In The 50s Frank Sinatra Filmed Over 60 Song Performances On 35mm Film

Discussion in 'TV Shows' started by Peter Kline, Sep 23, 2003.

  1. Peter Kline

    Peter Kline Cinematographer

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    Secret Sinatra Tapes to Be Aired

    September 23, 2003

    While in his prime in the 1950s, Frank Sinatra recorded more than 60
    songs on his own 35-millimeter camera, films that have been sitting
    in a family vault ever since.

    That treasure trove of performances might have stayed among the racks
    of film canisters in Sinatra's family archives if producer James
    Sanna hadn't contacted the family with his idea to build a new, live
    show using technology and film of Sinatra performing to make
    him "come alive again."

    The never-before-seen performances will be broadcast during
    Correspondent Charlie Rose's report on the season premiere of 60
    Minutes II, Wednesday, Sept. 24, at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

    Sanna knew Sinatra recorded a television series and began searching
    for that footage. However, he didn't know that Sinatra had shot
    something extra.

    "He was a visionary... Almost every other television show that was
    filmed during the late '50s was using a technology called kinescope,
    which is low-grade, out of focus, mono," says Sanna.

    "Frank knew that wouldn't stand up to the test of time, so what he
    did at his own expense, he had a lockdown 35-millimeter camera
    actually shooting his performance as he stared right into the
    camera."

    Sanna enlisted the help of film restorer Keith Robinson, who
    discovered the Sinatra films at the family's archives in Los Angeles.
    Robinson calls the never-before-seen tapes historical -- saying the
    footage is "some of the best performances Frank Sinatra ever gave."

    When Rose asks Robinson what he saw that made him think he found
    something "historical" among the Sinatra family archives, Robinson
    responds, "A bunch of unmarked cans... with very little labeling, and
    I popped open the first can, and the waft of vinegar came out...
    Everybody was going, `What's that smell?'"

    The smell was a sign that the film had deteriorated over time, and
    some of it had, but not enough to prevent Robinson and his team from
    repairing it.

    Robinson tells Rose that the films were covered with scratches,
    editor's pencil marks and even adhesive tape.

    Those film cans also contained about a dozen strange essays by
    Sinatra on love, life and suicide, which Sinatra reportedly once
    tried. He wrote: "Now, if you've been clobbered by love, it isn't
    cricket to take the gas, you know? And dangling by your necktie is
    against the rules, too. And never make hors d'oeuvres with the ant
    paste. And by all means, keep off those tall buildings. In fact, jump
    only when the phone rings."
     
  2. Peter Kline

    Peter Kline Cinematographer

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    This is an amazing discovery. The original black and white films had just Sinatra (and a few props - some female) singing for the camera. A small group of musicians accompanied him. Later Nelson Riddle added full orchestrations. Next up, some of the performances will be used for the Sinatra Radio City Music Hall concert next month with a live orchestra and giant screens. These performances were known to exist by the Sinatra family and were provided to the producers of the upcoming Radio City Music Hall event. For Sinatra fans and lovers of great popular song this is a treasure trove. Hopefully, the 60 odd songs will eventually be released on DVD. Because his vocals are so crisp and clean with only a hint of the original small backup group brand new stereo orchestral accompaniment could be added to great effect (using the original arrangements).
     
  3. Rollie

    Rollie Stunt Coordinator

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  4. Scott Leopold

    Scott Leopold Supporting Actor

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    I saw this last night, and the films looked great. I'd love to see them all released on DVD. The presentation they're going to have at Radio City looks interesting, but I want the original films.
     
  5. Peter Kline

    Peter Kline Cinematographer

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    One should add that Sinatra sounded great as well. At the peak of his powers in 1957-58. In the brief snippets shown, he mostly looked directly at you when he sang. Very compelling.
     
  6. GlennH

    GlennH Cinematographer

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  7. Peter Kline

    Peter Kline Cinematographer

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    One thing that bothered me about the show was the statement from Mr.Sanna (the producer of the upcoming Radio City Music Hall concerts) that shows of this time period were mostly on kinescope. Not true. Video tape (black and white) started being used in 1956. Most shows were either live or on film. Coast to coast broadcasting was possible during this time and many live shows were broadcast twice, once for the east coast and once for the west coasts. Sure, shows were photographed to 16mm film from a CRT tube (kinescope) but they were few and far between and were rarely used. The Frank Sinatra Show on ABC between 1957 and 1958 was recorded to video tape. These rare performances were made during that same period to 35mm film. Hype is one thing, incorrect information from the producer, of all people, is, well, wrong. Anyway, wish I could make it to NYC to see one of the RCMH concerts. Hopefully, the show will tour - although it's probably very expensive to mount. Look for a DVD of the RCMH event and then, hopefully, a complete set of the 60 plus songs. The Sinatra children will milk this for all the money they can get, be sure of that.
     

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