One of Frank Sinatra’s less-engaging attributes was his tendency towards self-indulgence. This was particularly wearisome when he engaged with his cronies on television and films, which resulted in glorified home movies masquerading as entertainment.
This DVD of a 1958 broadcast from Sinatra’s TV variety show offer Ol’ Blue Eyes at his self-indulgent worst. Teamed with Dean Martin, Bing Crosby and Mitzi Gaynor, Sinatra seemed more interested in entertaining himself than entertaining his audience. Bantering and campy antics among the stars caused them to trip over their lines, resulting in laughs aplenty among themselves while the audience was left in the boring cold.
Working in an uncommonly hideous set design (a weird mix of a jungle gym and a mock nightclub), the stars rarely generate any excitement. Martin, in a solo rendition of “Wrap Up Your Troubles in Dreams,” inexplicably lies on his back during the song while planting his feet in the air. His odd posture becomes clear when he flashes an “Eat at Dino’s” sign stenciled on the sole of a shoe (this was an advertisement for his L.A. restaurant). Martin joins Crosby and Gaynor for an awkward version of “Dancing Cheek to Cheek” as the trio dance with each other – Gaynor eventually runs off and the men make up for her absence by dancing together. Gaynor has her own solo turn as “Hurricane Mitzi,” doing a dance routine which is meant to be sultry but turns out to be shlocky.
Sinatra manages to regain his trademark style on a couple of solo numbers, most notably a haunting rendition of “Talk to Me” and a peerless turn on “Angel Eyes.” There is even an unintentional but genuinely funny moment when Sinatra starts laughing after being freaked out by a strange looking boy in the children’s chorus accompanying him on “High Hopes.” But, alas, more time is wasted with Sinatra joining a too-silly Martin and Crosby in an amateurish, extended tribute to Jimmy Durante – the three men were slated to star in a biopic on Durante’s career, but that never got made. Durante himself turns up in the final moments, breathing some genuine laughs into an otherwise inert and embarrassing production.