It Happened in Brooklyn 1947 Directed by Richard Whorf with songs by Sammy Cahn/Jule Styne. On his last night in England before returning to Brooklyn after WWII, Danny Miller (the very young, very skinny Frank Sinatra) meets shy, Jamie Shellgrove (an understated Peter Lawford), whose grandfather feels he needs socializing. Danny offers help (not using that term) should he ever come stateside.
Back home the hero, who longs to become a professional singer, gets a job at a store performing sheet music with Nick Lombardi (Jimmy Durante). Jamie arrives looking for love. Both he and Danny are infatuated with teacher Anne Fielding (Kathryn Grayson, who aspires to sing opera.) Dreams are realized, romance found. With a song in his heart, optimistic Danny goes in search of a nurse he met abroad who lives locally. Formulaic, but easy watching with enjoyable Durante. Amazon Prime/Netflix
On the Town 1957 adapted from the Broadway stage musical by Leonard Bernstein/Roger Edens & Betty Comden/Adolph Green which is inspired by the Jerome Robbins ballet, Fancy Free. Directed /Choreographed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen.
Sailors, Gabey (Gene Kelly), Chip (Frank Sinatra), and Ozzie (Jules Munshin), have a 24 hour leave in Manhattan. In the subway, Gabey falls in love with a poster of “Miss Turnstiles” aka Ivy Smith (Vera Ellen) and is determined to find her. While trying to be a tourist, Chip is acquired by aggressive (comic) taxi driver, Hildy Esterhazy (Betty Garrett). Claire Huddeson (Ann Miller) chances on Ozzie in The Museum of Natural History and is drawn to his embodiment of “the primitive man.”
After failing to distract him, the two couples help Gabey find Ivy. Full of good songs/musical numbers. The first time a major studio shot on location. Amazon Prime/Netflix
Pal Joey 1957 loosely based on the musical play. Directed by George Sidney. A perfect role for Sinatra, that of footloose, womanizing, night club performer, Joey Evans, caught between nice girl Linda English (Kim Novak) and rich, society widow (once a stripper) Vera Prentice-Simpson (Rita Hayworth in her prime). Will Joey sell out to own a club? Will Vera see that Linda is dispensed with? You know the answers. Music is thoroughly appealing. Amazon Prime/Netflix
Can Can 1960 Directed by Walter Lang. Loosely based on the Abe Burrows/Cole Porter musical. The film takes place in a lively, Hollywood version of Montmartre where Simone Pistache nightly performs the thought-to-be-lewd (outlawed) Can Can at her club, Bal du Paradis. (A woman proprietor!) The production number itself is fabulous. Simone is romantically involved with her lawyer, womanizing rake (surprised?), François Durnais (Frank Sinatra).
One night, Chief Magistrate Paul Barrière (Maurice Chevalier) attends and enjoys a performance accompanied by younger colleague, Philippe Forrestier (Louis Jourdan). Despite payoffs, police raid the establishment. Paul encourages his rigid associate to drop charges. Instead, the young man padlocks Simone’s club.
When she tries to change his mind, Philippe unwittingly falls for her. Further, he proposes. Simone considers the security and social status that would come with the marriage, but feels out of place among Philippe’s friends and gets wildly drunk among them. Her suitor doesn’t care., but…The club reopens with a ball and the forbidden dance. Again, it’s raided, but not with the same consequences. Happy ending. Great songs. Juliet Prowse is featured. Amazon Prime
The Man with The Golden Arm 1955 based on the novel by Nelson Algren. Directed by Otto Preminger. Frank Sinatra inhabits Frankie Machine, an addict who gets clean in prison and returns home to the seedy, north side of Chicago with dreams of getting a job as a drummer. Awaiting him is manipulative wife Zosh (Eleanor Parker-terrific), self-pitying, demanding, and supposedly wheelchair-bound i.e. dependent on him after a car crash he caused.
Also in the hood are neighbor Molly (Kim Novak), an ex-sweetheart who encourages his dreams and Louie (Darren McGavin), the neighborhood dealer (imagine a white Sportin’ Life) who wants him back hooked and dealing an illegal card game.
Frankie starts using and dealing cards again, Molly stays away; his wife leverages guilt. The hero is accused of a murder he didn’t commit. Zosh’s secret is revealed, but…It ends as well as it can. A look at the likely cycle of addiction in a poor neighborhood. Amazon Prime
From Here to Eternity 1953 based on the novel by James Jones. Directed by Fred Zinnemann. This garnered eight Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor for Sinatra who lobbied for the role as volatile, wrong-side-of-the-tracks soldier, Maggio. The actor felt he had much to prove after a professionally fallow period. It’s an incredible performance.
Holding their own are Montgomery Clift as Private Robert E. Lee Prewitt, ragged, then tortured by his troop for being unwilling to represent them in the boxing ring after a tragedy; Burt Lancaster as First Sergeant Milton Warden, fair but rock hard, All-Army; Deborah Kerr as unhappy Karen Holmes, the commander’s wife with whom Warden has a tempestuous affair; and Donna Reed as Alma Burke / Lorene, a dance hall girl who knows better, with whom Prewitt is besotted.
Stationed in Hawaii months before Pearl Harbor, the film follows these five people showing so-called intra-army behavior as law unto itself and relationships pushed to the brink by incipient war. Powerful. Amazon Prime/Netflix
Some Came Running 1958 based on the novel by James Jones. Directed by Vincente Minnelli. Drunk Army veteran (and published author), Dave Hirsh (Frank Sinatra), is put on a bus home to Parkham, Indiana by Chicago police. On the way, he flirts with naïve, uneducated floozie, Ginny Moorehead who’s escaping an abusive boyfriend. (Shirley Maclaine’s first Oscar nomination.) Once sober, Dave tries to correct his mistake by giving the girl money to return to Chicago, but she’s fallen for him and refuses to leave.
Dean Martin plays Dave’s older brother Frank, now married well and socially conscious. His wife Agnes (Leora Dana) never liked or trusted Dave creating bad blood between them. The protagonist is strongly attracted to Gwen (Martha Hyer), a schoolteacher who admires his writing, but she’s wary of what she perceives as instability and loose lifestyle. Dave goes back and forth between the two women trying to get footing. When Ginny’s boyfriend shows up, things go bad for everyone. Noir. Amazon Prime
Not available to stream: The Joker Is Wild 1957 Directed by Charles Vidor. Based on the life of singer/comedian, Joe E. Lewis. With Jeannie Crain, Mitzi Gaynor, Eddie Albert. A club vocalist goes against the mob, has his throat slit, and comes back having changed direction. Excellent performance.
Top photo: Bigstock