I want to start this post off by apologizing for my absence these last few weeks. I feel like I’ve made a real effort in putting my heart, soul, and time into this blog and keeping my posts frequent and interesting this past year, but with my day job growing more and more demanding during the holiday season, I had to ghost on participating in two blogathons that I was really excited about. I felt guilty about that, which led to me abstaining from posting my own original content here as well, but I figured that it was time to pick myself up and jump back into the swing of things, especially because I have some big news to share with you all! I’ve officially taken the plunge and bought my own domain, which means that this site will now be found at musingsofaclassicfilmaddict.com, without the WordPress! It’s important for me to note that you’ll still be able to access the site if you happen to type my old domain name, but I hope you all love the shortened one as much as I do! I decided to do this for a variety of reasons: more control over my own blog, the possibility of revenue from ads (which I’ve turned on for now to test out), and because let’s face it, Musings of a Classic Film Addict is a long enough name as it is! I hope that this will be the start of more positive changes for me and the site in the coming year, and without further ado, I hope you enjoy my newest installment of Cooking with the Stars, honoring the legendary Frank Sinatra who would have celebrated his 103rd birthday today!
I assume that most of you are aware of Frank Sinatra, but for the few who aren’t, the crooner was born under the name of Francis Albert Sinatra on December 12, 1915 in Hoboken, New Jersey to two Italian immigrants: Antonino Martino “Marty” Sinatra, an illiterate boxer-turned-fireman, and Natalina “Dolly” Garaventa, a successful midwife. Multiple members of Sinatra’s family claim that Dolly was abusive towards her only child; the tough skin he developed as a result didn’t aid his education, and his deliquency led to his jumping from high school to high school until he eventually left without graduating. After a failed attempt at attending business school, Frank became a drifter, holding odd jobs here and there as a delivery boy, on a shipyard, and eventually singing in nightclubs in order to feed himself. Sinatra idolized many singers of the time like Russ Columbo, Rudy Vallée, and especially Bing Crosby, but the singing group that really captured his attention was the local 3 Flashes.
Both Dolly and Frank pleaded with the band to allow him to join their ranks until the members finally relented, primarily because Sinatra owned a car and was able to transport them to and from gigs. The addition of the eager crooner in 1934 led to 3 Flashes being renamed The Hoboken Four. Success quickly knocked on their door when they won the Major Bowes Amateur Hour contest and toured the nation, appearing on radio and stage. Sinatra easily became the lead singer and the favorite of female fans, which enraged the other members to the point of physically abusing the nineteen-year-old. He quit halfway through the tour, returning to New Jersey as a singing waiter in a roadhouse which aired his performances on the radio. One of his avid listeners was none other than prominent bandleader Harry James, who signed him for six times more than what he’d made singing at tables. It was under James’ mentorship in 1939 that Sinatra released his first commercial single, “From the Bottom of My Heart” in July. Fewer than 8,000 copies of the record were sold and Frank continued to release flop after flop, which aggravated him and led him to mutually part ways with James in order to seek greener pastures, replacing Jack Leonard as Tommy Dorsey’s lead singer.
It was with Dorsey that Frank began releasing successful singles such as “Imagination”, Sinatra’s first top-ten hit, and “I’ll Never Smile Again”, his first single to reach number one. The song remained there for twelve weeks, which gave the singer the clout to begin recording his own songs separate from Dorsey’s band in 1942. These recordings instilled confidence in Sinatra and encouraged him to consider a solo career. Axel Stordahl, the band’s arranger and conductor and Sinatra’s close friend, recalled, “He just couldn’t believe his ears. He was so excited, you almost believed he had never recorded before. I think this was a turning point in his career. I think he began to see what he might do on his own”. Sinatra parted on unfriendly terms with Tommy Dorsey in September of 1942, by which time he had become a hit with young women. His success led to teenage girls being taken seriously as a demographic, when beforehand music was predominantly targeted toward adults. The phenomenon became officially known as “Sinatramania” after his colossal opening at the Paramount Theatre in New York on December 30, 1942. According to Nancy Sinatra, Jack Benny later remarked, “I thought the goddamned building was going to cave in. I never heard such a commotion, all for a fellow I never heard of.”
