Frank Sinatra: The Golden Years

Frank Sinatra: The Golden Years
Some "golden years.” Though there are two of Ol’ Blue Eyes’ more notable titles in this five-disc commemorative set, the other three are so negligible and intolerable that you want to know how Warner marketing came up with their slogans. The most famous title in the set is The Man with the Golden Arm, Otto Preminger’s celebrated adaptation of Nelson Algren’s lionised novel. Problem is, Sinatra seems less playing a part than filling a costume; his celebrity distracts from the story of a trumpeter/card dealer/addict juggling a wheelchair-bound girlfriend and a woman on the side. Matters are not helped by the manicured, studio-bound aesthetic that fails completely to suggest the squalor of the hero and his environs. You can watch it to kill time but it’s not exactly credible. For my money, the best in the collection is Some Came Running, this time adapting James Jones via Vincente Minnelli. Our man is a hell raising, failed writer coming back to his uptight hometown only to find mistrust and persecution. Dean Martin annoys as his hard-drinking sidekick but the portrait of social hypocrisy is rendered with conviction and sensitivity. A few dialogue hiccups aside, the sense of personal disappointment is acute and Minnelli never falters in capturing it. Those two films have their place in the oeuvres of their respective auteurs, and that’s more than you can say for the rest. Two creaky romantic comedies find Sinatra on both sides of the fence: The Tender Trap makes him a lothario hosting troubled family man David Wayne, while Marriage on the Rocks has him hosted by womanising Dean Martin, when our man is tentatively divorced by Deborah Kerr. Both films deal with a fogey’s idea of romance and propriety — both pretend to be outrageous, both involve a great deal of sexism and smugness, and both are about as entertaining as having your marrow scraped. Rounding things out is Sinatra’s directorial debut: None But the Brave. He’s an army pharmacist shot down in the South Pacific, dealing with both Japanese soldiers and an obnoxious martinet on his side. There’s a lot of hooey about brotherhood and some stabs at drama but for the most part, the thing is easily forgotten and dull as drying paint. "Making of” featurettes grace Golden Arm, Some Came Running and The Tender Trap. (Warner)