Frank Sinatra, if he were still on earth today, would be celebrating his 100th birthday. With that in mind, classic film fans and fellow bloggers Judy, at Movie classics, and Emily at The Vintage Cameo decided to host a blogathon celebrating Sinatra’s work in films. My film choice is 1955’s rom/com The Tender Trap. Be sure to visit Movie classics and The Vintage Cameo to read about more films Sinatra starred in. He was really a lot more talented than just his singing voice!
Do you recall Aesop’s Fable about The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse? The mouse who lives in the slower paced life in the country visits his cousin who lives in the fast paced big city? Playwrights Max Shulman and Robert Paul Smith took Aesop’s story and made some changes: the mice become men, in the city there are fabulous looking gals all over the place, and two strong females with definite ideas as to what they want out of life. It was a year-long hit on Broadway in 1954 and in 1955, MGM decided to take the hit play, turn it into a film and have it star Frank Sinatra.
Frank Sinatra plays Charlie Reader, a New York theatrical agent. One evening, unannounced, his best buddy since kindergarten, Joe McCall(David Wayne) appears at Charlie’s apartment door, suitcases in hand. Joe, a pharmacist from Indianapolis, has decided his life-white picket fence, house, wife, 3 kids, a dog-is dullsville. He’s decided a new life in NYC is just the ticket. Charlie tells Joe he’s nuts! He tells Joe he’d love that kind of life, as 3 different lovely gals enter and leave Charlie’s apartment in a span of 30 minutes, which leads Joe to start calling Charlie, “Sultan”!
Charlie is a bachelor and he thinks he’s a happy one. He has the gorgeous Poppy(Lola Albright) kissing him on his couch right before Joe’s arrival, telling Charlie about the dinner she’s going to cook for them the next night. After Poppy leaves, in sashays Southern honey Jessica(Jarma Lewis) who announces what a mess the apartment is in and proceeds to clean it up, slowly swaying her hips in the process. Joe has to grab a drink of whiskey at this point! After Jessica leaves, it’s Helen’s turn to shine. A very strident Carolyn Jones as Helen, marches in to walk Charlie’s dog. She faithfully walks him several times a day, able to ignore Charlie’s small talk. Joe is agog at the end of meeting these 3 ladies and tells Charlie he’s never going back home! One last female in Charlies’s life is about to appear via the tv, it’s Sylvia(Celeste Holme), a concert violinist who’s appearance is on the tv that evening with the NY Symphony.
Soon, Charlie meets his match in Broadway newcomer, Julie(Debbie Reynolds). She can sing, dance, is so sweet and really wants to be a wife and mother. She also manages to catch Charlie’s heart, but does he realize this?
As I sat watching this film, our 19 year old son-a commuter college student-was doing some homework and ended up watching the movie with me. He laughed at all of the jokes, especially when Julie invites Charlie to her parents’ apartment for the evening;parents are in NJ for the weekend. Charlie has kissing and other activities on his mind, but Julie is trying to keep him at arm’s length. Her idea to turn on the tv doesn’t help at all as all of the channels she changes the dial to are showing couples kissing!
What Frank Sinatra movie wouldn’t be quite complete with Frank singing? Well, maybe not in a serious drama he probably didn’t sing much, but in this rom/com there is one song, (Love is) The Tender Trap and it was nominated for best song at 1955’s Academy Awards but lost to Love is a Many Splendored Thing. The song was written by Sammy Cahn and composed by Jimmy Van Heusen. The Tender Trap opens with Sinatra far away from the audience, singing the first verses of the song and the chorus. As he sings, he just slowly keeps walking forward, hands in his pockets, ever so cool and casual. At the film’s end, the 4 main leads: Sinatra, Reynolds, Holme, and Wayne(he has a good voice!) all take a new verse of the song and sing it well, hands linked with one another. A nice way to showcase the leads and end the film. Kudos must also go to The Tender Trap’s director, Charles Walters. There was a lot of talent in this cast, probably a lot of egos too, but he kept the film fast-paced, the comedic timing is perfect, and not a wrong note from anyone in this film.
Seek out this romance-comedy where Sinatra shines with his comedic timing and singing and wooing of the ladies, Wayne is great as the somewhat sadsack buddy, Holme is good as the sadder but wiser gal who gets her happy ever after but in a surprise to her character, and Reynolds shines too, as the adorable and wise Julie.
The Tender Trap isn’t out on dvd at all!!! That’s an outrage!! However, on Christmas Eve Eve(that’s what my kids call December 23rd) Turner Classics will be airing this gem, at 3:15 am EST/2:15 am CST-set your dvrs!!!!