Monday, January 4, 2010

Sinatra With A Pencil Thin Mustache



The kind that Boston Blackie used to wear . . .




Okay . . . it wasn’t a particularly good look for the crooner from Hoboken.


But this was 1951, and Sinatra’s fortunes weren’t exactly riding high.  He was trying to reinvent himself for Television, and not exactly mastering the medium.


In just over 10 years since his debut with the Dorsey Orchestra in 1940, Sinatra’s career had gone from being a cultural phenomenon to starting to stall out. 


Despite releasing some excellent albums in the late 1940s, and appearing in several well received musicals (Anchor's Aweigh in 1946 Take Me Out To The Ball Game  and On The Town  Both 1949), Sinatra was now in his mid-30s, and losing steam with his bobby soxer audience.


By 1948 his popularity lagged behind other singers of the day, including Bing Crosby, Billy Eckstine, Frankie Laine and even a resurgent Al Jolson, who was headlining radio’s Kraft Music Hall.


He returned to doing concert appearances in 1950, and entered the TV arena with a variety show that failed to catch on in the ratings.  While the music was often terrific, the comedy, art direction, and pacing of the show couldn’t compete with more polished shows like Your Show of Shows, and Milton Berle.


Both of which, it turns out, aired opposite his short lived show.

Frank even tried his hand at radio, with a short lived show called Rocky Fortune, where he would take on a different job every week, and find adventures . . . . sort of.   


Actually, it wasn’t as bad as it sounds, and we’ll feature them in a future blog.


Sinatra’s fortunes would, of course, change in 1954 with his OSCAR winning portrayal of Maggio in From Here To Eternity, and he would remake himself as a the king of pop standards during the 1950s.


But this is three long years before that transformation, and while some of the comedy is almost painful to watch, The Frank Sinatra Show is a fascinating (Bulluva) Time capsule from nearly 60 years ago.


What we have are 44 minutes (1 & 1/2 shows) from sometime around 1951, featuring much of the cast from Sinatra’s Paramount Stage show, and prominently featuring Dagmar, who would go on to be the first certifiable big star of Television.




Playing a stereotypical dumb blonde, Virginia Ruth Egnor, aka Dagmar, stole the show from Comedian/host Jerry Lester when she appeared on his late night variety show Broadway Open House.

Her popularity grew to the point that Lester walked off the show in 1951, and Dagmar took over as host.  Even though Broadway Open house would shut down later that year, Dagmar remained immensely popular and showed up on other variety shows like the Colgate Comedy Hour, Bob Hope, and Milton Berle.


I’ll have more from Dagmar, and Jerry Lester, in a future blog.  But for now, enjoy 44 minutes of early Sinatra, and get a glimpse of what is likely the only remaining video record of his 1951 Paramount show.   


This video is from the Internet Archive.


Cast members include  Eileen Barton, Tim Herbert and Don Saxon, Joe Bushkin and June Hutton, and musical director Axel Stordahl.




44 Minutes of Footage from ''The Frank Sinatra Show'' (Circa 1951)

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