November 14, 2005

Tony Rome

Frank Sinatra, after losing his recording contract, movie contract, bobby-soxer fan base, Ava Gardner, and for a period of time, the voice, waged a remarkable comeback by winning an Academy Award for his performance in From Here to Eternity (1953). How a person whose career was as over as Sinatra's appeared to be could have gotten the part in the first place is the source of ancient Hollywood rumor.

Nonetheless, Sinatra went on to have a decent movie career (better than Elvis'), appearing in such classic films as The Man with the Golden Arm (1955) and The Manchurian Candidate (1962). Being the Sinatra fanatic I am, I can't help but also enjoy High Society (1956), Come Blow Your Horn (1963), and a couple of his "Rat Pack" movies, such as Ocean's 11 (1960) and Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964).

By the mid to late '60s, one can see that either the British Invasion had dealt even Sinatra's unprecedented career a blow, or he no longer cared about making movies. Whatever the reason, from that time period forward, he was cast in movie after movie (for the most part) as a cop or a detective. This phase of his Hollywood career began with a bang when he selected the role of Bogart-esque private detective Tony Rome in 1967.

The synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes: "The tough, dashing private eye who lives on a boat finds his troubles beginning when, after being hired to escort the daughter of a wealthy businessman, the girl's diamond pin is mysteriously missing. The trail leads him to guns, bullets and love." It sounds a little like the plot to one of Raymond Chandler's great Philip Marlowe novels, The High Window, later made into a Bogart-less film version called The Brasher Doubloon.

Here's Frank pulling one of those old pull tabs from the first of many Budweisers we see him drink during the film.

Daugher Nancy sings the swingin' theme song.
It's hard not to laugh, though, with lyrics like these:

Mothers lock your daughters in
It's to late to talk to them
'Cause Tony Rome is out and about
And Tony Rome will get 'em
If you don't watch out
Tony Rome will get 'em
If you don't watch out

You see, by 1967, Sinatra was a long way from his skinny crooner days, when it was said he would disappear when standing behind the microphone stand.

Co-star Jill St. John didn't seem to mind. She would later play a somewhat similar role in Diamonds Are Forever.
Don't you know, if they look pretty good by today's standards, they were smokin', back in the day?
The plot is just as convoluted as any great detective novel, and all in all, Sinatra is pretty good. But, obviously, one never forgets that it's Sinatra. Any scene he's in, you can be certain, it's most likely the first and only take. He had no patience for the process of making movies. He would probably have told you, back when he still took acting seriously, that to do the scene more than once would take away from the believability. By 1967, he didn't have much "method". He could point
and point
and pointand point
and point
and point
yep, point
and point
and point
and point some more.
Note the Bud.

Because the film was made in Frank's world, there's lots of drinking. But didn't everyone drink and smoke in those days?
Some of the drinking had a point.
Note the odd gesture he's making with his left hand. What's that called? Oh yeah, pointing. Did I mention they drink Budweisers?
In between, Sinatra found work for his pallies, like best friend Jilly Rizzo:
and Beverly Hills restauranteur/con artist Michael Romanoff.
Since the film is set in Miami, there are great shots of beaches and buildlings you know are looong gone.

Tommy Vercetti's mansion?

The Fontainebleau Hotel, featured in other films such as Goldfinger and The Bellboy, is captured in all it's retro glory:

It's not a bad film, and it's definitely not the worst one Sinatra made. It's a good time capsule, if anything, of a lifestyle, a sensibility and aesthetic that was limping along, and soon to die, as the swingin' 1960s ground to a halt.


Keith said...

Friggin' brilliant work, Chris! Quite funny as well. Lovin' it, man! :D

Chris said...

Thanks, Keith! It was a labor (started on October 19) of love.

Simon Templar said...

Got to love the design of the Fontainebleau Hotel. And yes, that mansion *does* look like Tommy Vercetti's mansion from Grand Theft Auto Vice City.

Chris said...

Miami, circa 1967, must have been quite a site! I think they've done a pretty good job of preserving some it.

Anonymous said...

The mansion is the Deering mansion off South Bayshore drive near the Grove.The Deerings started International Harvester!