The Frank Sinatra


The Frank Sinatra Show

By Jim Davidson
Posted 10/15/2006

With Chesterfield as a sponsor, Frank smoked a lot of cigarettes on the air.

Some of the biggest stars in show business guest starred on The Frank Sinatra Show.

Bob Hope

Ethel Merman

Dean Martin

Sammy Davis Jr.

Ella Fitzgerald

The TV Sinatra

Duet performances from Sinatra's 1957-1960 TV shows were collected in a 2002 PBS special (featuring commentary by Nancy, Frank Jr., and Tina Sinatra) that's now available on both DVD (left) and CD (right). (These are paid links.)  Another PBS special, called Vintage Sinatra, airing in 2003 and featuring the singer's solo performances, has yet to be released.



Frank Sinatra's second attempt at a TV show came just five years after the first. But despite their close proximity, the two programs were as different as...well, night and day (to borrow a song title from Cole Porter).

Sinatra's career experienced a dramatic upswing in 1953, primarily due to two events. The first was signing with Capitol Records, where he began recording with arranger Nelson Riddle. Though Riddle's roots were in the same 1940s big band swing style as those of previous musical director Axel Stordahl, his arrangements were more imaginative and contemporary. Having a new, more exciting backdrop to sing with inspired Sinatra to new heights of musical eloquence. He began to feature more uptempo songs and adopted a new, more mature image. Gone was the boy balladeer, to be replaced by the sybaritic swinger. As his record sales picked up, Sinatra found himself back on top of the music business.

 Nelson Riddle's arrangements were a major factor in Frank Sinatra's resurgence.

The other important event for Sinatra that year was his supporting role in the film From Here to Eternity, garnering him an Academy Award. No longer viewed merely as a pop singer, Sinatra was now a sought-after dramatic actor.

Suddenly, everyone wanted him, including the big three TV networks. There was talk of a fifteen-minute twice-a-week early evening show on NBC and a dramatic series produced by Desilu. Sinatra was even scheduled to host The Colgate Comedy Hour on November 15, 1953, but that plan fell through.

The star wasn't really interested in the grind of a weekly TV program anyway, particularly a variety show. "I'm getting too old to bounce around a stage," he was quoted as saying at the time. What he really wanted was to do drama. The networks held out for a variety series, and eventually a compromise was struck with ABC. Starting in the fall of 1957, the singer was to appear in a weekly half-hour hybrid show - with 13 variety episodes, 13 dramas starring Sinatra, and 10 dramas hosted by Sinatra. The premiere would be a full hour of variety. Sinatra wanted to do the show on film to enhance its rerun value. But since that would have been expensive, he agreed to do some of the variety episodes live-on-kinescope - in other words, performed as if they were live, but filmed and shown at a later date. It was a technique pioneered by Bob Hope.

The deal, worth a reported $3,000,000, called for the star's Hobart Productions to run the show. But despite light competition from the other networks (M Squad on NBC and Mr. Adams & Eve on CBS), it didn't score very well in the ratings. One thing became clear immediately, though - the public was far more enthusiastic about the variety shows than the dramas. As a result, several of the dramas were hastily replaced on the schedule by variety segments, and the ratio of variety to drama episodes was increased. The eventual breakdown ended up being 14 live variety, 8 filmed variety, 4 dramas starring Sinatra, and 6 dramas hosted by Sinatra. Instead of 36 episodes for the season, ABC decided to cut its losses and reduce the number to 32.

Sinatra was accused of not taking the enterprise seriously, and more than one insider told of the star's habit of showing up late for rehearsals and refusing to do more than one take per scene. His supporters, however, pointed out that Frank was a busy man, with movie, recording, and production responsibilities, in addition to singing and acting in his show.

By mid-season, the threat of cancellation looming, Sinatra agreed to defer his other commitments and focus entirely on the show. An agency executive said at the time, "He realizes he has to be the old warm and charming Sinatra again. He accepted criticism and sought advice as if he were a newcomer to show business." The star even went on other TV shows to plug his own program, but the effort was too late. At the end of June, ABC decided it was time to cash in its chips.

Several reasons have been given for Sinatra's lack of success on TV. Historian Albert Auster suggests that the singer was, in McLuhanesque terms, too "hot" for the "cool" medium of television (belied by the fact that his mid-sixties specials were so successful), that there were too many in-jokes, and that the star was bucking the trend toward rock 'n roll (even though singers like Perry Como and Dinah Shore - hardly rock 'n rollers - were doing quite well on TV). But producer William Self may have put his finger on the most important reason: "I think the problem was, the audience didn't know what they were going to get when they tuned in. With Lucy, you knew what you were going to get; with Gunsmoke, you knew what you were going to get. You tuned in to the Sinatra show, and he's not singing this week; he's going to do a little dramatic show. And the show had a tough rating haul because of that." Daughter Tina Sinatra was more succinct: "He had to fail somewhere."

