After experiencing a career decline in the early 1950’s, Frank Sinatra began a career rebirth with the eve-of-Pearl Harbor drama From Here to Eternity, for which he won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. By the end of the 1950’s, Sinatra had reclaimed his title as the top recording artist in the world, and was releasing some of the best music of his career. At the same time, Sinatra was turning out an average of two films a year.
Based on the Broadway play of the same name by Arnold Schulman, A Hole in the Head offered Sinatra the chance to work with two men he greatly admired, director Frank Capra. Known for creating observant portraits of man battling against his repressive surroundings, A Hole in the Head offers a variation on the theme by allowing the obstacles to be self-made. Frank Sinatra’s character, Tony Manetta isn’t necessarily an upstanding citizen. He’s a womanizer, and a gambler who blows his money at that first opportunity. As a result, he faces eviction and the loss of his business.
A small-time hustler, Manetta runs owns the Garden of Eden, a shabby hotel in Miami’s South Beach. He lives there with his precocious 11-year-old son Ally (Eddie Hodges). Tony must raise $5300 to pay the landlord in just 48 hours. Having lost his wife to an illness just a few years before, he finds it impossible to settle down. Instead, he stumbles in at 4a.m. after yet another night on the town. Faced with a large debt he can’t possibly pay, Tony decides to call his wealthy brother Mario (Edward G. Robinson) for another loan.
Mario’s wife Sophie (Thelma Ritter) urges her husband to fly down to Miami with a proposition. Since Tony can’t raise his son under such unstable conditions, they will take Ally back with them to New York. If Tony agrees to the plan, and mend his reckless ways, Mario will help him open a modest business in a small town. The idea is to teach Tony that he must forget about his big dreams and deal in reality. Ally doesn’t want to leave his father, even if it means they’ll have to live on the street. The love between father and son is the centerpiece of the film. No matter their problems, they’re going to stick together.
Tony’s only other way out is his old friend Jerry Marks (Keenan Wynn), now a multi-millionaire. Tony has a plan for a massive theme park, and hopes his friend will provide a large cash infusion. Jerry likes the idea, but he doesn’t agree to fund construction. While Jerry appreciates the idea, he likely all too aware how Tony’s grand ideas turn out. Mario and Jerry don’t enjoy seeing Tony fail, but they know that giving him cash will only provide a temporary solution. Ally jokingly tells his father he has a hole in the head because of his crazy ideas.
In the end, Tony learns some valuable life lessons about life and love. While A Hole in the Head is little more than more than an enjoyable, brightly colored, confection it’s a largely enjoyable film. The superb cast including veterans Thelma Ritter, Keenan Wynn, and Carolyn Jones are a joy to watch. It should be noted that A Hole in the Head was a box office success, and its theme song, “High Hopes” won an Oscar for Best Song.
Presented in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, Olive Films has provided a fairly solid 1080p transfer for a film that’s more than fifty years old. There are a few scratches throughout, but the bright colors are surprisingly vibrant throughout. Things may be a tad too warm with faces tending to be a bit on the red side. Dust is evident on several occasions.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio is adequate—it’s clear, but a little low on occasion. The title song “High Hopes” sounds nice, if not particularly powerful.
English subtitles are included.
There are no extras available.
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