Fuzzy Frank

I’ve just stolen a copy of John Frankenheimer: A Conversation, by Charles Champlin. It’s really good. Before I return it, I’ll quote a bit. Frankenheimer on Sinatra in THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE:

His big scene in the picture is his confrontation with Raymond when he holds up a deck of cards and they’re all the Queen of Hearts. […] And Frank was incredible in his close-up. We embraced afterwards, he was that good.

But when I looked at the dailies the next day, the close-up was out of focus. The only thing that was in focus was the oak leaf insignias on Frank’s shoulders. The assistant cameraman had made a mistake.

Going to tell Frank–he didn’t watch the dailies–was the longest walk of my life. He was crushed; he almost cried. “My God, what can we do?” he said. I told him the only thing we could do was re-shoot it.

We re-scheduled the shoot, but he had laryngitis so he couldn’t do it. We re-scheduled again and he was so uptight about it he was physically sick to his stomach before we began. We did three or four takes, and none of them was really any good. We scheduled it again and did some more takes. But it wasn’t there; he couldn’t do it. So I finally said, “Screw it, I’m going to use the one that’s out of focus.” I put it in the movie, and it becomes Raymond looking at him, kind of brain-washing him.

I got the greatest reviews of my life for that shot.

5 Responses to “Fuzzy Frank”

  1. This is quite interesting. Sinatra was very much a “natural” as an actor, but he had little patience with directorial “niceties.” He was never open to multiple takes if they weren’t really called for. In this case they were, but Frankenheimer saved the day nonetheless. Sinatra was so incensed by Minnelli taking an age to set up a shot on “Some Came Running” tat one memorable afternoon he got in his car and left — causing quite ruckus as one can well imagine. By contrast he adored Chuck Walters whose direction of him was so unforced, unfussy and professional on “The Tender Trap” that he encouraged Metro to hire Walters for “High Society” — which was an even bigger hit and one of the best films of Sinatra’s career.

  2. Frankenheimer also says he met with Sinatra beforehand to check that they could work together, because he’d heard some bad stories. Sinatra insisted he was only really good on the first couple of takes but he would be willing to do more if it was really necessary. Sinatra also said that, as a chronic insomniac, he’d appreciate a later start time for studio shooting. Frankenheimer agreed and they got on fine.

  3. revelator60 Says:

    So, if Sinatra had been cast in a William Wyler film, there would have been obvious bloodshed, but who would make the first murder attempt?

  4. Now you’ve got me re-imagining “The Heiress” with Frank instead of Monty !

  5. Morris Townsend… is that the Hoboken Townsends?

    George C Scott was also much happier with the first couple of takes. He had a lot in common with Sinatra there, ironically since Sinatra supposedly threatened his life.

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