Talk Review: Celluloid Sinatra, 2 June, Filmhouse, Edinburgh

2 Jun

Think of Frank Sinatra for a few seconds chances are you’ll conjure up images of the Rat Pack in their prime: Frank, Dean and the boys in 1960s Las Vegas. That’s a fine image to have, but there’s so much that gets forgotten and that Adrian Wootton did a fine job remembering in his illustrated talk, Celluloid Sinatra, tonight at Edinburgh’s Filmhouse cinema.

A small audience – I suppose a bloke standing at the front of a cinema screen discussing an old film star is what could be described as “niche” – gathered to be introduced to the life and times of Francis Albert “Frank” SInatra.

From his birth (a difficult labour caused baby Frank to be scarred by the forceps and for an eardrum to be punctured) through to his days as one quarter of the Hoboken Four and onto his burgeoning film career, Wootton was a fine, informative host.

My knowledge of the celluloid Sinatra is limited to half-remembered clips of Von Ryan’s Express and The Manchurian Candidate. I think I could do worse than the latter film, as Manchurian Candidate is a fine picture that I bought on DVD a while back (and may even have watched at the Filmhouse many moons ago) that I don’t tire of rewatching.

New to me are the musicals, and I think this is something I need to change. Also covered here was 1968s The Detective, and I’ve just odered a copy of the DVD following Wootton’s glowing recommendation. The background detail – how Mia Farrow narrowly missed starring in it following delays on the set of Rosemary’s Baby and Frank served her with divorce papers because of it – helped give the movie a bit of life.

I also didn’t know that Sinatra turned down the starring roles in both Dirty Harry and Death Wish or that he had to borrow the airfare from Ava Gardner to fly back from Africa to LA for a ten minute audition for From Here to Eternity.

Never dwelling too long in one place and illustrating various points with audio and film clips, this was like the best bits of a BBC Four documentary without the inevitable talking heads and padding.

Thanks to Adrian Wootton and the Filmhouse for taking the time to put on this fascinating talk and here’s to my discovery of some new old films and music – I think I may be becoming a “Frankophile” already. Recommendations as to what should be next on the shopping list are welcome in the comments section…

Review by Jonathan Melville

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