He received numerous awards for his film work including winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in From Here to Eternity.
Las Vegas Nights
Reveille with Beverly
Higher and Higher
It Happened in Brooklyn
The Miracle of the Bells
The Kissing Bandit
Meet Danny Wilson
Young at Heart
The Tender Trap
Meet Me in Las Vegas
The Pride and the Passion
The Joker Is Wild
Kings Go Forth
A Hole in the Head
Never So Few
The Devil at 4 O’Clock
The Road to Hong Kong
The List of Adrian Messenger
Come Blow Your Horn
4 for Texas
Paris When It Sizzles
Robin and the 7 Hoods
None but the Brave
Von Ryan’s Express
Marriage on the Rocks
Cast a Giant Shadow
Assault on a Queen
The Naked Runner
Lady in Cement
Dirty Dingus Magee
That’s Entertainment, Part II
The First Deadly Sin
Cannonball Run II
Who Framed Roger Rabbit
Frank Sinatra was nominated for two and won one Academy Award:
- Best Actor in a Supporting Role – From Here to Eternity (1953) – WON
- Best Actor in a Leading Role – The Man with the Golden Arm (1955)
He also received an Honorary Oscar for The House I Live In (1945)
For tolerance short subject; produced by Frank Ross and Mervyn LeRoy; directed by Mervyn LeRoy; screenplay by Albert Maltz; song “The House I Live In” music by Earl Robinson, lyrics by Lewis Allan; starring Frank Sinatra; released by RKO Radio.
In 1971, he received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award
You better get busy living, because dying’s a pain in the ass. ~ Frank Sinatra
Francis Albert Sinatra was born on December 12, 1915, in Hoboken, New Jersey. He was the only child of Italian immigrants Antonino Martino “Marty” Sinatra and Natalina “Dolly” Garaventa. Sinatra weighed 13.5 pounds at birth and had to be delivered with the aid of forceps, which caused severe scarring to his left cheek, neck, and ear, and perforated his eardrum, damage that remained for life.
Sinatra’s mother was energetic and driven, and biographers believe that she was the dominant factor in the development of her son’s personality traits and self-confidence.
Sinatra began singing professionally as a teenager, but he learned music by ear and never learned to read music. He got his first break in 1935 when his mother persuaded a local singing group, the 3 Flashes, to let him join. Sinatra soon learned they were auditioning for the Major Bowes Amateur Hour show, and “begged” the group to let him in on the act. With Sinatra, the group became known as the Hoboken Four, and passed an audition from Edward Bowes to appear on the Major Bowes Amateur Hour show. They each earned $12.50 for the appearance and ended up attracting 40,000 votes and won first prize—a six-month contract to perform on stage and radio across the United States. Sinatra quickly became the group’s lead singer, and, much to the jealousy of his fellow group members, garnered most of the attention from girls.
Sinatra did not serve in the military during World War II. On December 11, 1943, he was officially classified 4-F (“Registrant not acceptable for military service”) by his draft board because of a perforated eardrum.
Sinatra attempted to pursue an acting career in Hollywood in the early 1940s. While films appealed to him, being exceptionally self-confident, he was rarely enthusiastic about his own acting, once remarking that “pictures stink”. Sinatra made his film debut in 1941, performing in an uncredited sequence in Las Vegas Nights, singing “I’ll Never Smile Again” with Tommy Dorsey’s Pied Pipers. In 1943 he had a cameo role along with Duke Ellington and Count Basie in Charles Barton’s Reveille with Beverly, making a brief appearance singing “Night and Day”. The following year he was given leading roles in Higher and Higher and Step Lively for RKO Pictures.
In 1945, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer cast Sinatra opposite Gene Kelly and Kathryn Grayson in the Technicolor musical Anchors Aweigh, in which he played a sailor on leave in Hollywood for four days. A major success, it garnered several Academy Award wins and nominations, and the song “I Fall in Love Too Easily”, sung by Sinatra in the film, was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song. In 1946, Sinatra briefly appeared at the end of Richard Whorf’s commercially successful Till the Clouds Roll By, a Technicolor musical biopic of Jerome Kern, in which he sang “Ol’ Man River.
