Frank Sinatra MGM Movie Legends Collection

Frank Sinatra MGM Movie Legends Collection
If this MGM Movie Legends Collection were testament to the career of Frank Sinatra, "Ol’ Blue Eyes” would only be remembered for his one-note performances. Among the five post-From Here To Eternity Sinatra films in this set, the iconic, steely-eyed crooner with the olive oil voice and mouse-like stature plays the guy who’s up against a stack of dilemmas and responsibilities that are above and beyond him. He sweats them for a bit then flashes a good-humoured, ear-to-ear grin that seemingly melts his problems away. As Sinatra’s roles never veered too far from this template, it’s safe to say his acting range never challenged that of his vocals. Consider the 1955 box-office champ Guys and Dolls, where Sinatra’s rapscallion Nathan Detroit is in over his head trying to find a new spot for his floating craps game. With heavyweight gamblers visiting town, the police chief turning up the heat, local hosts driving up the prices and his own jittery fiancé locking up the ball on his chains, the poker-faced Detroit can only muster up enough muscle to maintain his frown. That is, before he breaks into song. Though Sinatra certainly is in his element when swooning the likes of Viviane Blaine, he gets by in this considerably aged musical merely by his presence; and his sleepwalking performance is largely upstaged by Marlon Brando’s endlessly watchable charm. Things get worse for Sinatra when he plays a Spanish resistance leader during the Napoleonic Wars in The Pride and The Passion. Fatally unarmed and outnumbered, Sinatra’s Miguel attempts to have the world’s largest cannon dragged to the walls of a small town where Napoleon’s forces are holed up. The movie is a drag but the real challenge for Sinatra is being in the bitter end of a love-triangle against the dignified Cary Grant and the horse-jawed Sophia Loren. In post-WWII propaganda vehicle Kings Go Forth, Sinatra is once again the jilted lover whose affections for a bi-racial French damsel (,i>Rebel Without A Cause’s darling Natalie Wood) is embarrassed by Tony Curtis’s smooth operator, Britt Harris. At least this time Sinatra’s frown warms up to show a little puppy dog pout. While Sinatra is once again upstaged in A Hole in the Head, this time by Edward G. Robinson, the film about a father who can’t prioritise responsibility finds its novelty in both the classic jingle "High Hopes” and the stalwart direction of Frank Capra. It’s needless to say that the gem in this box set is the classic cold-war paranoia thriller The Manchurian Candidate. It is after all, the only DVD in the collection to contain supplementary features, including some candid interviews with director John Frankenheimer (who also provides the audio commentary), co-star Angela Lansbury and Sinatra. Set while America was still picking up the pieces and handing out the medals for the Korean War, Sinatra’s Major Bennett Marco returns haunted by dreams of being a Soviet lab rat. While facing a public relations war on home turf, with communist accusations flying like harpoons, Marco can’t help the suspicion that his platoon has been toyed with psychologically during the war and fashioned into some puppeteer’s own personal rifle. Dealing with dirty wars and even dirtier politics, The Manchurian Candidate is the only film here that stands the test of time, not only because of the relevant subject matter but also due to the fact that Sinatra is in the company of a royal flush of talent, including actors Angela Lansbury and Laurence Harvey, and director John Frankenheimer. Take one look at Frankenheimer’s shot compositions, which completely devastate traditional spatial limitations, and you’ll see how far ahead of its time Candidate was. It’s a film that Sinatra said could have only come along once in an actor’s career and judging from this box set, we’re inclined to agree. (MGM)