Pinched in the Astor Bar: Frank Sinatra


So once in awhile, Ol’ Blue Eyes gets under my skin and, ring-a-ding-ding, he absolutely ends up doing it his way and there’s nothing I can do-be-do-be-do about it.
The Wee Small Hours and No One Cares have been regulars on my semi-new turntable– pieces of art that positively thrive in the acoustic-friendly, teensy confines of my studio. (One of the small perks to overpriced, undersized Hollywood living.)

Frankie, by many accounts, may have been an insufferable pain in the arse… but I’m perfectly willing to go out of my way to understand those foibles (God knows I’m an insufferable pain in the arse on many an occasion…!) the minute that rich baritone hits the scratching vinyl. After all, who are we if we are not all flawed?

Prior to his Academy Award winning role in 1953’s From Here to Eternity, Sinatra’s career had become a total write-off. From bobby-soxer idol to matinee movie star, Sinatra surrendered it all to face scandal head-on by marrying the woman of his dreams in 1951, Ava Gardner. The press had not been kind. Nor had his fans been loyal.

In between Frankie’s rejuvenating venture as a vocal artist with In the Wee Small Hours (1955) and his poignantly beautiful Where Are You? (1957), Sinatra’s resurrected career as popular recording artist and movie star benefited from this little MGM musical, 1956’s High Society.

The Pictorial could write volumes on Frankie but for the time being, I happen to love this delightful moment of unbridled frivolity in which, it is quite obvious, Frankie is having an absolute ball. The demons were still around the corner, chasing him as they always had and always would be, but it’s marvelous to see Frankie bring his A-Game in charming fraternal intoxication with Bing Crosby in High Society.

Just watch and let Frankie pinch YOU in the Asss-tor Bar:

p.s.: Frankie’s duet with Celeste Holm is likewise delightful:

TCM Film Festival Update: The Third Man

Just came from this morning’s presentation of The Third Man at the Egpytian Theatre in Hollywood. Introduced by TCM host Ben Mankiewicz (who made the most charming gaffe– don’t worry Ben, anyone could’ve mixed up the American and British versions… well, not really, but we positively adore you regardless!) the film was screened to a packed audience– given the 9AM start time and the deep nature of the material, I was absolutely thrilled to be surrounded by such ardent cinema enthusiasts.

Script Supervisor Angela Allen joined Mankiewicz for a post-screening Q&A. She worked on the 2nd unit in Vienna with director Carol Reed and principal cast. Reid apparently worked all three units on this film– highly unusual– and in effect ended up working, quite literally, 24/7. While shooting in the Viennese sewers, said Allen, a waiter would come downstairs with a tray and a silver cup so Reid could have his coffee. “Only the British,” quipped Mankiewicz, would refer to the sewers as ‘going downstairs.'”

Having worked on over 70 films over 6 decades, Allen’s colorful musings went from Reid chasing Orson Welles all over Europe on Third Man, working with Huston in Africa on the African Queen to Michael Powell on Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (for which she doubled for Ava Gardner on the beach so Gardner could dine with a visiting Frank Sinatra) to The Misfits with John Huston— a director with whom she worked with 14 times.

While on The African Queen, Allen swelled with pride when Huston took her side over an altercation with leading lady Katharine Hepburn whom insisted she had indeed worn a different costume for the take. “Kate,” said Huston, “that’s Angie’s job. Put on the other dress.”

“I sweated bullets for five weeks waiting to find out if I was right or not,” said Allen.

The audience waited.

“And?” Mankiewicz asked.

“I was right.”

Goodbye, Elizabeth. Farewell, Hollywood.

Look for it only in books for it is no more than a dream remembered—a civilization gone with the wind.”

Impossibly Beautiful.

With today’s passing of Dame Elizabeth Taylor, I could not quite get those opening credits of David O Selznick’s Gone with the Wind out of my mind. Taylor is not the last star of Hollywood’s Golden Age to leave us— we still, thankfully, have with us the talents of Mickey Rooney, Debbie Reynolds, Jane Powell, Kirk Douglas, Lauren Bacall, Olivia deHavilland, Joan Fontaine, Shirley Temple and Louis Rainer. All of whom I love dearly.  (And a few of whom I prefer as actors to Taylor.)

