best film: The Manchurian Candidate though I suspect many will have Some Came Running– a film so influential to the French New Wave. Manchurian Candidate is a masterpiece (the 94 on metacritic is no joke) thriller. Laurence Harvey is ok but its Angela Lansbury and, especially, Sinatra that truly shine. Sinatra plays post-war trauma as well as any contemporary actor here. He’s so good on screen it’s jarring going to others (like Harvey) in scenes without him.
best performance: The Man With the Golden Arm. If you don’t think much of the film or Sinatra’s performance then I can see why you may be scratching your head about Sinatra’s placement on this list. I think the film is Preminger at his most experimental and it’s Sinatra at his most unhinged. It’s a raw performance—brave really, and has been lost a little historically sadly enough. It’s Exhibit A: on Frank Sinatra as a great historical actor.
stylistic innovations/traits: I can’t think of another actor that did sweaty addiction or trauma like Sinatra. He’s drunk for the entirety of his Oscar-winning performance in From Here To Eternity (and excellent- completely charismatic) but it’s his work struggling with heroin addiction (man with golden arm), alcoholism (Some Came Running) and post-war stress (Manchurian Candidate) that make him an all-time actor. Those top four performances and films are spectacular and make up for the relative lack of depth in the filmography (and I don’t think that much of his two 1940’s musicals nor his few casual non-performances with the Rat Pack in the 60’s—I guess they give him some variety). Sinatra was a serious actor even if it wasn’t what he is (or should be) known for in the greater context of his tremendous voice and musical talent/career. He had 65 IMDB credits and was busy. He could also clearly hold his own with more talented pros like Brando (Guys and Dolls) or Grace Kelly (High Society).
directors worked with: Not nearly enough here—Preminger once and Minnelli once
Top 5 Performances:
- The Man With the Golden Arm
- The Manchurian Candidate
- From Here to Eternity
- Some Came Running
- Pal Joey