|'Come Blow Your Horn' lets 1963-vintage Sinatra toot his own horn as a swinging bachelor!|
There’s something fascinating about '60s Sinatra, his legend already in place, as Frank’s film roles rapidly morphed into his off-screen persona.
I'm of the school who thinks Frank Sinatra was a refreshingly natural actor, especially in an era when movie acting was still theatrical. Sinatra could be cynical yet romantic, wise-cracking, sincere, with a tough but tender approach that was most appealing—not unlike his idol, Humphrey Bogart. Though he possessed great eyes and smile, I never thought Frankie was that handsome and for most of his career, he was a runt of a guy. Yet, watching him in his heyday, I totally get why women were wild for Old Blue Eyes. My maternal grandmother was one of them!
|Frank has all of "Horn's" horny ladies under his spell. Barbara Rush, left, is the good girl with footie jammies!|
Once the Rat Pack era reigned, films like The Manchurian Candidate were fewer, and lazy genre movies that were self-referential were the name of the game. And like many post-war superstars who started resting on their laurels later, Sinatra’s movie star status dropped fast after mid-60s cinematic game changers like Blow Up and Bonnie and Clyde.
|Sinatra on the set of 'Horn': Note the bike's signature. Nobody ever said Sinatra was PC!|
Come Blow Your Horn was Neil Simon's first hit play, and the only one for which he didn't write the screenplay. Though commercially successful, Simon wasn't pleased with the way Horn was shoe-horned into fitting Frank's own living large bachelorhood. After this, Simon wrote a string of smashes, starting with Barefoot in the Park, and “Doc” was able to main control over subsequent screen adaptations of his plays.
|Sinatra as the swinging bachelor, with Barbara Rush as the patient good girl friend.|
Not that the role of freewheeling bachelor wasn’t suited to Frank. Sinatra seems to be having fun here, shows his flair for comedy, and is warm and sexy as hell. But the role of Alan Baker, a Jewish guy, as played by the world's most famous Sicilian, Francis Albert Sinatra?! The discrepancy is more obvious when Lee J. Cobb and Molly Picon excruciatingly play Sinatra’s cliché Jewish parents, who worry about their swinging older son, as he takes his “kid” brother under his wing. It’s strange enough that swinger Sinatra has a kid brother who's just turned 21 and he’s supposed to be in his late 30s. This is compounded by the fact that Frank was actually in his late 40s—and looking it. Any time callow Tony Bill shares a scene with Sinatra, one thinks of Frank Jr., with a little of junior playboy Warren Beatty thrown in!
|Even artful lighting couldn't hide the fact that Sinatra wouldn't get away with playing "younger" much longer.|
Even stranger still is Lee J. Cobb as the father, who was only four years older than Sinatra. And Jill St. John, as the bimbo bombshell, like Tony Bill, was a quarter of a century younger than Frank. With Sinatra the Superstar dropped into the middle of all this Simon sitcom silliness, it feels like a future SNL sketch.
|No, this isn't Frank Sinatra starring in 'Fifty Shades of Orange!' It's just Old Blues favorite color.|
Also, the Baker family business is plastic fruit sales, yet the family lives in a lavish '60s modern house, and Frank lives in a swanky pad worthy of Sinatra himself, right down to the Chairman of the Board's favorite shades of orange.
All of this did not go unnoted at the time, especially by the New York Times’ resident grumpy critic, Bosley Crowther. However, a number of critics gave it a passing grade at the time—and a few even now!—but Come Blow Your Horn seems blaringly obvious, dated, and nonsensical today.
There's a lot of talent here: Norman Lear and Bud Yorkin at the helm; a great cast; William Daniels' cinematography and Edith Head costumes; a lavish set design; some snappy lines; even Frank’s stopping the picture while singing the title tune. Still, it's all so over the top, that it smothers Simon's simple story.
|Jill St. John sports this Edith Head get up as she phones in a Marilyn Monroe impersonation for 'Horn.'|
The women are all Playboy-era stereotypes, wearing tons of hair and makeup: Jill St. John, doing a one-dimensional Marilyn Monroe impersonation (much better later as the wisecracking divorcee in Sinatra’s Tony Rome); Phyllis McGuire, looking and acting like a fierce drag queen, as the Texas store shopper; and lovely and intelligent Barbara Rush, as the simpering girlfriend, waiting for Frank propose. Rush is so goody-goody, she even sleeps in pajamas with footies! This was also one of the first films where EVERY woman who crosses Sinatra’s path is entranced by him.
|The cast of 1963's 'Come Blow Your Horn.'|
The sexual attitudes and social humor of Come Blow Your Horn are the last hurrah of a more “innocent” time, when this farce was released in the summer of ‘63. In fact, there's a party scene where a guest is hypnotized into seeking out John F. Kennedy. She approaches Sinatra as JFK, to berate him about some of his policies, with Frank replying in a clever Kennedy impersonation. This was the last gasp of the post-war ring-a-ding era—when good times meant drinking, smoking, living large, and chasing women. To me, Come Blow Your Horn is more of a perversely fascinating time capsule, than timeless entertainment.
|'Come Blow Your Horn' is Frank's show all the way.|