Frank Sinatra died twenty years ago - May 14th 1998. We'll pick out a few musical moments later tonight, but first, as a curtain-raiser and as a Mark at the Movies Sunday bonus, here's a look at Sinatra's film career. He was a memorable actor - and, as Sammy Cahn liked to say, that isn't even what he does:
When he died in 1998, the Italians came out for Frank. Robert De Niro said not a day passed when he didn't listen to Sinatra, Martin Scorsese that Sinatra made it possible for all the rest of them - the guys with vowels. In the early years of the last century, when a scrappy cobbler's apprentice called Martin Sinatra was minded to try his hand at prize-fighting, he changed his name to "Marty O'Brien", a reinvention that tells you everything about which ethnic identities were commercially viable back then. As late as the late Forties, Dino Crocetti and Anthony Benedetto felt obliged to follow Marty's example and anglicize themselves to Dean Martin and Tony Bennett. Even the one arena of American life where being Italian was an asset - the mob - was reserved on screen for fellows with handles like Cagney and Bogart. The real fighter in the Sinatra family turned out to be Marty O'Brien's only child, and his first act of defiance was his determination to keep his name. It's because of Sinatra that Hollywood had stars called Pacino, Stallone and Travolta.
Vowel - Crowd - Celebrity - Influence - American
Beyond the vowel crowd, his prototypical non-pliant celebrity had a more pervasive influence on American screen acting than almost anyone else. He was the guy who disdained to fit in, no matter how much they wanted him to. After Sinatra sang at the 1956 Democratic National Convention, the Speaker of the House, Sam Rayburn, went up to him...
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