Frank Sinatra plays Joe E. Lewis, a famous comedian of the 1930s-50s. When the movie opens, Lewis is a young, talented singer who performs in speakeasies. When he bolts one job for another,...
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Frank Sinatra plays Joe E. Lewis, a famous comedian of the 1930s-50s. When the movie opens, Lewis is a young, talented singer who performs in speakeasies. When he bolts one job for another, the mob boss who owns the first speakeasy has his thugs try to kill Lewis. Lewis survives, but his vocal cords are cut and he cannot sing. Several years later, his buddy tracks him down and tries to help him with little success. That attempt, though, leads to Lewis meeting Letty Page (Jeanne Crain). They fall in love and she inspires him to follow up on an offer to become a comedian (a result of his buddy's failed attempt to rejuvenate his singing career). Lewis has problems, though. The assault that nearly cost him his life also helped turn him into an alcoholic and an inveterate gambler. These two character defects become the basis for his act and help to make him a smash success. Unfortunately, they also work to wreak havoc in his personal life. Written by
I don't have a great number of DVD's and tapes, but this picture is one of them. My father was a good friend of the "CEO" and others involved in the management of the Beverly Hills Supper Club, in the northern Kentucky suburban area of metropolitan Cincinnati. This was a 5-star dining and show facility, with about 700-seat dining/show area, and full, Vegas-style gambling room (the same "interests," from Cleveland, also controlled the Desert Inn in Las Vegas). My parents and I went there often when I was a youngster, and I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Lewis, and several other of the headliners who appeared there. He was very courteous and nice to me, and this was at the high point of his career. It was the era when there were major venues throughout the U.S. - where in addition to Joe E. Lewis - the clubs also had shows starring Sophie Tucker, Jack E. Leonard, Ted Lewis, Jimmy Durante, Nelson Eddy, Billy Daniels, Lena Horne, and many, many others. Joe E. Lewis was in the very top echelon.
The movie is quite factual, overall - a couple of exceptions being that Austin Mack was very, very bald, while Eddie Albert possessed one of the greater heads of hair in Hollywood; and Lewis' wife Martha (played by Mitzi Gaynor) was actually a minor showgirl, and did not become the important Hollywood figure the film depicted. Some have indicated that in later years during his career he drank tea during his "post time" episodes on-stage. While he always had possession of his faculties whenever I saw him, I once asked Sam Tucker, the "capo" in-charge at Beverly Hills how much Mr. Lewis drank; he indicated it was still a substantial quantity.
Mr. Lewis said, when this film was released, that "Sinatra had more fun playing (his) life than (he) did living it." Sinatra's performance here is outstanding, as well as those of the two female leads, and Albert and Coogan, along with all the supporting cast. And this is one of those biographical films where I feel the personas of the subject individual and his portrayer were very, very similar in both their "real lives."
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