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|Friday, 25th July 2008|
Godfrey Phillips, Shots from the Films #25
A newcomer to the screen for whom a great future is predicted. Formerly a singer in Rudee Vallee's 'Radio Hour,' she was barely 19 years of age when she attracted the attention of George White. and became a member of his famous 'Scandals' show on Broadway. She was offered a part in the film version of 'Scandals' and her brilliant performance led to a contract with Fox, by whom she was given the leading role with Spencer Tracy in 'While New York Sleeps'. Her most recent pictures are 'She learned about Sailors' and 'Angel Face'
Alice faye Frank Sinatra
Obits May 1998:
lice Faye was born May 5 1912 and for a brief period of time in the late 30's and early 40's was 20th Century Fox's hottest property. Indeed only Shirley Temple and Bette Davis could look down on her from a position of higher box office success.
She appeared in a number of musicals, which were a mighty popular format in the period. Musicals such as, Ragtime Band (1938) & Tin Pan Alley (1940).
Unfortunately there were personality clashes between her and Darryl F Zanuck, the head of studio. This meant by 1940 Zanuck had decided Betty Grable was going to play the lead in the musicals. Within a few years of this demotion Faye was off the studio list altogether and this pretty much was the end of her film career.
This was more than a shame as Zanuck was a particularly difficult individual to get along with. In fact so ruthless was he that he sacked his own son at one point. What a charmer.
Born, Alice Jeanne Leppert, in the Hell's Kitchen area of New York she came from solid stock, her father being a policeman.
Her career began at 14 when she joined the Chester Hale Dancers, taking her name from the comic Frank Fay.
Her break came when Rudy Vallee heard her sing at a cast party whilst she was part of George White's 'Scandals'. He offered her a spot in his weekly radio show.
Like so many things a bit of luck helped her along the road.
In 1934 she was to appear in the film version of 'Scandals'. Originally she was down for one song but Lillian Harvey quit after a row. Vallee insisted that Faye was given the lead role. A role which secured her a seven year contract.
Her first few film appearances were the dubiously titled, She Learned About Sailors (1934) and Every Night at Eight (1935). This was probably the result of her being co-respondent in Vallee's divorce case in 1935 which could well have set a certain mould for her in the studio's eyes.
In 1936 Alice married Tony Martin which caused another shift in her film roles. Zanuck gave her more maternal roles. In Poor Little Rich Girl & Stowaway, both in 1936, she played Shirley Temple's protector.
The following year she starred in On the Avenue with Dick Powell which proved her to be a singer of some worth.
She kept up her radio work singing with the Hal Kemp orchestra and it was this which sparked the original animosity with Zanuck.
Zanuck hated the idea of his staff 'moon-lighting' and decided to lend Alice to Universal as a punishment. This rather backfired when she was cast in 'In Old Chicago' (1938) Featuring Tyrone Power and Don Ameche which was her biggest hit to date.
This trio was to make Alice Faye's favourite film, 'Alexander's Ragtime Band'. This featured more than 20 Irving Berlin songs.
This launched her as Fox's premier musical star and the studio envisaged her making up to 5 films per year. It did not start to well as 'Rose of Washington Square' (1939) was a thinly disguised biography of Fanny Brice who settled for a payment of $750,000.
She rode the crest of success for a few years before things began going sour.
In 1940 she divorced and re-married in 1941 to Phil Harris, the band-leader on the Jack Benny show.
This was not quite the end of the story as she did make a cameo appearance in 'Jills in a Jeep' (1944) and 'Fallen Angel' (1945) which was a total disaster and she walked out of her contract shortly afterwards.
This was pretty much the end of her as a force although she did appear in the musical 'State Fair' (1962) in which she was sadly miscast. Her final screen appearance was The Magic of Lassie (1978).
Turf: Film Stars.
May, 1998: A show business legend has died at the age of 82. Making his mark, first as a singer, he progressed into Hollywood, making nearly sixty films.
He was the first singer to generate mass hysteria among a female audience. A master of the phrasing involved in singing he had the ability to 'talk' through a song. It gave a certain meloncholy to his bearing and a lot of the songs he was to sing had a despairing central theme.
He never felt the need to follow the script and would improvise a song where he felt it could do with something different. Cole Porter once wrote to him, asking why Frank performed so many of his songs when he evidently didn't like them.
He had many number one hits, too many to mention. His signature tune came to be 'My way' which was originally a French tune with English words by Paul Anka.
