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Music Video Distributors presents
The Frank Sinatra Show with Ella Fitzgerald (1957)

"And so I'm borrowing / A love song from the birds / To tell you that you're marvelous / Too marvelous for words."
- Frank Sinatra, singing a lyric by the great Johnny Mercer

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: November 23, 2004

Stars: Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald
Other Stars: Peter Lawford, Juliet Prowse, Hermione Gingold, Red Norvo, Nelson Riddle
Director: Bill Colloran

MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 00h:59m:03s
Release Date: November 16, 2004
UPC: 022891250197
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ B+C-D C

DVD Review

If you're a fan of the classic American music songbook, the title of this DVD is enough to send a shiver of delight through you; and the cover of the case only heightens your expectations. Could it be? The two greatest American singers together, each at the height of their powers? Frank and Ella? Ella and Frank? Sadly, this disc cannot and does not meet those soaring expectations, but there's still a fair amount of fun and stylish singing on display. And when the performers are of this caliber, that should be enough.

The proper title of this, actually, is The Frank Sinatra Timex Show, and was originally broadcast on ABC on December 10, 1959, and it's an old-time variety show. The introduction is provided by Rat Pack pretty boy and professional brother-in-law Peter Lawford, from rainy Palm Springs; the bad weather is one of the running jokes of the show, and in truth, it's not all that funny. The star of the show of course is Frank Sinatra; he and Lawford read some mediocre banter off of cue cards, making mention of the Presidential campaign of John Kennedy.

But the reason to watch and listen, of course, is the music. Nelson Riddle leads his orchestra in arrangements familiar from Sinatra's recordings of the period, and the singer sounds perfectly swell on such hits as I've Got the World on a String and Too Marvelous for Words—his full-throated voice, pitch-perfect tone and impeccable phrasing demonstrate once again why he was the Chairman of the Board. The Hi-Lo's, a tight harmony quartet, pop in for a couple of numbers, as does, almost inexplicably, Hermione Gingold, whose silly duet with Lawford on Comes Love seems like little more than a time killer.

Sinatra's girlfriend at the time and co-star in Can-Can, Juliet Prowse, shows up, too, to plug the movie, to have Frank sing It's All Right With Me to her, and to perform a long, long dance sequence. The special guest star is Ella Fitzgerald, and of course she sounds wonderful—the big problem is that there's simply not enough of her. She does a restrained version of Just You, Just Me, and, in the highlight of the show, teams with Sinatra on a winning duet of Can't We Be Friends? The show closes out with a Gershwin melody; and, in very entertaining fashion, the disc also includes the original ads from the show's title sponsor, with John Cameron Swayze narrating the torture of wrist watches, and promising, with his signature line, that they take a licking, and keep on ticking.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The source material is badly scratched and marred by the years; it shows in this transfer, which is sloppy and not at all impressive. Some of it can be downright painful to look at, in fact.

Image Transfer Grade: C-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishno


Audio Transfer Review: There are awful, awful sync problems, and there are moments at which you may wonder if the performers here are pulling a collective Jessica Simpson. They're not, but add that to lots of hiss and buzz, and you've got a mighty poor audio transfer. 

Audio Transfer Grade: D

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 19 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
1 Documentaries
2 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. performer discographies
Extras Review: Brief biographies are provided for all the performers, along with discographies for Sinatra, Fitzgerald, the Hi-Lo's and Nelson Riddle; you'll also find links to the official Frank Sinatra website, and to the foundation established in Ella Fitzgerald's name. Quantum Leap catalog highlights are here, too, dubbed in the menu as "QL Propaganda"—these are three highlights packages, one (14m:33s) with clips from their jazz and blues catalog titles; the second (10m:22s) from pop music titles, and the last (16m:56s) featuring everything else, with an emphasis on documentaries.

Extras Grade: C

 

Final Comments

It's not all the Frank and Ella you could ask for, and the technical values are subpar, but when Sinatra and Fitzgerald sing, separately or together, all's right with the world.

 


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