Who could be more American (or specifically Italian American) than Frank Sinatra? Indeed any connection with Britain may seem rather tenuous - maybe no more than any other country he toured over his long career? Yet there are three especially significant events that tie the 'Voice of the 20th Century' to this island across the Atlantic ocean:
1940s: The Early Years: It was in the week on D-Day in May '44 that the two hit songs form the film 'Higher and Higher' (RKO '43) were riding high in the British hit parade - namely 'A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening' and 'I Couldn't Sleep a Wink Last Night'. In '44 Sinatra recorded Noel Coward's 'I'll Follow My Secret Heart' non commercially on V-Disc. The British song 'These Foolish Things' was first recorded by Frank in '45 and released in Britain in April 1946 (Columbia records). 'Try a Little Tenderness' followed in Jan '47, the year that Frank also recorded 'But None Like You' by Ray Noble and made the picture 'It Happened in Brooklyn' (MGM) - amongst the cast was a British born studio player of the day - Peter Lawford. Also in '47 Frank recorded 'If I Had You' for the first time - he would return to this standard more than once - and Ross Parker's 'I'll Make Up For Everything'.
1950: The First UK VisitThe British song 'London By Night' was first recorded upon Sinatra's return to the US later in 1950, for Columbia records, the arrangement by his most frequent arranger at Columbia Alex Stordahl and the same day he recorded 'If Only She'd Look My Way (I Novello/F Melville). The record (of both songs) was a special release in the UK in early 1951.
On May 27, Sinatra made his television debut, on 'Star Spangled Revue' (NBC) starring Bob Hope (who was British born himself of course)
In July, Frank - during his period of relative lapse in popularity in the early 50s - topped a variety bill at the London Palladium, two performances each night, with matinees twice a week. Also billed were Wilson, Keppel and Betty (the famous sand dancers), Maudie Edwards and the lugubrious comedian Max Wall. Music was provided by Woolf Phillips and the Skyrockets Orchestra. Sinatra performed over a dozen songs on the bill.
The same month, on Sunday July 16th, with music provided by Woolf Phillips and the Skyrockets, Sinatra performed a concert at The New Opera House Blackpool, with Ken Lane on piano. The Concert was produced and presented by Harold Fielding.
A special one-off charity performance was given by Sinatra in December 1951, at the London Coliseum.
1953: The Year of the British Tour
Having signed for Capitol Records, the first recording session (in April), with Stordahl arrangements includes 'I'm Walking Behind You' by Billy Reid (one time husband of Dorothy Squires). In his first session with Nelson Riddle, Frank recorded Jimmy Kennedy's 'South of the Border' - in the 'style of Billy May'The '53 British Tour: Following a tour of Europe, Frank arrived in Britain in June (and would remain until August). This period just preceded the release of the film 'From Here to Eternity', which co-starred Deborah Kerr, which would bring Sinatra back into public favour following a rather lean few years.
Blackpool, Lancashire: The Opera House
July 26th 1953
Orchestra conducted by Billy Ternant
Concert available on 'unofficial' CD:
1: When You're Smiling
Radio: In June Frank gave a BBC radio interview to Joan Gilbert. In July there were two appearances on the Show Band Show - Rikki Fulton was the compere and the Stargazers, including Cliff Adams, provided vocal backing. On the second show Frank sang 'Day In Day Out' and 'I've Got The World On A String'.
1954 - 1961 Post
'From Here to Eternity' Sinatra entered the peak of his career with
the Capitol Records contract that spawned a whole series of classic recordings,
and a freelance movie career which produced many highlights - both musical
and not. It would be the 60s before Sinatra returned to perform in the
UK but a number of 'British links' peppered the intervening years.
The Recordings: 'Love Locked Out' by Ray Noble and Max Kester was recorded in 1956 for the album 'Close to You'. The same year, as part of the follow up album to 'Songs for Swinging Lovers' - 'A Swingin' Affair' - Frank recorded 'If I Had You' a second time, with a more bouncy Nelson Riddle arrangement and 'No One Ever Tells Me' by Carroll Coates and Hub Atwood and separately for the 'singles market' 'Your Love For Me' (Ross Parker). In 1957 the concept album 'Come Fly With Me' was recorded with a set of Billy May arrangements, these included 'Isle of Capri' (Jimmy Kennedy on his travels again), a Capitol update for 'London By Night' and (most contentiously) Kipling's 'On the Road to Mandalay' which was banned from the British album release for many years by the Kipling estate. A second treatment too of 'Try a Little Tenderness' followed in 1960. The following year - for his last album at Capitol (which reunited Frank with Alex Stordahl) - he recorded Coward's 'I'll See You Again' and reprised (rather poetically for the time!) 'These Foolish Things'. The new record label that Sinatra himself instigated - Reprise - had amongst its earliest albums 'Sinatra and Strings', with a very lush Don Costa orchestration of 'I Hadn't Anyone But You' by Ray Noble (1961).