Despite the show's uneveness and deficient ratings, there are many wonderful moments. Here we have Sinatra in his prime, singing many of his hits when they were still fresh and exciting. It's a shame the program didn't last longer, but we should be grateful for what we have.

Dueling Sponsors and Networks

We tend to think of the 1950s as the golden age of television - a more innocent time when everyone was happy. But behind the scenes, things weren't always so golden. Back then, sponsors had far more influence over the shows they sponsored than they do today. Stars were obliged to hawk the sponsor's products at every turn - which sometimes got them into trouble.

In 1951, Frank Sinatra managed to rile Lucky Strike when he guest starred on the LS-sponsored Jack Benny Show the same week he substitute hosted for Perry Como and declared, "Chesterfield's my favorite brand."

Just prior to starting his second series, on ABC, Sinatra stirred up more controversy when he agreed to appear on CBS's Club Oasis. This time, the conflict wasn't with the sponsor; both shows were underwritten by Liggett & Myers (makers of Chesterfield and Oasis cigarettes). But ABC had an exclusive contract with the singer and didn't want him on a rival network. In the end, ABC approved the guest shot, reasoning that it was best not to upset a powerful sponsor.

Bob Hope wasn't so lucky. After guesting on the premiere of The Frank Sinatra Show (sponsored in part by Bulova watches), his sponsor Timex dropped him. Hope's network NBC threatened to sue Timex for breach of contract, but once again, the sponsor won out. Hope had to scramble to come up with a replacement.

The Episodes

Sources: The New York Times TV listings and reviews, TV Guide (Northern California Edition), the online catalog of the UCLA television archives, and the episodes themselves.

Friday, 9:00-9:30 pm, ABC-TV, Sponsors: Chesterfield, Bulova
Bulova spokesman: Bud Collyer
Emmy Award nomination: Nelson Riddle

Variety Episodes
Producer: William Self
Associate Producer: Hank Sanicola (Frank's manager)
Director: Jack Donohue, Kirk Browning
Written by Ray Singer and Dick Chevillat, Hal Goodman, Larry Klein, Bill Morrow, Herbert Baker
Musical Director: Nelson Riddle
Art Director: Serge Krizman, Carl Macauley
Technical Director: Irwin Stanton
Production Supervisor: Lou Sanman
Associate Director: Margie Rotunda
Lighting Director: Truck Krone
Audio Engineer: Bob Buck
Music Clearance: Bernard S. Brody
A Hobart Production from the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood

Opening theme: "The Tender Trap"
Closing theme: "Put Your Dreams Away"
Frank's tag line: "Good night and sleep warm."


Drama Episodes
Producer: William Self
Associate Producer: Hank Sanicola (Frank's manager)
Production Manager: Ralph W. Nelson
Director of Photography: Sam Leavitt, A.S.C.
Supervising Film Editor: Otto Ludwig, A.C.E.
Art Director: Serge Krizman
Assistant Director: Edward Denault
Sound: Frank Goodwin
Music Editor: George E. Marsh, C.M.E.
Make-Up: Bernard Ponedel
Hair Stylist: Betty Pedretti
Gaffer: James Almond
Set Decorator: Darrell Silvera
Property Master: Irving Sindler
Wardrobe: Morris Brown
Casting: Harvey Clermont, Marvin Schnall
Music by Melvyn Lenard
A Hobart Production

Opening theme: "Young At Heart"
Closing theme: "Put Your Dreams Away"
Frank's tag line: "Good night and sleep warm."


Bob Hope, Peggy Lee, Kim Novak; cameo by Jeff Chandler (live)
Note: Frank sings "Lonesome Road," "I Get a Kick Out of You," "The Lady is a Tramp," "All the Way," and "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" and does tongue-in-cheek renditions of "I Could Write a Book" and "Autumn Leaves." Peggy sings "Listen to the Rockin' Bird" and "He's My Guy" (the latter with Frank conducting). Jerry Colonna appears in one of the Chesterfield commercials. This episode was an hour long. Frank and Bob joke about Mike Todd's star-studded dinner party, televised on Playhouse 90 the night before. "I'm a little tired. I've been helping Mike Todd with the dishes," quips Bob. They also make reference to The Edsel Show the previous Sunday, hosted by Bing Crosby, featuring Frank as a guest and Bob in a cameo. In a prescient forecast of his host's TV career, Bob remarks, "Frank, you just can't plunge into television without some preparation." Variety acknowledged the deficiencies in the comedy material but thought Sinatra's songs were "enormous pluses."


"That Hogan Man" (film)
Note: Frank plays a single cab driver in New York whose friends and adopted young children try to play matchmaker for him.

