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When Frankie Went to Hollywood

When Frankie Went to Hollywood: Frank Sinatra and American Male Identity

Karen McNally
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    When Frankie Went to Hollywood
    Book Description:

    This first in-depth study of Frank Sinatra's film career explores his iconic status in relation to his many performances in postwar Hollywood cinema. When Frankie Went to Hollywood considers how Sinatra's musical acts, television appearances, and public commentary impacted his screen performances in Pal Joey, The Tender Trap, Some Came Running, The Man with the Golden Arm, and other hits. A lively discussion of sexuality, class, race, ethnicity, and male vulnerability in postwar American culture illuminates Karen McNally's investigation into Sinatra's cinematic roles and public persona. This entertainment luminary, she finds, was central in shaping debates surrounding definitions of American male identity in the 1940s and '50s.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09820-8
    Subjects: History, Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction: Meet Frank Sinatra
    (pp. 1-12)

    Robert Fulford’s remarks in theNew Republicin November 1957 articulated the popular perception of Frank Sinatra at the height of his career. Prompted by the opening programs of ABC’sThe Frank Sinatra Show, the comments pointed to the combative, caustic, and sexually potent male identity Sinatra conveyed in the 1950s on stage, screen, and record. The series of variety shows and one-off dramas, which ran between October 1957 and May 1958, highlighted the extent to which Sinatra strayed beyond the conventional image of a mainstream entertainer. The television variety-show host epitomized the stable or “nice” identity constructed around America’s...

  5. 1 The Postwar Success Story and Working-Class Alienation
    (pp. 13-42)

    Goodman’s 1955Timemagazine profile of Sinatra is a stark illustration of the star’s developing class image. Essentially a comprehensive examination of the extreme successes and failures of Sinatra’s career, the article’s treatment of Sinatra’s Hoboken background makes plain the location of his attitudes and behavior in a highly specific class identity. AsTimeapplauds Sinatra’s ability to resurrect his defunct career against all odds, the magazine’s constant references to the star’s urban, industrial upbringing in New Jersey tie Sinatra’s story indelibly to an American working class. Sinatra’s desire for the extraordinary level of success he achieves in the 1950s,...

  6. 2 Ethnic Stereotyping and Italian American Cultural Identity
    (pp. 43-65)

    The exuberant welcome Sinatra received in 1951 at Atlantic City’s famous 500 Club highlights how closely Sinatra was identified with an Italian American identity. While most of the American public stayed away from his movies and failed to buy his records, and the press focused on his questionable friendships and stormy private life, the residents of New Jersey greeted Hoboken’s famous son as a returning hero. Owned by Paul “Skinny” D’Amato, with whom Sinatra developed a close, lifelong friendship, the 500 Club played host to every successful nightclub star of the 1950s, from Nat King Cole to Dean Martin and...

  7. 3 Anticommunist Witch Hunts and Civil Rights
    (pp. 66-89)

    The controversy sparked in 1987 by the decision of the Los Angeles branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to bestow on Sinatra a Lifetime Achievement Award is a measure of how far political perceptions of the star had shifted since the postwar years. While the president of the L.A. chapter commended Sinatra as “an individual who has been pushing and championing the rights of minorities for over fifty years,” demonstrators outside the ceremony condemned Sinatra for his 1981 performance at South Africa’s Sun City resort, which put Sinatra on a United Nations blacklist. Angry...

  8. 4 Vulnerable Masculinity and Damaged Veterans
    (pp. 90-132)

    When Ann Miller sang of her yen for an old-style man inOn the Town’s “Prehistoric Man” number, her routine was as much a gentle dig at Hollywood’s male icons as a tribute to caveman masculinity. Expressing her distaste for emotionally repressed career-obsessed men driven to psychoanalysis and ulcers, Miller’s society girl, Claire Huddesen, puts to good use her interest in the changing nature of masculinity by undertaking research for a museum study titled “Modern Man: What Is It?” Miller’s lighthearted critique of male movie stardom and modern masculinity in general illustrates the extent to which questions about the redefinition...

  9. 5 Male Performance and Swinginʹ Bachelors
    (pp. 133-170)

    Bill Coss’s hyperbolic summation of Sinatra’s masculine image, published inMetronomein December 1957, was a response to the star’s appearances on the early editions ofThe Frank Sinatra Show. The ABC series was sponsored by Chesterfield cigarettes, a brand that in-show vignettes suggested was prepared by the “Men of America” for the smoking pleasure of affluent urban consumers. Magazine advertisements for Chesterfield featuring Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis and Ronald Reagan stressed, respectively, the cigarette’s mildness or the suitability of Chesterfield cartons as Christmas presents. In contrast, tie-ins with Sinatra’s television series used “On the set with Sinatra” storyboards...

  10. Conclusion: Chairman of the Board
    (pp. 171-184)

    Newsweek’s description of Sinatra’s transition from “The Kid from Hoboken” to “The Chairman of the Board” emphasizes the shifts that occur around Sinatra’s male identity in the 1960s. In 1965, the year of Sinatra’s fiftieth birthday, Jack Warner was forced into issuing a public denial following reports that Sinatra was set to take charge of his family’s Hollywood studio, insisting: “There is no evidence or reason for… speculation… that I am considering Mr. Sinatra as my successor as president of Warner Brothers Pictures—or that Mr. Sinatra desires to be my successor.”¹ The notion of Sinatra as a Hollywood power...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 185-206)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 207-221)
  13. Frank Sinatra Filmography
    (pp. 222-224)
  14. Index
    (pp. 225-232)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 233-238)