Hollywood Flashback: In 1958, Frank Sinatra and Pals Hijacked the Golden Globes

Bernie Abramson/MPTV
Attending the 15th annual Golden Globes were (from left) Gene Kelly, Sinatra and Eddie Fisher, who would leave wife Debbie Reynolds for the newly widowed Taylor in 1959.

A drunken Rat Pack decided to hit the stage and present the awards in place of the HFPA members at a lengthy ceremony that ran until 1 a.m. — Elizabeth Taylor literally was 25 when it began and 26 when it ended.

In many ways, the 15th Golden Globe Awards was a turning point. Held in 1958, it was the first time stars presented the awards — but they had to stage a bloodless party coup. "That year is famous," says Hollywood Foreign Press Association president Meher Tatna. "It took the night to a new level."

While some HFPA selections that evening remain cringe-inducing (The Mickey Mouse Club winning for best TV show), The Bridge on the River Kwai, which took the awards for best picture, actor and director (as it did at the Oscars), set the tone for the movie side of the awards at the Ambassador Hotel's Cocoanut Grove club. Though there was some effort to end the Wednesday night event early (the presentations in 1957 dragged on until 1 a.m.), whatever plans were laid went sideways when Frank Sinatra and a drunken Rat Pack decided to take the stage and present the awards in place of the HFPA members. (Heavy drinking was as much a theme of the night as were the movies.)

Not much is known of what Sinatra and friends actually said — the tape of the show is believed to be lost — but from the scraps of information available, it appears Sinatra took some verbal hard shots at Columbia Pictures president Harry Cohn. And without being nominated for anything, Elizabeth Taylor (who was literally 25 when the evening began and 26 when it ended) was the belle of the ball.

After the show, there was another, even more drunken party with her then-husband — producer Mike Todd, who would die in a plane crash a month later — in their Ambassador Hotel suite in honor of her birthday. And in a precursor to the kind of remarks Joan Rivers would make decades later, Taylor's ultra-short Parisian gown was described by the correspondent from the Los Angeles Mirror News as "sort of a glorified Brown Derby waitress uniform." 

This story first appeared in a November stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.