The Movies: In 1955, the UA movie 'Not As A Stranger' starred Frank and the British born (though long Hollywood based) Olivia DeHavilland. Jean Simmons co-starred in 'Guys and Dolls' the same year - pity Frank didn't get the Brando role. In 1956 Sinatra was one of numerous stars performing cameo appearances in 'Around the World in 80 Days' which starred the Brits David Niven and Robert Newton. Cary Grant - Frank's co-star in 'Pride of the Passion' (1957, UA) was of course British born. In 'Never So Few' (1959 MGM), Peter Lawford made his second film appearance with Sinatra, his third would be the first 'Rat Pack' feature 'Oceans Eleven' (Warner Brothers), also in 'Never So Few' was Richard Johnson.
Television: Sinatra's first series had been for CBS (50 - 52). Post 'Eternity' ABC signed Frank to a second series in 1957, this time a mixture of musical/variety shows and specially filmed dramas. The series would run 'til 1958 and in early February that year one of his guests was British born actress Jeannie Carson. An irregular broadcast of Timex sponsored shows followed the series, one of which in December '59 featured Hermione Gingold and also Peter Lawford (again).
1962: A Major British-Sinatra Year
Late in 1961, Sinatra (with Dean Martin) flew in London to make cameo appearances as Spacemen in the final 'Road' picture shooting in Britain. 'Road to Hong Kong' (UA) was released in '62 and starred Joan Collins in place of Dorothy Lamour (who was given a cameo) together with Hope and Crosby. Amongst other British cast were Robert Morley and cameos from David Niven and Peter Sellers. One of Sinatra's best films 'The Manchurian Candidate' (62) premiered in '62 and featured a great performance by Angela Lansbury playing Laurence Harvey's mother. Peter Lawford appeared again with Frank in 'Sergeants Three' (UA). Accompanied by Count Basie's Orchestra, with a Neal Hefti arrangement, Sinatra recorded a real British swinger in 'My Kind of Girl' by Leslie Bricusse.
As part of a world-wide
tour to raise money for children's charities, Sinatra made his first public
appearances on British soil since 1953. Four London concerts were given
in early June, the first being televised (a British first) by ABC television.
The concert itinerary:
The Odeon concert included Johnny Dankworth, Des O Conner, The King Brothers and Cleo Laine on the bill.
Following a concert in Paris, Frank returned to London to record his only album in a British studio, indeed the only album recorded outside the US. Featuring mostly British musicians, arranged and conducted by Robert Farnon and consisting of a series of classic British ballads - the album is entitled: 'Sinatra Sings Great Songs From Great Britain' - details on theBritish Album page.
A BBC radio programme 'Frank Sinatra personally presents Great Songs From Great Britain' was broadcast on October 21 1962. All the original songs, bar the initially unreleased Roses of Picardy were discussed and performed.
1963 - 1966
Movies: In 1965 Sinatra starred in 'Von Ryan's Express' (Fox) a WWII adventure in which he co-starred with Trevor Howard. Also appearing were Brits Edward Mulhare and John Leyton. The same year a comedy 'Marriage on the Rocks' (Warner) was released, Frank's leading lady being Deborah Kerr with Hermione Baddeley also on the cast list. In '66 in the movie 'Assault of a Queen' (Paramount), the cast included 'the crew' of the Queen Mary the 'Master at arms' portrayed by Reginald Denny.
In his '66 album 'Strangers in the Night'
(Reprise), Sinatra performed both 'Call Me'
and 'Downtown' by Tony
Hatch (the second not too enthusiastically), he later reprised 'Downtown'
with his daughter Nancy in his television special 'A Man and His Music
1967 The year of the Naked Runner:
Released during '67 was a Warner Bros. spy thriller shot (for Sinatra's own production company) in British studios - entitled 'The Naked Runner' this was his only major feature to be made wholly outside the US (although most of 'The Pride and the Passion' a decade earlier was shot in Spain, and his brief cameo in 'Road to Hong Kong' was shot in London five years previously). Full details on the film are provided on the Naked Runner page.
