Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Frank Sinatra vintage MGM costume

  This Frank Sinatra movie worn jacket is from MGM's "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" from 1949

  The classic MGM musical co-starred Gene Kelly, Esther Williams, and Betty Garrett.

Vintage blazer worn by Frank Sinatra in "Take Me Out to the Ballgame from MGM in 1949

What can be said about Frank Sinatra that hasn't been said already... Ol' Blue Eyes, The Chairman of the Board. He's arguably the greatest entertainer of the 20th Century. And I know, I know, there's Michael, and Elvis, and Marilyn, and Lucy, etc. etc. But, in terms of the impact that he had on show business and our culture for so many decades, I think he can easily be regarded as the greatest.

With Ava Gardner in the 50's

I'll never forget the first time I heard "Luck Be a Lady". I was about 12, and it was the first song of his I had ever been exposed to, outside of hearing "Come Fly With Me" on an airline commercial. Anyhow it was in a box set of cassette tapes (and yes, I'm dating myself) of "big hits of the 50's and 60's" that I got at a vendor booth at a car show. This was the only song of his in the whole set, since it had one hit from each big name of the time. I was so blown away by his performance, not only of the song itself and how he sang it, phrased the words, paced it, swung it, but the orchestra, just blasting away behind him. To this day I don't think there's a song I've heard that has such a big screaming horn section like "Luck Be a Lady". I played it over and over again, and then bought an album of his best hits - "20 Golden Greats" or something like that, and I've been listening to him ever since. From the Big Band era and the songs he did with Tommy Dorsey and Harry James right up to his last album with Quincy Jones, as well as the brilliant "Duets" albums. Then there's his heyday of the 50's and 60's and those great albums he did with Nelson Riddle, Count Basie, and Antonio Carlos Jobim. He sang so many types of songs, did so many types of albums, and there isn't one I can think of that I don't like. He and Ella Fitzgerald are really the best singers of all time in my opinion.

The thing about Sinatra is not only was he a great singer, but such a great actor as well. And most other singers of his era didn't make that transition. Some people, like my Dad for instance, consider him a better actor then a singer. Watch him in "From Here To Eternity" which he deservedly won the Oscar for, or "Suddenly" where he plays a crazed assassin, or "The Manchurian Candidate" where he gives a subtle performance. And then of course the musicals. He was so good at playing the shy nerdy type in the 40's MGM musicals like "Anchors Aweigh", "Ball Game", and my favorite, "On the Town". And it's great to see him playing that kind of character since he was nothing like that in real life. And he took these musicals seriously. Gene Kelly himself said that Sinatra was dedicated to learning how to dance well and really gave it his all. And it shows when he's holding his own alongside Gene Kelly who was one of the greatest movie dancers of all time. During the "Ultimate Event" concert that Sinatra did with Sammy Davis Jr. and Liza Minnelli which was filmed for TV, at one point he's sauntering across the stage and says "I taught Gene Kelly everything the bum knows" to laughter of course... A funny tribute to his old dancing partner.

Sinatra went through many highs and lows throughout his life, both career wise and privately, and he emerged as a legend and an icon of our culture, representing the best in popular music, and left a lasting legacy on film as well. I'm glad I have this relic from his movie career. It's a special piece in the collection. 

"Take Me Out to the Ball Game" takes place during the early 1900's, and Sinatra and Kelly are players for a team called "The Wolves". It winds up under the ownership of Esther Williams, much to the chagrin of Kelly especially, and this causes friction with her. Sinatra is initially smitten with Williams, but then Kelly falls for her, as their animosity toward each other soon blossoms into romance. All the while Betty Garrett has her sights on Sinatra, who she winds up with by the end. It's a fun movie, directed by Busby Berkeley who was so versed in doing movie musicals. He helmed the now iconic ones done at Warner Brothers during the early-mid 30's, like "42nd Street" and the "Gold Diggers" series.  

Sinatra wears the jacket for a long segment of the movie, during the number "Yes Indeedy" with Kelly, and then "It's Fate Baby, It's Fate" with Garrett. 

You can really see the detail of the herringbone weave in this close up screen grab... 

And here's a view of the back...

The jacket originally came from the 1970 MGM sale, and I bought it from a guy who bought it there. It was one of the many costumes sold after the main auction during the retail sale that was held of costumes and props when the studio was being liquidated. So much history was lost, but luckily things like this survive because of the many people who went and bought things and held onto them.

Costume design was by Valles, who worked on a number of MGM movies designing mens costumes during the mid to late 1940's. Women's costumes were by Helen Rose, who was the main designer at MGM from the late 40's throughout the 1950's.  Here is the MGM label with his name and production numbers. His name and the size notation of 38 is also written in the lining. It's a real reminder of how skinny he was early in his career. 

I was lucky enough to meet Betty Garrett at one of the Hollywood Collector Shows about ten years ago. She was one of the nicest celebrities I've ever met, very sweet, very talkative, and very down to earth. She signed a photo to me of Sinatra wearing the jacket during their number together and wrote a fun inscription... 

I hope you enjoyed this post. In the next few weeks I plan to post an Ella Fitzgerald gown in tribute to her 100 year centenary.