ALL THE WAY
This is a love story as affectionate as any. In the current vernacular it might be referred to as a “bromance,” the non-romantic affection for one man by another. For, in all the life of this writer at least, never has there been the adoration for another human soul… beyond brother, parents, and beloved girlfriend (dear Shelly), than that felt more than half a century for a man called "Sinatra". Music and films have, I imagine, played an integral role in the life of yours truly from the earliest of memories, perhaps as early as 1950.
When I was four our family got it's first television set and, from the moment that magical square box came to life, that young child would be permanently and adoringly enchanted and entranced by the sights and sounds which came lovingly from its intimate screen and speakers. During my early youth, mom and dad would take my brother and I to the movies, either at our premiere local movie house, The Benner Theater or, during more sophisticated journeys beyond the realm of the Oxford Circle in Northeast Philadelphia, to Philadelphia’s first-run downtown theaters such as The Mastbaum, The Stanley, The Boyd, The Fox, Randolph, Stanton, or The Arcadia.
Philadelphia's legendary BOYD THEATER, and a young Steve Vertlieb (both circa 1950s)
Dad would always take me to adventure movies such as IVANHOE with Robert Taylor, THE SEARCHERS with John Wayne, or MOGAMBO with Clark Gable. While Mom on the other hand escorted me to the big musicals such as ANNIE GET YOUR GUN With Betty Hutton and Howard Keel, Fred Astaire in THE BANDWAGON, and that little musical opus from the pen of Cole Porter called HIGH SOCIETY. And it was during a screening of the latter that I first encountered Frank Sinatra on the big screen. This was 1956. Now, to be candid, my singular man crush of the period was with Bing Crosby.
I'd discovered at the tender age of ten or younger that I’d developed a reasonably good romantic singing voice; and as such I'd aspired to follow in the theatrical footsteps of Harry Lillis Crosby (“Bing” to you) when I grew into manhood. I only had eyes for Bing at the time, and had little interest in an upstart named Sinatra. My cousin Marsha had developed something of a teen crush on Frank, but the purity of my ten year old “vision” would only allow for the more traditional warbling of “the old groaner.”
1958 - with pals Dean Martin (left) & Sammy Davis, Jr. (right) on the set of SOME CAME RUNNING
Van Heusen, whose real name was Chester Babcock and who took his stage name from his favorite shirt, was often spoofed by friend Bob Hope when the comedian used the song writer’s real name as his character name in some of the Crosby and Hope “Road” pictures for Paramount. OUR TOWN premiered as a part of the “Producer’s Showcase” series on September 19th, 1955, and featured Paul Newman as George, Eva Marie Saint as Emily, and Frank Sinatra as “The Stage Manager.” The program contains the only known visual record of Paul Newman singing. Network news commentators and personality hosts all stood gleefully in line to extract interviews from the cast and, in particular, from Frank Sinatra whose recently revitalized career offered him the rare opportunity to introduce four new songs for the production.
These included the title song from the production, “Our Town,” as well as newly realized Sinatra standards such as “Look To Your Heart,” “The Impatient Years,” and the program’s mega hit tune, “Love and Marriage.” The color elements of the original program seem to have been lost over the ensuing years, but a fine black and white “kinescope” survives, and attests to the still poignant drama of this unique interlude in early television history and development.
"SINATRA: ALL OR NOTHING" HBO DOCUMENTARY RED CARPET PREMEIRE
with Danica Daniel