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Frank Sinatra’s contributions to the stage and screen were remembered Tuesday night in New York, as part of Sinatra at 100: Film & Music, the Tribeca Film Festival’s nod to a year-long national event marking a century since the singer and actor’s birth.
Tony Bennett headlined a tribute concert for the late Sinatra, who performed for the last time three years before he died in 1998. In his lifetime, he appeared in 60 films and sang on 1,400 records.
“Frank was an entertainer,” Ne-Yo told The Hollywood Reporter before the event. “That embodies all of it: acting, music, singing, dancing. If you needed it, he could do it.” He sang “You Make Me Feel So Young” and “I Could Have Danced All Night” with the backing of the J.C. Hopkins Biggish Band. Ne-Yo was a late addition to the festival’s collaboration with the Lincoln Motor Company, which also featured Brandon Flowers of The Killers, Lea DeLaria of Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black, and Alice Smith.
Among the performances was “Come Fly With Me,” which a tuxedoed Flowers said helps him fight travel fears. “I have issues flying,” he said at a brief red-carpet appearance, “and sometimes to calm myself down I sing it in my head. It sort of takes the load off a little bit.” Perhaps Tuesday’s most exciting set belonged to Savion Glover. Without a word, he tap-danced for several minutes, overpowering the band’s horns with his heels on “Just in Time.”
The 45-minute show at Spring Studios was preceded by a screening of On the Town, a 1949 MGM musical starring Sinatra. It follows three Navy sailors on leave for a summer day in New York, where their thrill-seeking involves a citywide search for Miss Turnstiles, a pin-up beauty on subway posters. Sinatra plays Chip, who falls for a spunky cab driver. The film, based on a 1944 Broadway show now in its third revival, marked Gene Kelly’s debut as a director. By the early ’50s, Sinatra’s acting career slowed amid allegations of mob ties. He later signed with Capitol Records, the period of focus Tuesday, and experienced a resurgence in image and sales.
“Sinatra’s story was almost too big for Sinatra himself to talk about, because I don’t think he knew himself what he represented,” journalist Gay Talese told THR over the phone. His 1966 Esquire report, “Frank Sinatra Has A Cold,” is considered the definitive profile. He added, “It’s true of people who are bigger than life; the larger-than-life characters have no idea where their life begins and ends.”
Francis Albert Sinatra’s life began in Hoboken, New Jersey, on December 12, 1915. This year’s centennial celebration of his birth has rolled out an extensive campaign with reissued albums, a Grammy Museum exhibit, and a U.K.-based stage show. Earlier this year, Bob Dylan released Shadows In The Night, an album of Sinatra songs.
Bennett briefly took the stage for “I’ve Got the World on a String.” It was one of his first shows without his longtime pianist, Ralph Sharon, who died in March. Bennett followed up with what he called his favorite song, “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning,” which prompted the evening’s only standing ovation. “Frank Sinatra was my best friend,” he told the audience.
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