Frank Sinatra: The Early Years [5 Discs] [DVD]

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Overview

Synopsis

It Happened in Brooklyn
It Happened in Brooklyn was released at a time when the mere mention of the eponymous New York borough elicited loud laughter and extended applause. Frank Sinatra stars as ex-GI Danny Webson Miller, who makes a sentimental journey to the Brooklyn neighborhood where he grew up. Danny moves in with an old pal, high school janitor Nick Lombardi (Jimmy Durante), then inaugurates a romance with music teacher Anne Fielding. He also resolves to turn stuffy uptowner Jamie Shelgrave (Peter Lawford) into a true "son of Flatbush." The plot thickens when Jamie himself falls for Anne and when Danny tries to secure a scholarship for Anne's prize pupil, Nick's granddaughter Rae (Marcy McGuire). Since MGM was giving Peter Lawford the big build-up, it is Jamie who ultimately wins Anne's heart, but Danny finds consolation with an old "goil friend" (Gloria Grahame). Musical highlights include Frank Sinatra and Jimmy Durante's imitations of one another in "The Song's Gotta Come From the Heart" and Sinatra's rendition of the standard-to-be "Time After Time". ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Double Dynamite
One man's good luck leaves a very bad impression in this comedy. Johnny Dalton (Frank Sinatra) and Mildred Goodhug (Jane Russell) are two tellers working at the same bank who have fallen in love and want to get married. However, neither is making much money, and Johnny doesn't want to set a date until he has some savings in the bank. Emil J. Keck (Groucho Marx), a pal of Johnny's who waits tables at a diner, suggests that it can't be that difficult to "find" some money in a bank, but Johnny prefers to stay on the straight and narrow. However, Johnny enjoys a sudden windfall after he happens upon "Hot Horse" Harris (Nestor Paiva), a racetrack tout being beaten up by ne'er-do-wells, and breaks up the fight. Grateful Harris places a bet on a "can't lose" horse in Johnny's name, and suddenly Johnny is $60,000 richer. But before Johnny and Mildred can enjoy their good fortune, word leaks out that someone has embezzled $70,000 from the bank, and the suddenly prosperous Johnny seems a likely suspect. Double Dynamite was produced under Howard Hughes' supervision at RKO, but bad blood between Hughes and Sinatra led to "Ol' Blue Eyes" receiving third billing for the film's leading role; the film also spent over a year on the shelf before finally hitting theaters. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Higher and Higher
Higher and Higher was advertised by RKO Radio as "The Sinatra Show", and small wonder: In his first major film role, Frank Sinatra was easily the film's biggest box-office draw. Actually, Frankie was a last minute addition to the film, which began as a traditional adaptation of a popular Broadway musical. Repeating his original stage role, Jack Haley plays Mike, the head servant in the household of millionaire Mr. Drake (Leon Errol). When Drake faces bankruptcy, Mike rallies the servants together and cooks up a moneymaking scheme: they'll pass off pretty scullery maid Millie (Michele Morgan) as Drake's daughter, and marry her off to a wealthy bachelor. Complicating matters is Sir Bictor Fitzroy Victor (Victor Borge), an impoverished nobleman who is himself looking for a rich wife. Mike saves the day with a last-minute discovery in the wine cellar, but not before a series of hilarious and tuneful plot twists involving Millie, heiress Katherine (Barbara Hale), and hired help Mickey (Marcy McGuire) and Marty (Mel Torme). Hastily written into the proceedings as Drake's next door neighbor, Sinatra croons several standards-to-be, including "I Couldn't Sleep a Wink Last Night" and "This is a Lovely Way to Spend an Evening"; he also is arbitrarily permitted the film's closing shot, emerging from heavenly clouds like the Second Coming of Music. Thanks to the film's enormous box-office take, everybody was happy with Higher and Higher--except Jack Haley, understandably miffed that his onetime starring role was whittled down to a supporting part to allow more screen time for the estimable Mr. Sinatra. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Step Lively
Previously filmed as a so-so Marx Brothers vehicle in 1938, the John Murray-Alan Boretz Broadway hit Room Service was effectively musicalized in 1944 as Step Lively. The plot remains intact: Fly-by-night theatrical producer Gordon Miller (Groucho Marx in the 1938 film, George Murphy in the remake) struggles to keep his production and cast together, despite severe deficiencies in the money department. Hotel-chain supervisor Wagner (Adolphe Menjou) threatens to throw Miller and his actors off the premises, an eventuality Miller hopes to forestall until he can obtain $50,000 from a wealthy backer. Meanwhile, Glen Davis (Frank Sinatra), the author of Miller's play, shows up to see how things are going. Before long, Glen is swept up in a desperate plot hatched by Miller and his underlings Binion (Wally Brown) and Harry (Alan Carney) to stay in the hotel despite Wagner's efforts to oust them. Caught in the middle are hapless hotel manager Gribble (Walter Slezak), potential backer Jenkins (Eugene Pallette), Glen's sweetheart Miss Abboli (Anne Jeffreys) and Miller's leading lady Christine (Gloria DeHaven). This being a musical, the outcome hinges on Glen's hitherto untapped singing ability, which might save the day if he overcomes a bout of psychosomatic laryngitis. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Kissing Bandit
In this period musical, Ricardo (Frank Sinatra) is the son of a Mexican innkeeper who has come to California to take over a hotel owned by his family after the death of his father. Ricardo makes the startling discovery that his father was best known as a "kissing bandit," a dashing thief who aptitude for crime was matched by his gift for romancing the ladies. When tax collectors from Spain begin to overrun his homeland, Ricardo decides to follow in his father's footsteps, liberating the taxmen's ill-gotten gains and winning the heart of Teresa (Kathryn Grayson), the governor's daughter. Also starring J. Carrol Naish, Billy Gilbert and Mildred Natwick, The Kissing Bandit also features the fancy footwork of Ann Miller, Ricardo Montalban, and Cyd Charisse, who appear as specialty dancers in the production numbers. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Frank Sinatra
    Frank Sinatra - Danny Webson Miller
  • Kathryn Grayson
    Kathryn Grayson - Anne Fielding
  • Peter Lawford
    Peter Lawford - Jamie Shellgrove
  • Jimmy Durante
    Jimmy Durante - Nick Lombardi
  • Gloria Grahame
    Gloria Grahame - Nurse
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