This one's for Ol' Blue Eyes

Published: 12 December, 2011 09:28 IST | The Guide Team |

On the occasion of American singer and actor Frank Sinatra's birth anniversary, The Guide gets RJ and journalist Fali R Singara to talk about the legend's contribution to music and his association with the City of Dreams via two of its people

On the occasion of American singer and actor Frank Sinatra's birth anniversary, The Guide gets RJ and journalist Fali R Singara to talk about the legend's contribution to music and his association with the City of Dreams via two of its people

There are men. And then there's Frank Sinatra. Few have been as universally loved as he was. Always sharply dressed in a three-piece suit and stylish hat, Sinatra had a compelling presence, both on stage and off it.

US singer Frank Sinatra in an undated and unlocated picture probably taken in 1951 with his bride of one month US actress Ava Gardner. Frank Sinatra, born 12 December 1915, was a playboy who married four times. His biographer Kitty Kelley wrote that Gardner was the only woman he respected, because he knew he could not dominate her. Sinatra got married for the last time in 1976 to Barbara Marx, widow of comedian Zeppo Marx of the four Marx brothers. Pic/ AFP

Named the 'Entertainer of The Century'; he influenced countless singers, actors and cultural icons from Michael Jackson to the golden heroes of Bollywood.

Inspired by Mumbai
In 1957, Sinatra, who was known as Ol' Blue Eyes, met with composer Jimmy Van Heusen and lyricist Sammy Cahn to discuss a new record, Come Fly With Me.

Mumbai was on Sinatra's mind, as then wife Ava Gardner was in the city with fellow actor Stewart Granger to promote Bhowani Junction, a drama set in pre-independent India. The now famous track opens with Sinatra singing, 'If you could use some exotic booze, there's a bar in far Bombay...'

Another track on the same album, On The Road To Mandalay, is based on Mumbai-born Rudyard Kipling's poem 'Mandalay' (Kipling got a credit as a songwriter on the album).

The initial plan was for Sinatra to visit some of the 'exotic' locales he sang about, including Bombay, Brazil and Peru to promote the record, as part of a 'musical trip around the world'. But by the time Come Fly With Me was released, Sinatra and Gardner were divorced.

The broken-hearted Sinatra instead worked on 'Only The Lonely', a record of melancholic ballads, which was released in the same year, and is considered among one of Sinatra's greatest works.

Second chance?
Two years later, Sinatra started dating actress Juliet Prowse, who he met on the sets of the 1960 musical film Can-Can. Prowse, known for being Elvis' leading lady in GI Blues, was born in Mumbai, in 1936, where she grew up before moving to South Africa.

In the January of 1962, Sinatra proposed to Prowse. A few weeks later, when Sinatra announced his next World Tour, there was talk of shows in Mumbai where his bride-to-be was born, followed by a wedding in South Africa, where Prowse's family lived. The wedding was eventually called off.
Rumour had it that Sinatra had asked Prowse to give up her career post-marriage, a condition that she refused. As a result, Sinatra didn't visit Mumbai (or South Africa) on his next tour.

Missed opportunity
If Sinatra had visited Mumbai, he would have almost certainly received a warm welcome from legends like Guru Dutt, Kishore Kumar and Shammi Kapoor, who were all fans.

As India's evergreen hero, the late Dev Anand once said, "Everyone wanted to be like Gregory Peck and Frank Sinatra. What a presence they had on screen!"

Frank meets Zubin
During a visit to the Los Angeles Philharmonic in the mid-1960s, Sinatra was impressed by the young music director: Mumbai-born-and-bred Zubin Mehta.

The two would become friends until Sinatra's death in 1998. On the tenth anniversary of the Los Angeles Music Center, in 1974, Sinatra and Mehta would perform together for a charity show.

Mehta led the 107-piece Los Angeles Philharmonic, as Sinatra opened with George Harrison's Something and went on to belt out hits including, 'I've Got The World On A String and You Are The Sunshine Of My Life.

In 1982, Sinatra was asked by then First Lady of the United States, Nancy Reagan, to organise a performance at the state dinner for visiting Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Sinatra would arrange for his friend Mehta to perform at the White House that evening.

If Sinatra were alive today, he would be 96. In a career spanning six decades from 1935 to 1995, Sinatra changed the world. Without him, as Bono rightly said, Pop music would have been just a footnote in history.

Sinatra's love history

Actor. Singer. Playboy. Frank Sinatra's reputation with women was legendary. Nancy Barbato was the first wife. She and Sinatra would have three children: Nancy,
Frank Jr and Tina. At the time, Barbato worked as a secretary, while Sinatra made his way as a singing waiter. Once Sinatra hit the big time, he would succumb to its glare, leading to the couple's eventual divorce after 12 years. Sinatra would marry three more times: actresses Ava Gardner (1951-1957), Mia Farrow (1966-1968), and finally to Barbara Marx in 1976, to whom he was still married at the time of his death, in 1998. Here's a look at some of Sinatra's most famous relationships:

Sinatra married Mia Farrow on July 19, 1966. The two met on the set of Sinatra's, Von Ryan's Express. She was 21; he was 50. Two years later, Sinatra stormed the sets of Polanski's Rosemary's Baby to serve Farrow with divorce papers, in full view of the cast and crew. The reason, it is claimed, was that she went back on her word to appear in Sinatra's film, The Detective, as her schedule for Rosemary's Baby overran.

Elizabeth Taylor was a well-known fan of Ol' Blue Eyes. Sinatra biographer Kitty Kelley mentions that Taylor discussed having a brief fling with the singing star when she was a young girl. Kelley also claims that while Taylor was keen to marry Sinatra after she discovered she was pregnant, Sinatra was less sympathetic and arranged for an abortion, instead.

None of the several biographies written on Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra, have successfully managed to strip the affair of its mystique. Sinatra, who was a friend of Monroe's second husband Joe DiMaggio, met the actress in 1954, while he was still married to Ava Gardner. But it was not until 1961 that the two would embark on their short-lived affair.

Did you know?
>Every year on Sinatra's birthday, December 12, the Empire State Building in New York is lit up in blue in honour of Ol' Blue Eyes, Sinatra's nickname.
>The Godfather's Johnny Fontane was allegedly modelled after Sinatra.
>The epitaph on his tombstone reads: The Best Is Yet To Come, the name of the last song that Sinatra sang live.

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