Saturday, December 29, 2007

Frank Sinatra and Tom Waits



What were movie-musicals thinking in the 1950s? A couple of weeks ago, Funny Face (1957) left me baffled by the Fred Astaire-Audrey Hepburn romance. Last night, it was Young at Heart (1954) with Frank Sinatra and Doris Day. Give me William Holden and Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard (1950) any day, over any Day.

In Young at Heart, Sinatra plays ace arranger Barney Sloan. He spends his time gussying up the songs of his friend Alex Burke (Gig Young) and eking out a living as a saloon singer-pianist. Sloan is cadaverous, often hatted, often smoking. He looks like Tom Waits. Why is Tom Waits falling in love with Doris Day? And why is she falling for him?

Watching this movie got me thinking about the Sinatra-Waits connection. I've read somewhere that Waits loves In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning. The Waits-Kathleen Brennan play Frank's Wild Years (which I was lucky to see in 1986 during its Chicago run) includes "I'll Take New York" (a "New York, New York" take-off) and "Straight to the Top" ("I can't let sorrow / Pull ol' Frankie down"). And consider the following:

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comments: 5

Yair said...

You got to really see Frank's Wild Years!!! Wow...

nneprevilo said...

Doris Day, the movie star with perfect-of-a-type looks, "fell in love" with several co-stars that the public didn't buy. Namely, besides Frank Sinatra, Ray Bolger in "April in Paris," Danny Thomas in "I'll See You In My Dreams," Robert Cummings in "Lucky Me" and Jack Carson in "Romance on the High Seas" and "My Dream Is Yours."

Likewise, it looked strange to see Marilyn Monroe kissing Tom Ewell in "The Seven Year Itch" and Tommy Noonan in "Gentlemen Prefer Blonds."

In "Young at Heart," Day married Sinatra on the rebound after she felt that her sister was in love with Gig Young whom Day was scheduled to marry.

Michael Leddy said...

Yes, yair. Frank's Wild Years ran for a couple of months in the summer of 1986 at the Steppenwolf Theatre. The musicians played in a loft to the side of the stage. The audience was very much a Waits audience, which made for a great experience.

Thanks, nneprevilo, for all these pairings. Having seen Cummings and Priscilla Lane in Saboteur, I can sort of imagine Cummings and Day. But Ray Bolger!

brownstudy said...

I remember Tom Waits being interviewed on some show or other, and relating how he was using a voice coach.

The coach berated him with, "Why do you keep singing like that? You keep singing like that and you'll wind up like Frank Sinatra!"

Waits: "You mean, rich and powerful?"

Michael Leddy said...

A great comeback! Thanks for sharing it here, Mike.