooning and sugary sweet, this updated version has Sinatra grooving over the pulsating horns and strings. He also tackles a pair of Fred Astaire nuggets in “A Foggy Day,” and “A Fine Romance” (the former, featuring bells, sounds a lot like a Christmas song). He then revisits “The Coffee Song,” a tune he first took to the Top Ten in 1946. But, where the early version is pure novelty, the new one shows a singer completely in command of his voice. The original 12-track album is augmented by two bonus cuts, the standout being a ten minute session excerpt of “Have You Met Miss Jones?” which shows just how in control of these recordings the singer was – questioning the arrangement of a certain note. The track ends with Sinatra ultimately scrapping the song altogether. Ring-a-ding-ding is one of the finest albums Sinatra ever recorded, and well worth another look.
Sinatra’s 1961 debut for his own record label, Reprise, is the product of a man who was on top of the world, with records, films, concerts and a fraternal social life each running flat out. It wasn’t, however, the sort of artistic reinvention he created on his late ‘50s albums for Capitol, nor the middle-aged discoveries he’d make on September of My Years or with Antonio Carlos Jobim. Still, Sinatra was in the pocket, and the self-confident swagger of his performances made up for the lack of a new artistic leap. Together with arranger Johnny Mandel, Sinatra pushed hard on the swing side of these tunes, eschewing balladry, and spurring his band of West Coast musicians to some sizzling performances. Mandel gained the arranger’s slot when Sinatra’s previous partners, Nelson Riddle and Billy May, were found to be exclusively contracted to Capitol. Mandel brought both jazz and film scoring experience, along with connections to some of Los Angeles’ finest players.
The song list includes a title track written expressly for Sinatra by Cahn and Van Heusen, along with standards both new to and revisited in the Sinatra catalog. Those who enjoy Sinatra’s swing records will love the unbridled verve with which he and Mandel attacked these tunes. Concord’s 2011 reissue adds insightful liner and song note from Frank Sinatra Jr. and a ten-minute session track as a bonus. On the latter, Sinatra is spied working on Rodgers & Hart’s “Have You Met Miss Jones,” dissecting Mandel’s arrangement in the process, digging out notes that disagreed with his knowledge of the song, and eventually discarding the tune altogether. As a ballad, it wouldn’t have fit the hard-swinging album, but as a bonus track it provides a fascinating peek into Sinatra’s intense work ethic, his leadership in the studio, the response he provokes from fellow musicians, arrangers and producers, and his tremendous ear as an artist.
They’re words to live by: It’s Frank’s world — we just live in it.
Only a tone-deaf knucklehead would argue the point that Sinatra still rules. And his estate, Frank Sinatra Enterprises, wants to remind any of us who might have forgotten that with a June 7 50th anniversary reissue of his first Reprise album, “Ring-A-Ding-Ding.” And it features two bonus tracks, “Zing! Went The Strings Of My Heart” and a previously unreleased version of “Have You Met Miss Jones?”
Don’t think his Reprise period was his finest? We’ve got one word for ya: “Watertown.”
But we digress.
At the end of the ’50s, after a decade on Capitol, Sinatra was itching for some artistic freedom. So of course, he formed his own imprint, Reprise, where he could do whatever he wanted.
On 1961’s “Ring-A-Ding-Ding,” he employed writers like Sammy Cahn, James Van Heusen and, for arrangements, Johnny Mandel. And in new liner notes from Frank Sinatra Jr., each song — and the era itself — are bought to vivid life by his recollections. “As the new decade began, like Midas, everything Sinatra touched turned to gold,” his son writes.