Last week we featured Pam Grady’s look at the movies screening at this weekend’s Ring-a-Ding-Ding: The Movies of Frank Sinatra at San Francisco’s Vogue Theater. That article ended with coming attractions for the Friday and Saturday selections. Today we offer all of Sunday’s movies.
But first we want to offer you a film that the Chairman of the Board felt strongly about making in 1945. It won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe.
This 10-minute short has a theme of racial and religious tolerance and is especially timely in 2015. The lyrics Sinatra sings describe the wonderful things about America with images of the time—the butcher, the grocer, children in a playground, a wedding in a churchyard, co-workers and friends meeting. The “house” is a metaphor for the country in what is a patriotic song that had a resurgence of popularity after 9/11.
As the film opens Sinatra takes a break from a recording session and steps outside where he sees a youth gang chasing a Jewish boy and intervenes, telling them we are “all” Americans, each as good as the next and should be respected equally.
Abel Meeropol wrote the lyrics with music by Earl Robinson. Meeropol wrote The House I Live In under the pen name Lewis Allan for the Broadway show Let Freedom Ring (1942). He had mixed feelings about America, passionately defending the constitutional rights and freedoms that the country is based on but unhappy about the mistreatment of people of other races and religions, not to mention political views. But he wanted his song to express a hope for why we fight for this country.
When he saw the film he became so upset that a stanza of the song — “my neighbors white and black” – had been deleted and he felt altered the meaning, that he had to be removed from the theater.
Meeropol wrote many poems and songs including the anti-lynching poem that he adapted in the controversial song Billie Holiday made famous, Strange Fruit and the Peggy Lee hit Apples, Peaches and Cherries.
Sinatra loved the song and often sang it even as his political views moved from left to right in his later years. As an Italian-American he had experienced bigotry growing up. He sang it at John F. Kennedy’s inaugural, in the Nixon White House and for Ronald Reagan at the rededication of the Stature of Liberty in 1986.
At a Madison Square Garden concert in 1974 he made this introduction: “It’s a song about this great, big, wonderful, imperfect country. I say imperfect because if it were perfect it wouldn’t be any fun trying to fix it, trying to make it work better, trying to make sure that everybody gets a fair shake and then some. My country is personal to me because my father, who wasn’t born here, rest his soul, he made sure that I was born here. And he used to tell me when I was a kid that America was a land of dreams and a dreamland, well I don’t know if our country fulfilled all of his dreams while he was alive, but tonight with all of us together for this hour, it sure fulfills my dreams. And to all of you in the country and all of you watching tonight, here’s a song about a place we call home, probably the greatest nation ever put on this earth.”
In 1982, Sinatra sang a powerful version of The House I Live In at the Concert for the Americas in the Dominican Republic, which also featured Buddy Rich, Heart and Santana. “I’d like to think the words fit not only my country, but this country, and all of the Americas, today,” he said while introducing it.
Sunday, August 22:
Come Blow Your Horn 1:30 PM Buy tickets.
Suddenly 9 PM Buy tickets.
Read more: Eat My Shorts features Frank Sinatra’s The House I Live In, Michael Cecconi shares a Sinatra-inspired Jack Daniels cocktail, Eat Like the Stars presents three of Frank Sinatra’s recipes, and a fan’s remembrance of meeting Old Blue Eyes.