But as far as the 20th Century idea of “movie star” goes, no one has been, is and will be more consummate of a movie star than Elizabeth Taylor. The name is larger than life, and is topped only by the woman who possessed it: a woman who loved hard, lived large and suffered deeply—an epic story of love, loss and survival. Her passing, symbolically, signifies the end of an entire civilization. A world that no longer exists.

I’m open to argument, but I strongly feel that she is the last Hollywood Superstar.

The Consummate Movie Star

Golden Hollywood, already a legendary Oz, really began fading from our tangible collective hold in the late 90s, with the deaths of Frank Sinatra, Jimmy Stewart, Katharine Hepburn and Bob Hope. The past years have been especially sad for classic film lovers around the world, particularly with the passings of Marlon Brando, Paul Newman, Tony Curtis and Jane Russell to highlight but the few. And although dear Elizabeth had been failing for quite some time, the news is still a sad shock to any and all who love her and love the world she reigned over. And somehow, for me anyway, with the candle blown on her legendary life… that golden Hollywoodland that I grew up with is, finally, truly, forever gone.

Created and cultivated by the studio system, bred by the studio system—its shining beacon of beauty and glamour—there will only ever be one Elizabeth Taylor.  Initially just another ‘product’ to be exploited by studio suits, Taylor turned the tables and became an accomplished actress (“She knows her instrument,” co-star and friend Paul Newman once said, “and she knows how to play it.”)

The Kitty Packard Pictorial bids adieu to this extraordinary woman, her extraordinary beauty and her extraordinary gifts as an actress.

This moving tribute paid to her by Paul Newman on TCM a few years back sums up so much: her strength as a human being, her worth as a talent– her legacy as a star.

“It was a privilege to watch her,” Newman says in the tribute.

It is now more than a privilege. It is an honour.

Thank you for the memories, Elizabeth. We love you. And you are a part of us. Always.

Pictorial Palette #5: Grace Kelly

Her regal highness.

In Frank Sinatra’s biography The Life, the author makes this statement about Sinatra’s failed conquest of Grace Kelly: [she] was a princess long before she married Prince Ranier.

Class acts don’t come much classier than Grace Kelly.

And here in this shot she is a creamy technicolor dream. Nothing short of regal, as would soon be her destiny.

For all you color enthusiasts, the dreamy hexes are: 

#B9239E; #ECD0B; #F41A19; #EF8FBD


Previous Pictorial Palettes:

# 1 – Judy Garland

#2 – Rita Hayworth

#3 – Les Girls

#4 – Brigitte Bardot

The My Way Killings

He did it his way ... but thankfully not in The Phillipines!

Apparently, doing it your way can get you killed.

The New York Times reports that the Philippines has been hit by a series of murders all supposedly provoked by karaoke versions of the Frank Sinatra classic “My Way.”  Apparently over a dozen people have been bumped off after singing the song in karaoke bars leading to the local media giving it the moniker “the My Way killings.”

Rodolfo Gregorio is an amateur karaoke singer in the Philippines who is quoted in the Times as saying, “The trouble with My Way is that everyone knows it and everyone has an opinion. I used to like My Way but after all the trouble, I stopped singing it. You can get killed.”

“Stories like these,” says Sean Michaels for The Guardian, “have helped My Way to gain a sinister, even malevolent reputation. While some say the violence is simply a matter of statistics – the song is one of the favourites in a country prone to violence – others blame its boastful style. Paul Anka wrote the English lyrics with Sinatra in mind, and they reflect Old Blue Eyes’ preeminence. A man, his song explains, must “say the things he truly feels and not the words of one who kneels”.

(On a personal note,  my Granddad favored My Way at every family gathering—after about four scotches he would invariably take command of the floor and insist that, unlike Frankie, he didn’t need a microphone. They were the longest 4 minutes and 30 seconds of our lives. Murder never came to mind, but drugging his scotch certainly did…)

To be fair, Old Blue Eyes apparently isn’t the only performer to have provoked a wave of karaoke bar brutality. Apparently a man  in Malaysia killed eight of his neighbors after trying their hand at John Denver’s Take Me Home Country Roads, and a Seattle man was attacked after tackling Coldplay’s Yellow.

Stranger things have happened … I think. The Guardian suggests the remedy could perhaps be as simple as … singing lessons?