Reviewed by Greg Beets, Fri., July 12, 2002
Frank SinatraFrank Sinatra in Hollywood, 1940-1964 (Reprise/Turner Classic Movies Music)
From Bing to Britney, no singer-turned-actor has matched Frank Sinatra's ability to excel in both disciplines. Indeed, it was Sinatra's 1954 Oscar-winning performance in From Here to Eternity that re-ignited his faltering career after his vocal chords hemorrhaged in 1952. Whether he's romping through New York with Gene Kelly in On the Town or fueling Cold War paranoia in The Manchurian Candidate, Sinatra's film career highlights are as versatile as they are indelible. A miracle of licensing prowess, this 6-CD box set mines the mostly-unreleased catalog of Sinatra's film recordings from eight different movie studios. Starting with his uncredited turn as a background singer in 1941's Las Vegas Nights and finishing with the 1964 Rat Pack mob musical, Robin and the 7 Hoods, Sinatra's Hollywood presents a compelling shadow version of the singer's musical evolution from King of the Bobby Soxers to Chairman of the Board. To start with, Hollywood contains the original film versions of standards such as "The Lady Is a Tramp," and hearing Sinatra's vocals and the lush orchestrations of Nelson Riddle in their airy, natural soundstage incarnation adds new depth to familiar tunes. "New York, New York," from On the Town, is surely one of the quintessential moments in MGM musical history, but Sinatra's camp-laden duet with wisecracking Betty Garrett on "Come Up to My Place" is an equally engaging comedic tour de force of clever lyrical interplay. The beginnings of Sinatra's ring-a-ding persona can be detected in "(There'll Be a) Hot Time in the Town of Berlin," a fun excerpt from the 1944 Warner Bros. short The Road to Victory, in which Sinatra exhorts our boys to take Berlin and change "Heil Hitler" to "Whattdya know, Joe?" The 1954 sessions for the unfinished animated version of Finian's Rainbow pair Sinatra with Ella Fitzgerald, Ella Logan, and Louis Armstrong in an omnibus-style fusion of jazz, blues, and Broadway. Only "Old Devil Moon" was ever released commercially, but the previously unreleased version included here contains a supremely dexterous instrumental interlude featuring pianist Oscar Peterson, xylophonist Red Norvo, and recently departed bassist Ray Brown. With 160 tracks and a 120-page perfectly bound book to explain it all, Frank Sinatra in Hollywood is an exhaustive but consistently enthralling joyride through cinematic and musical history.