He signed as a solo artist with Columbia Records on June 1, 1943. His popularity continued to grow throughout the first half of the 1940s with hits like “You’ll Never Know”, “I Couldn’t Sleep a Wink Last Night”, and “Saturday Night (Is the Loneliest Night of the Week)”. He also began an acclaimed career in movies like Step Lively (1944) and Anchors Aweigh (1945), but his popularity began to flounder once he appeared in The Kissing Bandit (1947), possibly considered the worst of his pictures, and Miracle of the Bells (1948), which was shunned by the public due to his mafia affiliations. To make matters worse, his first marriage to Nancy Barbato collpased just as he met iconic actress Ava Gardner, who he fell in love with despite the world accusing him of having an affair. These stressors, on top of the passing of Sinatra’s beloved publicist and confidant George Evans, impaired his singing voice and threatened to end his promising career once and for all. All appeared lost, but a glimmer of light appeared at the end of the tunnel in 1953 when Sinatra discovered James Jones’ bestselling novel From Here to Eternity. He swore that Angelo Maggio was the role that he was born to play, and he agreed to act in the film for a degrading $8,000. His performance won him the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and catapulted him back to stardom.
Sinatra continued to enjoy success in music with hit after hit like “Young At Heart”, “Three Coins In The Fountain”, and “Learnin’ the Blues”, but to me the latter part of his life is where his acting prowess shined the most. He continued to turn in magnificent performances in both comedic and dramatic roles in films such as Suddenly (1954), Guys and Dolls (1955), and The Man With The Golden Arm (1955), another one of the finest and most challenging parts of his career. His status as a formidable and lasting entertainer continued to grow as he formed the Rat Pack, a talented group of his closest friends including Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop, who not only performed with Frank at The Sands casino throughout the 1960s, but also starred with him in some of his most successful pictures like Ocean’s 11 (1960) and Robin and the 7 Hoods (1963). By 1962 he netted a $1,000,000 salary for his performance in The Manchurian Candidate (1962), less than a decade after his paltry $8,000 fee for the performance that won him an Oscar. He remained both a magnificent actor and singer for decades afterward until his passing on May 14, 1998 at age 82.
This recipe for Frank’s fettucine alfredo came from The Sinatra Celebrity Cookbook: Barbara, Frank & Friends, released in 1996 with his fourth wife. The book is available for purchase here if you’re interested! Town & Country also released the recipe in 2016, and I wholeheartedly recommend watching their supplementary tutorial on how to recreate this dish. I’ll also post the recipe below in full:
Frank Sinatra’s Fettucine à la Sinatra
- 1 8-ounce package fettuccine
- ¼ cup butter
- ½ cup whipping cream
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus 2 tablespoons for topping
- Salt and black pepper
- Cook fettuccine until al dente. Drain pasta.
- While pasta is cooking, make sauce by melting butter in a saucepan on low heat.
- Remove butter from heatand blend in cream and cheese.
- Return to heat and simmer thoroughly, season with salt and pepper as desired, being careful not to let the sauce come to a boil.
- Add the sauce to the drained pasta and let stand, covered, for a couple of minutes.
- Garnish with parsley if desired. Serves three or four.
I don’t exaggerate when I say that this is the easiest Old Hollywood recipe that I’ve ever made. The only difficulty lies in the technique of creating the sauce, but I really commend the recipe for explaining exactly how to add the ingredients to prevent any sticking or lumpiness. I’m used to making alfredo from scratch as I find that it tastes worlds better than alfredo in a jar, and Frank’s method is essentially the perfect way of doing so. My only issue with the recipe itself is the wildly inaccurate serving estimation. I made Frank’s fettucine exactly as stated, and it only filled one normal sized cereal bowl when it claims to be able to feed three to four people. I ended up making another batch of the same size to feed my boyfriend, adding grilled chicken and my own secret ingredient for the perfect alfredo sauce, a touch of garlic powder. My boyfriend in particular adored this dish without my extra components, complimenting the simple steps and how accessible a dinner such as this would be during the week as every ingredient can stay fresh for a substantial period of time. He even requested that I make it a weekday dinner staple, which is a huge compliment for any recipe coming from such a picky eater. I found it delicious too, and I really think that the simplicity of it allowed each ingredient to shine. Ol’ Blue Eyes sure knew what he was talking about when it came to cooking a mean pasta! All in all, this fettucine easily gets a perfect five out of five Vincents, though I do urge you to try adding garlic powder and chicken if you feel like mixing things up!
I absolutely recommend celebrating Frank’s birthday today by trying this recipe at home for yourself. You’ll likely find most of the necessary ingredients already in your fridge, and you certainly won’t find an easier classic film star recipe anywhere else. Let me know what you think of this dish in the comments, and be sure to tell me your favorite movie or song of Sinatra’s too if you read this far! Stay tuned here throughout the month, as I have an incredibly exciting holiday surprise for you all coming very soon!