In 1949, Sinatra co-starred with Gene Kelly in the Technicolor musical Take Me Out to the Ball Game, a film set in 1908, in which Sinatra and Kelly play baseball players who are part-time vaudevillians. He teamed up with Kelly for a third time in On the Town, playing a sailor on leave in New York City. Today the film is rated very highly by critics, and in 2006 it ranked No. 19 on the American Film Institute’s list of best musicals. Both Double Dynamite (1951), an RKO Irving Cummings comedy produced by Howard Hughes, and Joseph Pevney’s Meet Danny Wilson (1952) failed to make an impression.
Fred Zinnemann’s From Here to Eternity deals with the tribulations of three soldiers, played by Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, and Sinatra, stationed on Hawaii in the months leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Sinatra had long been desperate to find a film role which would bring him back into the spotlight, and Columbia Pictures boss Harry Cohn had been inundated by appeals from people across Hollywood to give Sinatra a chance to star as “Maggio” in the film. During production, Montgomery Clift became a close friend, and Sinatra later professed that he “learned more about acting from him than anybody I ever knew before”. After several years of critical and commercial decline, his Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor win helped him regain his position as the top recording artist in the world. His performance also won a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture. The Los Angeles Examiner wrote that Sinatra is “simply superb, comical, pitiful, childishly brave, pathetically defiant”, commenting that his death scene is “one of the best ever photographed”.
In 1954 Sinatra starred opposite Doris Day in the musical film Young at Heart, and earned critical praise for his performance as a psychopathic killer posing as an FBI agent opposite Sterling Hayden in the film noir Suddenly.
Sinatra was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor and BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his role as a heroin addict in The Man With The Golden Arm (1955). After roles in Guys and Dolls, and The Tender Trap, Sinatra was nominated for a BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his role as hospital orderly in Stanley Kramer’s début picture, Not as a Stranger. During production, Sinatra got drunk with Robert Mitchum and Broderick Crawford and trashed Kramer’s dressing room. Kramer vowed to never hire Sinatra again at the time, and later regretted casting him as a Spanish guerrilla leader in The Pride and the Passion (1957).
In 1956 Sinatra featured alongside Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly in High Society for MGM, earning a reported $250,000 for the picture. The public rushed to the cinemas to see Sinatra and Crosby together on-screen, and it ended up earning over $13 million at the box office, becoming one of the highest-grossing pictures of 1956. In 1957, Sinatra starred opposite Rita Hayworth and Kim Novak in George Sidney’s Pal Joey, for which he won for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy. Santopietro considers the scene in which Sinatra sings “The Lady Is a Tramp” to Hayworth to have been the finest moment of his film career. He next portrayed comedian Joe E. Lewis in The Joker Is Wild; the song “All the Way” won the Academy Award for Best Original Song. By 1958 Sinatra was one of the ten biggest box office draws in the United States, appearing with Dean Martin and Shirley MacLaine in Vincente Minnelli’s Some Came Running and Kings Go Forth with Tony Curtis and Natalie Wood. “High Hopes”, sung by Sinatra in the Frank Capra comedy, A Hole in the Head (1959), won the Academy Award for Best Original Song, and became a chart hit, lasting on the Hot 100 for 17 weeks.
Due to an obligation he owed to 20th Century Fox for walking off the set of Henry King’s Carousel (1956), in 1960 Sinatra starred opposite Shirley MacLaine, Maurice Chevalier and Louis Jourdan in Can-Can. He earned $200,000 and 25% of the profits for the performance. Later that year he starred in the Las Vegas-set Ocean’s 11, the first film to feature the Rat Pack together and the start of a “new era of screen cool” for Santopietro. Sinatra personally financed the film, and paid Martin and Davis Jr. fees of $150,000 and $125,000 respectively, sums considered exorbitant for the period. In 1962, Sinatra had a leading role opposite Laurence Harvey in The Manchurian Candidate, which he considered to be the role he was most excited about and the high point of his film career. Vincent Canby, writing for the magazine Variety, found the portrayal of Sinatra’s character to be “a wide-awake pro creating a straight, quietly humorous character of some sensitivity.” He appeared with the Rat Pack in the western Sergeants 3, following it with 4 for Texas in 1963. For his performance in Come Blow Your Horn, he was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy.
