Today our 1915: Whatta Year! series turns to pop culture colossus Frank Sinatra, born on December 12 of that storied year in Hoboken, New Jersey. “Ol Blue Eyes” made his name with his voice, but he was a fixture on the silver screen beginning with the 1944 film Higher and Higher. Karen McNally’s When Frankie Went to Hollywood takes a look at the cinematic career of the pop icon. Recently, McNally answered a few questions about Sinatra’s movie roles and public persona for the UIP blog.
Q: As you note in When Frankie Went to Hollywood, the postwar era saw an ongoing negotiation of what it meant to be an American Man. While it’s easy to how Sinatra’s Danny Ocean-esque roles appealed to audiences, how did he influence that negotiation in other directions through his emotionally nuanced portrayals of vulnerability—say, in Some Came Running and even The Manchurian Candidate?
Karen McNally: Emotional vulnerability is something that’s essential to Sinatra’s post-war image. It’s very clearly evident in a number of the concept albums he recorded with Nelson Riddle and Capitol Records in the 1950s, for example In the Wee Small Hours (1955) and Only the Lonely (1958), through which Sinatra masters what he terms the ‘saloon song’. The album covers are a visual representation of the male loss and vulnerability Sinatra expresses musically and are also extremely cinematic. The cover for In the Wee Small Hours, for example, presents an image of Sinatra alone in a dark urban street with a lamppost in the background, cigarette in hand, as though he were in a 1940s film noir. So Sinatra develops an image across a variety of performances and characterizations which conveys a highly masculine sense of vulnerability. Continue reading