Nancy Sinatra, Jane Ross, Belinda Burrell (film)
Note: Frank's eldest daughter, 17-year-old Nancy, joins forces with two schoolmates, Jane and Belinda, to form a trio called The Tri-Tones to perform "Side by Side" with Frank. On his own, Frank sings "I've Got You Under My Skin," "Violets for Your Furs," "The Girl Next Door," "It Happened in Monterey," and "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To."
Peggy Lee (film)
Note: Frank and Peggy team up for "Love Is Here To Stay" and "Nice Work If You Can Get It." The dramatic episode "Brownstone Incident" was originally scheduled to air on this date.
The McGuire Sisters (film)
Note: Frank sings "From This Moment On," "Three Coins in the Fountain," "Where Are You?" "I Got I Bad and That Ain't Good," and "Baby Won't You Please Come Home." The McGuire Sisters do "Them There Eyes" and join Frank for "Something's Gotta Give."
Erin O'Brien (film)
Note: Frank sings "Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams," "I Get Along Without You Very Well," "My Funny Valentine," "I Wish I Were in Love Again," "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter," and "One For My Baby." Erin does "I'm Glad There is You" and joins Frank for "Let's Get Away From It All."
Dean Martin (film)
Note: Frank sings "Night and Day," "Old Devil Moon," and "The House I Live In." Dean sings "They Didn't Believe Me." Frank and Dean take turns in a medley of their hits: "Sunday, Monday Or Always," "On a Slow Boat to China," "Saturday Night is the Loneliest Night of the Week," "Memories Are Made of This," "The Girl That I Marry," "Innamorata," "I've Got a Crush On You," "Oh Marie," and "Don't Cry Joe." Vic Tanner plays the little old lady who helps Dean onto the stage. The dramatic episode "A Gun At His Back" was originally scheduled to air on this date.
"A Gun At His Back" (film)
Frank Sinatra, Pat Crowley, Harold J. Stone, Sean McClory, Ray Ferrell, Steve Conte
Note: When the police fail to locate his stolen cab, a taxi driver (played by Frank) decides to take matters into his own hands.

"Take Me To Hollywood" (film)
Frank Sinatra (Kerry), Christine White (Janice), Celia Lovsky (Madame Blausky), Maurice Manson (B. J. Kaye), Irene Seidner (Hermine)
A talent scout is assigned the task of turning an inexperienced starlet into a polished actress but finds himself falling in love with her.


"Happy Holidays with Bing and Frank" (film/color)
Bing Crosby, The Ralph Brewster Singers
Note: In this Christmas show, Frank sings "Mistletoe and Holly" (which he co-wrote), "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear," and "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town." Bing croons "Away in a Manger" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." The two team up for "Jingle Bells," "Deck the Halls," "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing," "O Come, All Ye Faithful," "O Little Town of Bethlehem," "The Christmas Song," and "White Christmas." The Ralph Brewster singers perform "Here We Come a-Caroling" and "The First Noel." This episode was directed by Frank and written by Bill Morrow. Produced at the Samuel Goldwyn Studios using the drama episodes crew, it was shot in color but originally broadcast in black and white. At a 2001 Museum of Television and Radio seminar, producer William Self explained the rather unusual production method: "Crosby liked to pre-record and lip synch, and he preferred doing it in the morning. Frank liked to record live and do it in the evening. So these duets were sung about ten hours apart, and we put it all together. There was no orchestra there. Bill Miller, who was a wonderful pianist, played low so the mike would not pick it up - or very much. And then Frank would sing to the low piano. And then Nelson Riddle came in later and overrode the piano with the orchestra."
Buy this episode (paid link)

"The Feeling Is Mutual" (film)
David Wayne, Janice Rule, Hugh Sanders, Dodie Wright, Sydney Smith, Benny Rubin
Note: Frank hosts this tale of two lonely, disillusioned people who strike up a friendship in Central Park.
Dinah Shore (live)
Note: Frank sings "Come Fly With Me," "Road to Mandalay," "London by Night," and "April in Paris." Dinah duets with Frank on "It's Nice to go Trav'ling" and "Autumn in New York."
Robert Mitchum (live)
Note: Frank is happy to perform at a high school prom, but the students want a rock 'n roll star instead.
Louis Prima, Keely Smith, Sam Butera and the Witnesses (film)
Note: Frank joins Louis and Keely for "I Can't Believe That You're In Love With Me." The dramatic episode "A Time to Cry" was originally scheduled to air on this date.

Jo Stafford (live)
Note: Frank and Jo remember the good old days when both sang with Tommy Dorsey's Orchestra.

