For all those asking: Who was this guy anyway? Is this girl crazy? What is even going on here? What’s the big deal? Why Sinatra? Well, hopefully these questions will get some answers for no other reason than that I want to share with you this knowledge of mine. (And one more thing, this is my own speech,originally researched and written with the workings of my own mind. If it weren’t weird to legally protect something like this I totally would. Click here for the full story behind the speech. And enjoy.)
“Whatever else has been said about me personally is unimportant. When I sing, I believe. I’m honest.” These are the words of a man born to Italian immigrants on December 12, 1915, a man destined to change the world. He was born with the name Francis Albert Sinatra, and later become known to the world as Frank. In order to glimpse at this iconic figure, we will examine three parts of his life: his career, his contributions to American culture and humanity, and finally his personal life.
Frank Sinatra decided to become a singer after watching Bing Crosby perform. He dropped out of high school, where he was a member of the glee club, and started singing at local nightclubs. Growing up in Hoboken, New Jersey had made him determined to work hard in order to get ahead. He said of his childhood, “In Hoboken, when I was a kid, I lived in a plenty tough neighborhood. When somebody called me a “dirty little pig”, there was only one thing to do: break his head. When I got older, I realized you shouldn’t [get even] that way. I realized you’ve got to do it through education…maybe with a few exceptions.” After being a part of two different bands, Frank started his solo career in 1942 and was met with instant success. In the years 1943 through 1946 he had seventeen different Top 10 singles. He made his movie acting debut in 1943 in, “Higher and Higher”, and was known as “One-Take Charlie” for his theory of spontaneity and energy in acting rather than perfection. He continued to be both an actor and singer throughout his career, which spanned 60 years and included over 100 movies and television performances and 55 albums of various compilations and record labels, a few of which are his memorable Christmas record “A Jolly Christmas” and his 1973 comeback “Ol’ Blue Eyes is Back”. He has sold over 250 million records worldwide.
As Frank Sinatra started his solo career in 1942 the United States had entered World War II. Frank was a mere 27 years old, and was drafted. He was given a 4F however, due to a punctured eardrum that had resulted from being delivered by forceps at birth, which had also nearly severed his ear. His inability to be accepted for service was cause for great bitterness amongst many people, including Frank himself. He said of that time, “It was the war years, and there was a great loneliness.” He won a special Academy Award for his performance in the ten minute short “The House I Live In”, which promoted racial tolerance and unity on the home front. Frank’s only job as a film director was the anti-war film, “None But the Brave”, which was the first Japanese and American co-production. Those that knew Frank personally recognized his generous heart and his love of humanitarian work. Throughout his life, Frank was a strong supporter of Jewish causes and stepped forward in the 1940’s, when big names were needed to rouse America into saving Europe’s remaining Jews. He donated over $1 million to Jerusalem’s Hebrew University. Frank Sinatra was also very politically active. He campaigned for Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan. He became an official member of the Republican Party in 1972. In 1983, he received the Humanitarian of the Year Award by Variety Clubs of America. It estimated that throughout his life he helped raise and excess of $1 billion for various charities.
Frank Sinatra’s personal life is what is considered the most controversial about him. As a member of the Rat Pack, which included Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop, he came to epitomize the hard-drinking, womanizing, gambling swinger- an image constantly reinforced by the press, his own albums, and his popular nicknames which included Swoonatra and Ol’ Blue Eyes. There has always been controversy as to whether the Rat Pack was involved in the mafia, Frank himself was on the FBI’s watch list for many years, but measures other than this were never taken. He was married four different times, though it was with his first wife Nancy Barbato that he had his three children: Nancy, Frank Jr., and Tina. He had several affairs during his first marriage, though his affair with actress Ava Gardner was what finally caused the divorce on the 29th of October 1951. Frank and Ava Gardner were married on November 7, 1951- just ten days after his divorce from his first wife was made official. After six years of marriage they were divorced, though he reportedly kept her picture on his mirror long after their separation. He had said of Gardner, “I love her, and God damn me for it.” Frank did not marry again until July 19, 1966. He divorced Mia Farrow two years later after she refused to quit filming the classic Rosemary’s Baby in order to do a film with him. He had the divorce papers delivered to her on set. Frank and his fourth wife, Barbara Marx, were married in 1976 and remained married until his death on the 14th of May, 1998. Through these different marriages, he stayed closed to his children and wished to be a good father. While filming his anti-war film, “None But the Brave” in Hawaii, Frank was swimming at a beach and was swept out to sea by the outgoing tide and nearly drowned. His co-star Brad Dexter swam out and rescued him and was not able to reach shore for nearly 45 minutes. In the waves, Frank reportedly became separated and murmured “It’s all over…please take care of my kids…I’m going to die…” Whatever opinions may have circulated about him, he felt he could express himself through his career and his humanitarian efforts and believed he was the most honest when singing.
On the 13th of May 2008, the day before the 10th anniversary of his death, Congress declared it Frank Sinatra Day- in honor of his contribution to humanity and his large role in shaping American culture. He was also pictured on a 42¢ USA commemorative stamp issued on the same day. It was his belief that any man could make a mistake, that life was meant to be lived, and said that he was in favor of anything that got a person through the night- be it a bottle of Jack Daniels or prayer. His theory of living to the fullest is echoed on his headstone, which reads: “The best is yet to come.”