best film:  The French New Wave helped bring notoriety to Vincente Minnelli’s Some Came Running (1958) and that is a very worthy finalist here – but Otto Preminger’s fluid camera work in The Man with the Golden Arm (1955) is tough to ignore, as is The Manchurian Candidate. In Manchurian, Laurence Harvey is no better than okay – but Angela Lansbury and Frank Sinatra truly shine. Sinatra plays combat stress to perfection. Sinatra is so good it as Major Bennett Marco – it is jarring in the film going back to poor Laurence Harvey and his Raymond Shaw storyline.


by the 1960s, Sinatra was far too often on autopilot – but 1962’s The Manchurian Candidate was one big exception. Even the brilliant Denzel Washington (in Jonathan Demme’s 2004 remake) could not do better than Sinatra’s work as Major Bennett Marco.


best performance: The Man with the Golden Arm is Sinatra’s go for broke unhinged performance as heroin addict Frankie Machine. Preminger camera floats along – and seems more spontaneous and free flowing (and free floating) jazz influenced than some of his later, more rigidly controlled work – and that helps capture some of Sinatra’s raw,  brave performance.


Sinatra parlayed his Oscar winning supporting performance in From Here to Eternity into a choice lead role (with plenty of character to work with) in Otto Preminger’s The Man with the Golden Arm (1955)


stylistic innovations/traits:   Frank Sinatra is one of the most important musicians (or at least voices) of the 20th century – but he also had a long steady career in cinema from the early 1940s to the late 1960s. Sinatra has fifteen (15) films in the archives, with Oscar nominations in 1953 (his win for supporting for playing Angelo Maggio in From Here to Eternity) and 1955. No actor did sweaty addition or post war trauma better than Sinatra. His Maggio is drunk the entire film (and so damn charismatic), and then heroin addiction in The Man with the Golden Arm, booze again is the monkey on his character’s back in Some Came Running and then post combat stress (along with a little communist brainwashing) in The Manchurian Candidate). Sinatra is certainly missing that big, towering performance (and no doubt that holds him back) – but his resume has that #2, #3, #4 and #5 choice parts ready to go. Sinatra’s prime as an actor is pretty short-lived as well. There is not much to his 1940s musical performances really (another reason From Here to Eternity in 1953 is so crucial to his career) – he looks nervous in his 1940s films, like he is there simply because of his musical talent, and Gene Kelly acts circles around him. Sinatra also looks like he is too quick to go to go on cruise control in his Rat Pack 1960s films and performances (Ocean’s Eleven, Robin and the 7 Hoods). It is really that ten (10) year stretch from 1953 to 1962 where he did all of his best work. All five (5) of his best performance below come during this stretch – and even in something as light and airy as High Society – Sinatra plays the Jimmy Stewart (Stewart’s Oscar winning turn in The Philadelphia Story) role and he paces really well with Stewart if you want to know the truth of it.  In that same role and film – Sinatra keeps up with an absolutely prime Grace Kelly in the film as well.


It is either Preminger or Vincente Minnelli (who directed Some Came Running – pictured here) who was the most talented directed that Sinatra ever worked with. Sinatra plays Dave Hirsch – opposite Shirley MacLaine (in the shot here), Dean Martin, and the always reliable Arthur Kennedy. 


directors worked with: George Sidney (2), Fred Zinnemann (1), Joseph L. Mankiewicz (1), Otto Preminger (1), Vincente Minnelli (1), John Sturges (1), Lewis Milestone (1), John Frankenheimer (1). Preminger was listed as the #85 director on the last update of the top 250 directors – and Minnelli as #97 – but to go a career without connecting with someone closer to #1 is what is partly holding Sintra back.


top five performances:

  1. The Man with the Golden Arm
  2. The Manchurian Candidate
  3. Some Came Running
  4. From Here to Eternity
  5. Pal Joey



archiveable films

1945- Anchors Aweigh
1949- On the Town
1949- Take Me Out to the Ball Game
1953- From Here to Eternity
1954- Suddenly
1955- Guys and Dolls
1955- The Man with the Golden Arm
1956- High Society
1957- Pal Joey
1958- Some Came Running
1959- Never So Few
1960- Ocean’s Eleven
1962- The Manchurian Candidate
1964- Robin and the 7 Hoods
1965- Von Ryan’s Express