Sammy Davis Jr. (film)
Note: Frank sings "Isle of Capri," "You Make Me Feel So Young," "Tell Her You Love Her," and "I've Got You Under My Skin." Sammy does impressions and dances. Together, they do "Me and My Shadow."
Jeannie Carson (film)
Note: Frank sings "South of the Border," "They Can't Take That Away From Me," "Lonely Town," "Walkin' My Baby Back Home," and "Witchcraft." Jeannie does "The Boy Next Door" and "Them There Eyes."

Shirley Jones, Alice Pearce, Nancy Sinatra (live)
Note: Frank sings "My Funny Valentine" to Nancy. His nine-year-old daughter Tina was supposed to appear instead but got stage fright at the last minute and was hastily replaced by her older sister. Together, Frank and Shirley sing "If I Loved You."

"A Time To Cry" (film)
Anne Bancroft, Lloyd Bridges, John Archer, Ray Teal
Note: Frank hosts this drama in which a murderer holds a woman hostage in her frontier cabin.
Van Johnson, Joi Lansing, Nancy Kulp (film)
Note: Frank sings "Come Fly With Me," "I Could Write a Book," "There's No You," "At Long Last Love," and "Put Your Dreams Away." Van joins him for "Nothing in Common."
Edie Adams, Stan Freberg (film)
Note: Frank sings "I'm Gonna Live Till I Die," "This Can't Be Love," "All of Me," and "One For My Baby," and Edie sings "It's Love." Stan interviews a creature from the moon.
Eydie Gorme, Joey Bishop (film)
Note: Frank sings "It Happened in Monterey," "Moonlight in Vermont," and "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World." Eydie sings "When Your Lover Has Gone" and "Gypsy in My Soul" and joins Frank for "Saturday Night is the Loneliest Night of the Week."
"The Man On The Stairs" (film)
Michael Rennie, Marisa Pavan, Irene Tedrow, Oliver McGowan
Note: Frank is host for this story about a young dancer who is attracted to a moody painter in her New York apartment building.
Eddie Fisher, Jesse White (film)
Note: Frank and Eddie team up for "It's Nice to Go Trav'ling" and a medley of "All the Way," "Oh, My Papa," and "Young at Heart."
Spike Jones, Helen Grayco, Jesse White (film)
Note: Frank sings "You Brought a New Kind of Love To Me," "Too Marvelous for Words," and "Chloe." He and Helen sing "Makin' Whoopee." Spike and his band destroy "Fascination," "All the Way," "Tammy," and "By the Light of the Silvery Moon."
Repeat of 1/17/1958 episode
"Brownstone Incident" (film)
Frank Sinatra, Cloris Leachman, Anne Seymour, Phillip Pine, Jack Albertson
Note: Frank stars with Cloris Leachman in this story about a married couple in a heat wave, disagreeing about moving from the city to the suburbs.
Ethel Merman, Jesse White, Lew Gallo (live)
Note: Frank sings "Just One of Those Things," "You're Getting To Be a Habit With Me," and "I Get a Kick Out of You." Ethel does "Zing Went the Strings of My Heart" and "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows." Together, playing a famous show biz couple surprised at home by a TV interviewer, they perform "You're the Top."
Repeat of 2/7/1958 episode
Ella Fitzgerald (live)
Note: Frank sings "Jeepers Creepers," "On the Road to Mandalay," and "We'll Be Together Again." Ella does "April in Paris," "Angel Eyes," and "When You're Smiling" and joins Frank for "Moonlight in Vermont" and "I May Be Wrong."
"The Green Grass of St. Theresa" (film)
Wally Cox
Note: Wally plays Father Dvorak, a priest who returns to his boyhood parish to find the church badly in need of renovation. Frank hosts.
Natalie Wood, Pat Suzuki (live)
Note: Frank sings "Night and Day," "Lonely Town," "I Believe," and "How Are Ya' Fixed For Love?" Pat sings "From This Moment On" and "Something's Gotta Give." Frank and Natalie duet on "Them There Eyes."
"Face of Fear" (film)
Glynis Johns, Michael Pate, Eugene Martin, Katharine Warren
Note: Frank hosts this tale about a new governess who is suspicious when she finds that her young charge is fear-stricken, and the boy's father won't talk about his wife's disappearance.
"The Seedling Doubt" (film)
Phyllis Thaxter, MacDonald Carey, Edgar Stehli, Irving Bacon
Note: In this Sinatra-hosted drama, a woman returns home after a stint in a mental hospital only to wonder if her husband is really who he appears to be.
Repeat of 12/6/1957 episode - "A Gun At His Back"
Repeat of 12/13/1957 episode - "Take Me to Hollywood"
Repeat of 12/27/1957 episode - "The Feeling Is Mutual"
   Replaced by the game show ESP

The Frank Sinatra


Copyright 2006 by Jim Davidson. All Rights Reserved.