This piece is my first contribution to the Sinatra Centennial blogathon, which I’m proudly co-hosting with Emily at The Vintage Cameo. I’m also hoping to put a second piece up before the event ends on Sunday!
They might have only co-starred in two movies, but Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby loom large in each other’s legend. Sinatra took inspiration to start out on his singing career from Crosby’s success, while Bing jokingly spoofed Frank on film. Although best-known as singers, both were also Oscar-winning actors. They appeared together on radio and TV over the years, most famously in the TV special Happy Holidays with Bing and Frank, which has recently been resurrected – and is perfect festive viewing for Sinatra’s Centennial.
According to a biography of the young Sinatra I read a few years ago, Frank: The Making of a Legend by James Kaplan, the young Frank had a picture of Bing on his wall and wore the style of cap favoured by his idol. Once Sinatra started to make a name for himself as a singer and followed Crosby into films, comparisons were soon being made between the two.
After watching this powerful and haunting Korean war film, I belatedly realised it wasn’t really a good choice for a Grace Kelly blogathon. Kelly’s screen time is all too limited and her part doesn’t give her much scope as an actress. However, her character, Nancy, is important, giving a glimpse of the life that the reluctant hero, her husband Harry Brubaker (William Holden) has been wrenched away from.
Based on a book by James Michener, whose work also inspired South Pacific, this film has hints of the musical’s mood of disillusion over war. Despite being released only a short time after the end of the Korean War, and made with the co-operation of the US Navy, it isn’t the gung-ho propaganda piece I was half-expecting. The movie pays tribute to the courage of the individuals caught up in the conflict, but suggests that many of them didn’t really know why they were there. Although there are many exciting and stirring scenes, which won the film an Oscar for best special effects, they are often undercut by the sadness and weariness of the central character. This element gives this glossy action picture a surprisingly downbeat feeling at times.