Monday, April 10, 2017


Frank Sinatra is a wealthy playboy theatrical agent who lives in a fancy high-rise penthouse in Manhattan and is dating (let’s be more honest than they could be in 50s Hollywood and say, "sleeping with") as least four different women, and he's turned rotating through them into a fine art. He seems most serious about professional violinist Celeste Holm, but even she is often left dangling. However, his schedule is shaken a bit by the entrance of two people in his life. First, his childhood best friend (David Wayne) arrives to stay with him for a couple of weeks—his wife suggested that after eleven years of marriage, they take a short vacation from each other. Not sure whether this is a sign of long-term dissatisfaction, Wayne seems generally at odds, and may be at least a little jealous of Sinatra's swinging lifestyle. The second interloper in Sinatra’s life is struggling actress and singer Debbie Reynolds who lands a starring role in a new musical and becomes Sinatra's newest client. Reynolds is lovely and lively, and though she still lives with her parents, she knows what she wants: a husband, three kids, and a house in Scarsdale, and on a timetable to boot. As Sinatra starts ignoring Holm to spend time with Reynolds, Wayne finds himself smitten with Holm.

What makes this silly non-farcical romantic farce worth watching is the cast. I've never found Sinatra to be a particularly compelling actor, but he's perfect here, where he seems to be barely acting—the playboy life he leads fits exactly the persona Sinatra projected for most of his life. Reynolds is her usual bright and cheery self, though the platitudes about marriage that she has to mouth are disturbing, and Holm is fine as the one mentally mature person in the bunch. The revelation for me was David Wayne, whom I mostly know from his later role as Ellery Queen’s father on TV and from his earlier role as what I interpreted as the gay best friend who acts like he's in love with Katherine Hepburn in ADAM’S RIB. His role here is substantial—and sometimes, he's more interesting than the Sinatra character—and he's up to the challenge. The look of the movie is a little strange; based on a play, the film remains quite stagy, so many of the scenes are basically 3 or 4 people walking around the apartment talking. But the movie is shot in widescreen so we get a big empty expanse around the actors. Granted, the apartment is well-appointed and very modern, but visually the film is fairly inert. Carolyn Jones (Morticia Addams) has a small role as Sinatra's dogwalker. If you can get past the 50s attitudes about women and marriage, this is OK. [TCM]

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