Hole in the Head, A [1959]

A pair of Franks make an agreeable meal in A Hole in the Head, the movie that brought together messrs. Sinatra and Capra. While Sinatra was on his movie-star hot streak, Capra had been out of film for a few years, having conquered Hollywood in the 1930s and then fallen out of love with it. Capra found in Arnold Schulman's stage play a different kind of hero from his past Mr. Deeds and Mr. Smith: a Miami hotelier with big debts, young son, wayward eye, and, well, high hopes. The role fits Sinatra like a blue-eyed glove: he dodges creditors while hoping for a handout from his disapproving older brother (Edward G. Robinson), who in turn strongly wishes his younger sibling would settle down with a nice widow (Eleanor Parker) instead of a free-spirited, bongo-playing kook (Carolyn Jones). Meanwhile, kid (Eddie Hodges, from the stage version of The Music Man) believes in his old man, to a fault. This easygoing tale shows Capra in a mellow, cooled-off mood; the propulsive rhythm of his 1930s pictures is nowhere to be seen, and the film does go on too long. He hits his stride when Sinatra approaches an old friend (Keenan Wynn) in search of backing for his big dream, a Florida resort modeled after Disneyland. (A Disney resort in Florida? Crazy.) Those scenes, which mash up excitement, disappointment, and humiliation, are the old sweet-sour Capra formula. Of Sinatra's two Sammy Cahn-Jimmy Van Heusen tunes, "All My Tomorrows" plays under the opening credits, but wasn't the song people whistled as they exited the theater. That was "High Hopes," the irresistibly catchy hymn to optimism, sung by Sinatra and Hodges in an appealingly loosey-goosey two-shot. It won the Best Song Oscar; the other nominees never had a chance. --Robert Horton

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