Seeing it again today, I'm almost embarrassed for him. But I think I've read somewhere Sinatra wanted to do more of the kind of cameos and appearances in movies and TV shows his pallies Sammy Davis, Jr. and Dean Martin often did, because he thought it looked like they were having fun. Perhaps he wanted to lighten up his image a bit. Around this time, he was being portrayed in the media with things like the biography His Way: The Unauthorized Biography of Frank Sinatra and the daily comic strip "Doonesbury" as a bullying, mafioso thug. Either way, I doubt he did it for the money.
He does manage to "leave the film" with his dignity pretty much intact, unlike Sammy and Dean. They look so pitiful and pathetic much of the time. I think Dean (who had spent his entire post-Martin & Lewis career pretending to be a lush) was really drinking at this point. But the film does have this historic value going for it -- writer/director Hal Needham managed to reunite the three of them on screen. And with appearances by both Shirley Maclaine and Henry Silva, Cannonball Run II feels at times a little bit like a bad Rat Pack film (4 for Texas, not Ocean's 11).
According to Sinatra: Behind the Legend:
The hope was to recapture some of the madness from the Rat Pack's sixties adventures. Burt Reynolds was along for the ride because of his box-office drawing power.
"It was a disgrace, of course," Shirley Maclaine said of the film, and even she is mystified as to why she took a role in this silly movie after brilliant Academy Award performance in Terms of Endearment. "Frank only worked half a day, and that was too long for him. He did one take (in true Sinatra style!) and left. It looked like he had never been there at all.
"Dean had deteriorated. He seemed withered, drawn, with a graying pallor. I noticed he put five spoons of sugar in each cup of coffee. I chided him for it and said he'd better quit. The next day, he emptied a five-pound bag of sugar inside my trailer."
This video is comprised of the three scenes (the "Oval Office scene" and two separate car scenes) in which Sinatra appeared. On a trivial note, the guy at the beginning is Sinatra's right-hand man, Jilly Rizzo.
And I just can't end this post without mentioning that the bouncy, synth-heavy tune heard in the car scenes is "Como Cannonball (Like a Cannonball)," from Menudo:
Would/could you be proud of this if you were one of them now?