Tony Manetta runs an unsuccessful Miami hotel, on which he can't meet the payments. Another liability is his weakness for dames (Shirl, his sexy current flame, is even less responsible than Tony). But a solid asset is Ally, his sensible 12-year-old son. When Tony wants stolid brother Mario to bail him out again, Mario makes conditions: give up Ally, or at least get married to a "nice, quiet little woman" of his selection. Tony and Ally just play along to be diplomatic, but when the woman in question proves to look like Eleanor Parker... Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
Hilarious Eddie G. leads solid cast in Frank Sinatra's Capra movie
A HOLE IN THE HEAD (1959) might not live up to Frank Capra's earlier classics like MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON (1939) or IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946), but it's a fine film. The story deals with a single father struggling to keep his Miami hotel business afloat while dreaming of bigger, better things. The material comes from a stage play, but there's a sense of the familiar Capra values. The Capra-esque resolution is not as powerful as in his earlier films, though, and isn't completely satisfying.
The film has its weaknesses, but should not be dismissed. The movie is actually pretty funny at times, to go with the family-friendly themes. The cast is universally excellent and boasts Frank Sinatra (in single dad mode), the great Edward G. Robinson (hilarious as Sinatra's square older brother), the incomparable Thelma Ritter (as Eddie G.'s wife), Eleanor Parker (as a lonely widow), and even Keenan Wynn (as Sinatra's successful friend). Sinatra's on-screen son is played well by young Eddie Hodges and Sinatra's out-there, bongo-chick girlfriend is played by Carolyn Jones (Morticia Addams on "The Addams Family").
Robinson and Ritter are superb as the shop-owning husband and wife who fly down to Florida to help out Sinatra. Who knew Edward G. Robinson was so adept at comedy? The man could do it all. He's great complaining about his no-good brother, his hula-hooping embarrassment of a son, the peculiar rocking chair in Sinatra's room, and the holes in the ice cubes. Ritter is the voice of reason between the brothers and wants what is best for Sinatra's young son. Frank Sinatra does alright, playing a loving father who's still a playboy at heart. He struggles along financially, but never admits defeat.
Apparently the script was adapted from a Yiddish play, which explains why Eddie G. and Thelma Ritter (and sometimes even Sinatra) seem to be doing some Jewish-style shtick. It's funny stuff, but it was a little odd thinking of Frank Sinatra coming from a Jewish family. (In the movie they're Italians, I guess.)
Frank Capra's direction allows the actors time to inhabit the scenes. I noticed the many relatively long takes, which are always impressive. Scenes in Sinatra's living room feature the bickering brothers on opposite ends of the widescreen frame, with Ritter in the middle. The characters are standing up and sitting down and carrying on back and forth without the camera cutting away. Later, Sinatra and Hodges sit down together and sing "High Hopes" in one take and there seems to almost be a spontaneity to the duet (flubbed lines? ad-libs?).
When hotel owner Sinatra is desperate for cash before an approaching deadline, we don't feel for him the way we feel for busted banker George Bailey. I guess it's because it seems that Sinatra's character put himself in that position. But considering that he needs to support his darling of a son, we feel sorry for Sinatra. Especially when we see him take what little money he has to the racetrack with his high-rolling buddy.
One of Frank Capra's last movies, A HOLE IN THE HEAD has value at least as a curiosity. Frank Sinatra sharing the screen with Edward G. Robinson? Thelma Ritter thrown into the mix as Robinson's wife? The origin of the hit (and Oscar-winning) song "High Hopes" (familiar to fans of another film about a single dad and his son, A GOOFY MOVIE)? But I think the film also has merits of its own. There's some great comedy, particularly from Eddie G., and the widowed-father-meets-lovely-widow story might warm a few hearts.
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