DVD Review: Frank Sinatra The Timex Shows -Volume 1

Sinatra Timex

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This release combines Frank Sinatra’s first two TV specials from the late 1950’s. The first, The Frank Sinatra Timex Show, was broadcast on ABC on October 19, 1959. Produced by Sammy Kahn, orchestrated by Nelson Riddle, Timex finds the then 44-year old crooner at the top of his game. He is joined by fellow singers (and good friends), Dean Martin and Bing Crosby, entertainer Jimmy Durante, and Mitzi Gaynor, who had recently starred as Nellie Forbush in the film version of South Pacific.

The show itself is rather fast paced, with only minimal banter between performances. Musical selections performed include: High Hopes – Crosby, Martin, & Gaynor / Day In, Day Out – Sinatra / Together, Wherever We Go – Sinatra, Crosby, & Martin / Talk To Me – Sinatra / Cheek To Cheek – Crosby, Martin, & Gaynor / Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams – Martin / Good Old Song Medley: Sinatra, Crosby, & Martin / High Hopes – Sinatra & a ‘Whole Bunch of Kids’ Chorus / Just One Of Those Things – Sinatra / Angel Eyes – Sinatra / The Lady Is A Tramp – Sinatra / Jimmy Durante Medley: Sinatra, Martin, and Crosby.

While the songs are fine, and Mitzi Gaynor’s smile, and endless energy is infectious, the whole thing has a standard variety hour type feel. Granted, this was likely purposeful at the time; variety shows were popular television Farr for several decades. Oddly though, Bing Crosby, no stranger to television specials, looks a bit bored at times; perhaps he had a tee time scheduled! Also, the special is a little heavy on three-part medley’s, as fun a concept as that can be, I think I would have jettisoned one of them in favorite of a full song, perhaps sung by Frank Sinatra and all of his guests. That’s just personal preference.

The second show, An Afternoon with Frank Sinatra broadcast just two months later on December 13, 1959, features Sinatra with guests Ella Fitzgerald, dancer Juliet Prowse (Sinatra’s girlfriend at the time), the Red Norvo Quintet, the Hi-Lo’s, actress/comedianne Hermoine Gingold and Peter Lawford. The premise is built around the idea that the original concept of a show by the beach has been rained out, so the crew is improvising things. A much better variety show than its predecessor, Peter Lawford takes on (co-)hosting duties. Selections performed include: Spend The Afternoon With Me (Frank Sinatra) I’ve Got The World On A String (Frank Sinatra) The Desert Is Calling (The Hi-Lo’s) Comes Love (Hermione Gingold/Peter Lawford) There’s A Lull In My Life (Ella Fitzgerald) It’s All Right With Me (Frank Sinatra) Juliet Prowse Dance Routine Too Marvellous For Words (Frank Sinatra/Red Norvo Quintet) Here Is That Rainy Day (Frank Sinatra/Red Norvo Quintet) Just You, Just Me (Ella Fitzgerald) I’ll Never Smile Again (Frank Sinatra/The Hi-Lo’s) Can’t We Be Friends (Frank Sinatra/Ella Fitzgerald) Puttin’ On The Ritz (Hermione Gingold/Peter Lawford/Juliet Prowse) He Loves And She Loves (Ella Fitzgerald)  Love Walked Right In (The Hi-Lo s) Our Love Is Here To Stay (Frank Sinatra) 17) Love Is Sweeping The Country (Frank Sinatra/Hermione Gingold/Peter Lawford/Juliet Prowse/Ella Fitzgerald.

Few would argue that Ella Fitzgerald is a legend, and she’s the star of this special; her songs “There’s A Lull In My Life,” “Just You, Just Me” and her duet with Sinatra, “Can’t We Be Friends,” make this a highly recommended pickup for all Ella fans.

Though neither of their performances reach the heights of Frank or Ella, The Hi-Lo’s (a quartet occasionally supported by Sinatra), they impress was rendition of “Lazy Afternoon,” and Sinatra joins them for a serious reading of “I’ll Never Smile Again.”

The only sequence shot outside was a dance routine featuring Juliet Prowse, who had just wrapped Can-Can with Sinatra, which was subsequently released in U.S. theaters in March of 1960. Prowse is undeniably beautiful, and her dancing is fluid. Red Norvo and his jazz combo, who recorded an album with Frank in 1958 are excellent. Frank is totally comfortable with them, and does a loose take on “Here’s That Rainy Day,” appropriate, due to the rainy conditions outside. In a perfect close to the special, the whole cast gets together to  sing a medley of Gershwin songs.

Like previous Sinatra specials on DVD, Frank Sinatra The Timex Shows -Volume 1 is a pop culture time capsule. An opportunity to watch Frank Sinatra, one of the greatest entertainers of the 20th century at work. In this case, see Sinatra at work with other legendary figures, Ella Fitzgerald, Bing Crosby, and Dean Martin.

Presented in the 1.33:1 aspect, as you might have expected, these specials show their age. The source material is rough. Close-ups offer acceptable delineation, but wide shots show definite softness. There are also heavy edge haloes. Specks, marks, and other source flaws turn up with regularity. contrast is iffy, and blacks tend to wan. This is a very imperfect transfer. Given the age of the source material, this is about what I would have expected. As a big Sinatra fan, I’m just happy to  have these specials available on DVD.

The Dolby Digital monaural track suffers from age related issues. While both singing and dialogue are clear enough, there’s a noticeable thinness throughout the proceedings. Songs don’t exhibit much range, and distortion crept into the mix a few times.

There are no subtitles included.

There are no extras available.

Despite its obvious flaws, an S.R.P. under $10 makes Frank Sinatra The Timex Shows -Volume 1 worth the purchase for fans.

Movie title: Frank Sinatra The Timex Shows -Volume 1 (1959)

Director(s): Bill Colleran

Actor(s): Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Juliet Prowse, Jimmy Durante , Ella Fitzgerald, Hermione Gringold, Mitzi Gaynor, Dean Martin,

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