Also released in '67 the album 'The World We Knew' - an 'interesting' mix of tracks. The theme to 'The Naked Runner' (music Harry Sukman) was given lyrics by Paul Francis Webster and entitled 'You Are There' arranged by Gordon Jenkins who also provided the arrangement for 'Born Free' (John Barry/Don Black) from the film of the same name. Also on the album an offbeat orchestration of 'Don't Sleep in the Subway' (Tony Hatch/Jackie Trent) and a more classic string arrangement of Charlie Chaplin's 'This Is My Song'
The late 60s: In '68 Sinatra starred in the fine policier 'The Detective' (Fox) which co-starred British born Jacqueline Bisset. For his 'My Way' album - with arrangements by Don Costa - one of the tracks was 'Yesterday' by Lennon and McCartney.
1970: The London Concerts Year:
For the first time since '62 Sinatra returned to Britain to perform in concert. Twice!
In May Frank played two charity concerts on consecutive nights at the Royal Festival Hall in London. These concerts were backed by the Count Basie Orchestra.The 'Night of Nights' concert is detailed on the Televised Concerts page. Broadcast on BBC1 Nov 22 (50 mins)
During October Sinatra recorded George Harrison's 'Something' for the first time with an arrangement by Lennie Hayton.
Two further charity performances followed on November 16 - again performed at the Festival Hall - the second, introduced by Princess Grace of Monaco, was recorded for BBC television and broadcast on November 22 - as 'Night of Nights'
Frank made no more British concert appearances, nor recorded any further British songs up to his announced 'retirement' in mid '71.
1973 - 1979: The Post Retirement Comeback
Little of British interest during the Sinatra 'comeback' until May 1975 when Frank gave two concerts at the Royal Albert Hall of some 20 songs in a programme of about 90 minutes. Bill Miller again conducted the orchestra. Later in November of the same year Sinatra returned to the London Palladium (for the first time since 1950) giving 10 shows in company with Sarah Vaughan and Count Basie.
A further series of concerts were held in February/March 1977 - again at the Royal Albert Hall, the first of seven (on Feb 28th) a charity event, attended by Princess Margaret. Bill Miller conducted once more.
1978: The first time a whole week of concerts is performed by one artist (actually 8 in total) at the Royal Festival Hall. It's Sinatra in concert, once more with musical director Bill Miller.
In December '79 Sinatra records 'Something' by George Harrison a second time, an arrangement by Nelson Riddle. This appears to be the final recording released by Frank of any British song (although a version of 'South of the Border' for the 'Duets' album in the 90s was planned but not recorded)
1980s/1990s: The Final Curtain
The 80s began with a series of concerts (approximately 80 minutes long) at both the Albert Hall (6 concerts) and first at the Festival Hall (7 concerts) during September 1980. The orchestra was conducted by Vincent Falcone Jr. The concert programme included Ray Noble's 'The Very Thought of You' featuring Charles Turner on trumpet.
It would be four years before Sinatra's return to the UK - but return he did in September 1984, for 6 concerts at the Albert Hall.
In September 1998, British television screened a BBC Clive James interview with Sinatra. This proved to be brief in the extreme but does include a discussion on the lyrics of Johnny Mercer and the merits of Nat King Cole.
The Ultimate Event: Frank, Sammy Davis Jr. and Liza Minnelli play 5 concerts at the Albert Hall in April 1989, these being part of a world series tour.
1990s: In July 1990 Sinatra performed a
series of concerts at the new London Arena
in Docklands, the orchestra was conducted by Frank Sinatra Jr.
Following the Arena dates, Sinatra returned to Scotland - for the first time since the '53 tour - and performed a single concert at Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow on July 10th 1990, in a set of 16 songs.
Finally - in May 1992 - Sinatra returned to the Albert Hall for the final time. Accompanied by the John Dankworth Orchestra, conducted by Frank Sinatra Jr, he performed a series of 6 shows over consecutive nights ... the final British concert appearance (ever) was on May 31 1992.
So if you know of any omissions or additional
information regarding the 'Sinatra-British' connection ...please let me
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