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Honoring Frank Sinatra on His Birthday

This post was co-written with Bryan Cornell and Karen Fishman.

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A scene from The House I Live In.

On the 100th birthday of Francis Albert Sinatra, the Library’s National Audio-Visual Conservation Center recognizes Ol’ Blue Eyes’ contributions to both sight and sound. Sinatra, who appeared in more than 50 movies, starred in the 1945 RKO  short film The House I Live In, which was added to the Library’s National Film Registry in 2007. Sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League of the B’nai B’rith, the international Jewish organization based in the United States formed to battle antisemitism, the film exhorts the message of religious tolerance and post-war hopefulness. (The message of tolerance didn’t apply to America’s wartime enemies, however, who were referred to in the picture as “Japs.”)

The House I Live In (RKO, 1945) was preserved from a nitrate print registered for copyright in November 1945 by Frank Ross Productions, Ltd. The copyright registration was not renewed.

In the film, Sinatra, then the idol of teenage bobby-soxers, takes a break from a recording session and finds a group of children bullying one boy because he’s Jewish. Sinatra reminds them that Americans may worship in many different ways but they still remain Americans. The film ends with Sinatra performing the title song, penned by Abel Meeropol, best known for the song “Strange Fruit” which denounced the horror of lynchings. The song became a hit for Sinatra and remained a staple of his repertoire. The film The House I Live In, which earned an honorary Academy Award in 1946, was written by Albert Maltz, and directed by Mervyn LeRoy, who helmed such films as I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932), Random Harvest (1942) and Mister Roberts (1955). Maltz would later be among the notorious “Hollywood Ten,” a group of film professionals blacklisted for refusing to answer questions about their alleged involvement with the Communist Party. The song’s composer Earl Robinson was also blacklisted.

Frank Sinatra assisting Laurence Harvey from a lake in Central Park, during the filming of the motion picture The Manchurian Candidate.

In addition to The House I Live In, birthday boy Sinatra stars in two other National Film Registry titles: The Manchurian Candidate (1962), added to the Registry in 1994, and From Here to Eternity (1953), for which Sinatra won an Academy Award and which was added to the Registry in 2002. There are still a number of noteworthy Sinatra films not yet named to the Registry including On the Town (1949), The Man with the Golden Arm (1955), Pal Joey (1957) Oceans 11 (1960) and Von Ryan’s Express (1965), to name a few. We encourage the public to nominate films to the Registry through our new online form.

Long before Sinatra starred in films, he made his mark on American culture with his singing. His contributions to American music elevated him to the pinnacle of popularity and influence, a feat that remains unmatched today. Sinatra was a prolific recording artist and an omnipresent fixture on network radio broadcasts from the 1930s to the 1950s. The Library’s recorded sound holdings include comprehensive coverage of Sinatra’s career from his first appearance on the The Original Amateur Hour with Major Bowes in 1935 through his years recording with Tommy Dorsey, his move to Columbia Records, and his legendary albums with Capitol and his own label Reprise. The Library’s radio broadcasts include

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Rocky Fortune, 1953. Top Side, NBC Radio History Collection, Recorded Sound Section.

Sinatra’s appearances on many major programs from the golden age of radio including The Jack Benny Show, The Fred Allen Show, Dinah Shore’s Open House, Your Hit Parade, and The Bob Hope Show. There are also Sinatra’s performances on the series Rocky Fortune in which he plays the title role. Documentation in the Library’s NBC Radio Collection describes Fortune as “a wise-cracking , footloose young man … [with] a penchant for  getting into ‘set-ups’ that deal with racketeering, smuggling and even murder.” The Library’s collections also include substantial runs of the network programs that Sinatra hosted including Light Up Time, To Be Perfectly Frank, The Frank Sinatra Show. Finally, the collection includes most of the recordings that Sinatra made for the armed forces including V-Discs and selections for the Armed Forces Radio Service.

 

 

 

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