Tag Archives: frank sinatra

The Pride and the Passion (1957)

Prior to viewing this movie, I didn’t really know anything about it other than, vaguely, its genre (war film), its director (Stanley Kramer) and its star (Frank Sinatra, since the film had been part of a Sinatra box set). Partly, I wanted to watch it for the rush of experiencing something I knew so little about, but also because I was curious what attracted Kramer, a director more famous for his socially-conscious issue dramas, to an historical war epic. He was his own, independent producer, so it can’t have been a desire to prove to others that he could direct large-scale combat (of which there aren’t many scenes in the film, anyway, unless you count a handful of extras dying of not even to close to being hit by cannon balls) or set-ups more complicated than those needed for an intimate character drama (which doesn’t succeed all that well either, with numerous continuity issues and noticeable mismatched cuts). It’s possible he wanted to prove it to himself (Pride and the Passion earned him only his second credit as director, after many years of being a hands-on producer). Or maybe he just liked the book the movie was based on.

Whatever the case, this is the film Kramer made: Its lead character is a British officer sent to Spain to prevent a one-of-a-kind, gigantic cannon from falling into the hands of dastardly French soldiers acting as proxies to the unseen Napoleon. Anthony Trumbull, the Englishman, doesn’t have any backup at all in his quest, which means he has to rely solely on his apparently flawless command of Spanish, which we never hear, the considerable charms of the actor who plays him, Cary Grant, and the whims of a local militia leader Miguel, played by Sinatra. The Spaniard is willing to help Trumbull get the cannon to a port where it can be picked up by a British ship, but only if he’s allowed to use the weapon in a mostly symbolic gesture, bombing the walls of a city occupied by the French. Said city is far too inland for Trumbull’s comfort, but he has no choice but to tag along and take Miguel at his word. The war during which this all takes place was a real one, if somewhat obscure (it’s the one that popularised the term ‘guerilla’, describing irregular units like the one commanded by Miguel), but both the broad strokes and the details of the story are basically pure fiction. The film’s pretend-Iberian geography is similarly mangled, and that was obvious even to me, who has never been to Spain, unlike the production team.

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>Frank Sinatra as Tony Rome< (1967, 1968)

After being passed over for the lead role in the gumshoe film Harper (1966), Frank Sinatra made a handful of similar films in the late 60s, in two of which he played the same character: Tony Rome, Miami private eye. Rome, the opening song for the eponymously titled first film helpfully informs us (“mothers lock your daughters in”), is a ladies’ man. His attraction for the female form is made obvious by two close-up shots of ladies’ behinds that essentially bookend the first film and are echoed in the second. His own irresistibility to women is portrayed as mixed in the first film (a young heiress suggests she’d “do anything” for him to take her case, but Rome doesn’t actually score in the entire movie), but sheds all hints of irony in Lady in Cement (1968), the one-year-later sequel which sees Rome hit on by not one, but two exotic dancers as well as a wealthy socialite. A minor character in the second film reduces a dead girl to her potential for motherhood without pushback. Females in general have very little non-sexual agency, being pushed around by pimps, crime bosses and other men.

Beyond being a bit of an ego booster for a Frank Sinatra who was, by then, in his 50s, the films’ casual sexism as well as the more than casual homophobia seem to be part of an attempt by an older generation to adapt to the cultural changes brought by the 1960s. Tony Rome especially has a lot of dialogue that was probably deemed risqué for that time, but comes across as mightily forced (for instance, a female character freely admits that she’s used to and okay with being called a slut, there’s an extended bit with an old lady wanting Rome to pay attention to her pussycat, and a small subplot concerns the insatiability of a newlywed woman). Continue reading