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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Joker Is Wild (1957)

In the Chicago of 1927, a singer (Frank Sinatra) with a promising career refuses to renew his contract with the mob owner (Ted De Corsia) of a nightclub. In revenge, he has the singer brutally beaten and his vocal cords slashed so he can never sing again. He re-invents himself as a nightclub comic but though his physical wounds are healed, the psychological wounds will never heal. Based on the life of Joe E. Lewis. Today, I doubt many (if any) know who Joe E. Lewis was but he was a popular entertainer in the 30s, 40s and 50s, mostly in nightclubs but he did movies and TV too. In the 1950s, Sinatra was still taking his acting seriously and did some formidable work in films like MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM and SOME CAME RUNNING and his performance here can't be faulted. The film's biggest fault is that it doesn't have an ending, Lewis was still alive and well, and it seems to just stop which is just as well as it was getting to wear out its welcome (it's over 2 hours long). But as movie bios go, it's pretty decent (which is weak praise I know). The two women in his life are played by Jeanne Crain and Mitzi Gaynor. Directed by Charles Vidor (LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME). The film introduces the song All The Way which became a standard and won the best song Oscar. With Eddie Albert, Beverly Garland, Jackie Coogan, Barry Kelley and Sophie Tucker.

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