Though 1965’s Von Ryan’s Express was a major success, and he had directed None but the Brave that year, in the mid 1960s, Brad Dexter wanted to “breathe new life” in Sinatra’s film career by helping him display the same professional pride in his films as he did his recordings. On one occasion, he gave Sinatra Anthony Burgess’s novel A Clockwork Orange (1962) to read, with the idea of making a film, but Sinatra thought it had no potential and did not understand a word.
In the late 1960s, Sinatra became known for playing detectives, including Tony Rome in Tony Rome (1967) and its sequel Lady In Cement (1968). He also played a similar role in 1968’s The Detective.
In 1970, Sinatra starred opposite George Kennedy in the western Dirty Dingus Magee, an “abysmal” affair according to Santopietro, which was panned by the critics. The following year, Sinatra received a Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award and had intended to play Detective Harry Callahan in Dirty Harry (1971) but had to turn the role down due to developing Dupuytren’s contracture in his hand. Sinatra’s last major film role was opposite Faye Dunaway in Brian G. Hutton’s The First Deadly Sin (1980). Santopietro said that as a troubled New York City homicide cop, Sinatra gave an “extraordinarily rich”, heavily layered characterization, one which “made for one terrific farewell” to his film career.
After beginning on the Major Bowes Amateur Hour radio show with the Hoboken Four in 1935, and later WNEW and WAAT in Jersey City, Sinatra became the star of various radio shows of his own on NBC and CBS from the early 1940s to the mid-1950s. In 1942 Sinatra hired arranger Axel Stordahl away from Tommy Dorsey before he began his first radio program that year, keeping Stordahl with him for all of his radio work. By the end of 1942 he was named the “Most Popular Male Vocalist on Radio” in a Down Beat poll. Early on he frequently worked with the popular Andrews Sisters on radio, and they would appear as guests on each other’s shows, as well as on many USO shows broadcast to troops via the Armed Forces Radio Service (AFRS). He appeared as a special guest in the sisters’ ABC Eight-to-the-Bar Ranch series, while the trio in turn guested on his Songs by Sinatra series on CBS. Sinatra had two stints as a regular member of cast of Your Hit Parade; his first was from 1943 to 1945, and second was from 1946 to May 28, 1949, during which he was paired with the then-new girl singer, Doris Day. Starting in September 1949, the BBD&O advertising agency produced a radio series starring Sinatra for Lucky Strike called Light Up Time – some 176 15-minute shows which featured Frank and Dorothy Kirsten singing – which lasted through to May 1950.
In October 1951, the second season of The Frank Sinatra Show began on CBS Television. Ultimately, Sinatra did not find the success on television for which he had hoped.
In 1953 Sinatra starred in the NBC radio program Rocky Fortune, portraying Rocco Fortunato (a.k.a. Rocky Fortune), a “footloose and fancy free” temporary worker for the Gridley Employment Agency who stumbles into crime-solving. The series aired on NBC radio Tuesday nights from October 1953 to March 1954.
In 1957, Sinatra formed a three-year $3 million contract with ABC to launch The Frank Sinatra Show, featuring himself and guests in 36 half hour shows. ABC agreed to allow Sinatra’s Hobart Productions to keep 60% of the residuals, and bought stock in Sinatra’s film production unit, Kent Productions, guaranteeing him $7 million. Though an initial critical success upon its debut on October 18, 1957, it soon attracted negative reviews from Variety and The New Republic, and The Chicago Sun-Times thought that Sinatra and frequent guest Dean Martin “performed like a pair of adult delinquents”, “sharing the same cigarette and leering at girls”. In return, Sinatra later made numerous appearances on The Dean Martin Show and Martin’s TV specials.
Sinatra’s fourth and final Timex TV special, Welcome Home Elvis was broadcast in March 1960, which earned massive viewing figures. Sinatra had previously been highly critical of Elvis Presley and rock and roll in the 1950s, describing it as a “deplorable, a rancid smelling aphrodisiac” which “fosters almost totally negative and destructive reactions in young people.” A CBS News special about the singer’s 50th birthday, Frank Sinatra: A Man and His Music, was broadcast on November 16, 1965, and garnered both an Emmy award and a Peabody Award.