In 1969, 'Fly me to the Moon' became the first music to be heard on the moon.
Unlike a lot of singers of the time who fell into movies so they could shake their hips, curl their lips and look pretty Frank Sinatra could actually act. Billy Wilder declared, 'His talent on film would be stupendous'
Born in 1912, Dec 23, Francis Albert Sinatra was born into an Italian immigrant family living in Hoboken, New Jersey. This however is not a story of rags to riches, more a story of relative affluence to stupendous wealth.
Always something of a rough diamond he had trouble settling to anything. However he had a goal, after seeing Bing Crosby in 1933, he wanted to be a singer.
In 1939 Harry James, the Bandleader heard him singing at a roadhouse and signed him to a two year contract.
Tommy Dorsey wanted Frank and Harry let his singer go.
During this period he was learning his craft. In 1942 he went on a four week season with Benny Goodman which drove the bobbysoxers wild.
He had been rejected by the American Army because of punctured ear drums which had occurred at birth.
This made Frank Sinatra believe he would be a huge star, and could be on his own account. He managed to negotiate his way out of the contract, although so tight was the contract he did have to pay a percentage of his earnings for many years to come. This amounted to some $7 million.
By now there were some 2000 fan clubs in the US dedicated to him. Names such as 'Frankie's United Swooner' and 'The Bobbysox Swoonerettes' give you some idea of the appeal of the fellow.
1943 was a very busy year for Sinatra, it was something of a springboard to greater success. In a nine year period he had 33 top ten hits and 86 top one hundred hits.
By 1950 he had also made a number of films.
Frank never really grew out of his restless nature. His charm was punctuated with moodiness and poor temper. He gained the nickname, 'Lady Macbeth' because of his compulsion to constantly wash his hands.
Lee Mortimer, a reporter, was beaten up by Sinatra and his bodyguards for suggesting Sinatra was befriending 'cheap hoodlums'. Reporters not showing him the respect he felt was due were usually treated to a stream of abuse.
That same year Sinatra was photographed with the gangster, 'Luvky' Luciano in Havana. There was considerable fall-out from this and despite Sinatra donating all the royalties of his film, The Miracle of the Bells, to the Roman Catholic Church.
This was to presage dark times. Record sales collapsed, he was dropped from 'Your hit parade'. CBS cancelled a three year television contract after only 13 weeks. The strain told on his voice, which all but deserted him during this period. Under scrutiny for his 'underworld' connections he was also under pressure because of his relationship with Ava Gardner, which had ended his first marraige.
Despite his womanizing ways, Ava Gardner was more than a match for him, her famous line, 'Deep down, I'm pretty superficial' aptly summed it up. In 1951 they were married. Treating him with contempt she had all but divorced him by 1953 but it was not made official till 1957.
Sinatra was fighting back. There was suggestion that his role in the film, From Here to Eternity (1952) was assured by underworld connections. Then there was the claim that a scene in The Godfather was inspired by him. The bit where a studio producer woke to find a severed horses head in his bed because he failed to employ an Italian singer. The BBC repeated this claim, Sinatra sued and won.
His career was back on track, winning an Oscar for best supporting actor for his role ni From Here to Eternity. His singing was back on track and he was soon working at a hectic pace. In 1957 he did 11television shows in 15 days for ABC.
His power was extended when a personal relationship grew between him and the Kennedy's. However what had seemed like a good idea at the time soon went sour as the Kennedy's began a fight against organised crime. This made Sinatra a dangerous man to be seen with for the President so a dsitance was put between them.
This job fell to Peter Lawford, brother in law to the President and a member of the Rat Pack. Other members of the Rat Pack were, Sammy Davis Jnr, Dean Martin and Joey Bishop.
Sinatra branched out into Vegas and gambling interests. However in 1963 his gambling licence was revoked due to his involvement with the underworld. He did not cow-down, 'I would rather be a don in the Mafia than President of the United States.' he reputedly told a friend.
In 1970 he was asked to account for his underworld links to the Jersey Commision, he flatly denied as much knowledge as he was able.
1971 saw his retirement. By 1972 he had recorded an album, Ol' Blue Eyes Is Back. The comeback concert was followed by a World tour.
He was still the same man as ever, abusing reporters the world over.
Sinatra had once described Reagan as 'dumb and dangerous' but managed to support him during the 1980's.
His last film appearance was as himself in Cannonball Run II (1983).