According his musical collaboration with Jobim and Ella Fitzgerald in 1967, Sinatra appeared in the TV special, A Man and His Music + Ella + Jobim, which was broadcast on CBS on November 13. When Sinatra came out of retirement in 1973, he released both an album and appeared in a TV special named “Ol’ Blue Eyes Is Back”. The TV special was highlighted by a dramatic reading of “Send in the Clowns” and a song-and-dance sequence with former co-star Gene Kelly. In the late 1970s, John Denver appeared as a guest in the Sinatra and Friends ABC-TV Special, singing “September Song” as a duet.
In 1977, Sinatra starred as a detective in Contract on Cherry Street, cited as his “one starring role in a dramatic television film”. Ten years later, he made a guest appearance opposite Tom Selleck in Magnum, P.I., playing a retired policeman who teams up with Selleck to find his granddaughter’s murderer. Shot in January 1987, the episode aired on CBS on February 25.
Sinatra had three children, Nancy (born 1940), Frank Jr. (1944–2016), and Tina (born 1948) with his first wife, Nancy Sinatra (née Barbato; born March 25, 1917) (m. 1939–1951).
Sinatra had met Barbato in Long Branch, New Jersey in the late 1930s, where he spent most of the summer working as a lifeguard. He agreed to marry her after an incident at “The Rustic Cabin” which led to his arrest. Sinatra had numerous extramarital affairs, and gossip magazines published details of affairs with women including Marilyn Maxwell, Lana Turner, and Joi Lansing.
Sinatra was married to Hollywood actress Ava Gardner from 1951 to 1957. It was a turbulent marriage with many well-publicized fights and altercations. The couple formally announced their separation on October 29, 1953, through MGM. Gardner filed for divorce in June 1954, at a time when she was dating matador Luis Miguel Dominguín, but the divorce was not settled until 1957. Sinatra continued to feel very strongly for her, and they remained friends for life. He was still dealing with her finances in 1976.
Sinatra reportedly broke off engagements to Lauren Bacall in 1958 and Juliet Prowse in 1962. He married Mia Farrow on July 19, 1966, a short marriage that ended with divorce in Mexico in August 1968. They remained close friends for life, and in a 2013 interview Farrow said that Sinatra might be the father of her son Ronan Farrow (born 1987). In a 2015 CBS Sunday Morning interview, Nancy Sinatra dismissed the claim as “nonsense”.
Sinatra was married to Barbara Marx from 1976 until his death. The couple married on July 11, 1976, at Sunnylands, in Rancho Mirage, California, the estate of media magnate Walter Annenberg.
Sinatra died with his wife at his side at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on May 14, 1998, aged 82, after a heart attack. Sinatra was in ill health during the last few years of his life, and was frequently hospitalized for heart and breathing problems, high blood pressure, pneumonia and bladder cancer. He was further diagnosed as having dementia. He had made no public appearances following a heart attack in February 1997. Sinatra’s wife encouraged him to “fight” while attempts were made to stabilize him, and reported that his final words were, “I’m losing.” Sinatra’s daughter, Tina, later wrote that she and her sister, Nancy, had not been notified of their father’s final hospitalization, and it was her belief that “the omission was deliberate. Barbara would be the grieving widow alone at her husband’s side.” The night after Sinatra’s death, the lights on the Empire State Building in New York City were turned blue, the lights at the Las Vegas Strip were dimmed in his honor, and the casinos stopped spinning for a minute.
Sinatra’s funeral was held at the Roman Catholic Church of the Good Shepherd in Beverly Hills, California, on May 20, 1998, with 400 mourners in attendance and thousands of fans outside. Gregory Peck, Tony Bennett, and Sinatra’s son, Frank Jr., addressed the mourners, who included many notable people from film and entertainment. Sinatra was buried in a blue business suit with mementos from family members—cherry-flavored Life Savers, Tootsie Rolls, a bottle of Jack Daniel’s, a pack of Camel cigarettes, a Zippo lighter, stuffed toys, a dog biscuit, and a roll of dimes that he always carried—next to his parents in section B-8 of Desert Memorial Park in Cathedral City, California.
His close friends Jilly Rizzo and Jimmy Van Heusen are buried nearby. The words “The Best Is Yet to Come”, plus “Beloved Husband & Father” are imprinted on Sinatra’s grave marker. Significant increases in recording sales worldwide were reported by Billboard in the month of his death.
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