Saturday, 4 June 2011

The Frank Sinatra Timex Show (1959)

Poster for the Frank Sinatra TV Special 1960
Elvis Presley - 'The Frank Sinatra Timex Special' - March 1960
When Frank Sinatra's 1957-58 series was cancelled, he still had two years to go on his exclusive contract with ABC. He sat out the next season but came back the following year with a more leisurely series of four almost bi-monthly specials, this time sponsored by Timex. Many of the guests - Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop, Ella Fitzgerald, Nancy Sinatra - had appeared on his previous show.
Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley - 'The Frank Sinatra Timex Special' - March 1960
Medley Duet - Frank Sinatra & Elvis Presley, 'Witchcraft' / 'Love Me Tender'
The ever-present Nelson Riddle was back again as musical director. There were a few new and notable guests - Lena Horne, Mitzi Gaynor, Peter Lawford, Hermione Gingold, and Frank's then-girlfriend Juliet Prowse (in two separate appearances). Even Eleanor Roosevelt showed up. But The Frank Sinatra Timex Show will always be remembered as the vehicle for the triumphant return of one of show business's brightest stars - Mr. Elvis Presley himself.
Elvis Presley, Nancy Sinatra, Frank Sinatra : March 26, 1960 : Fontainebleau Hotel.
Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley - 'The Frank Sinatra Timex Special' - March 1960
Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley - 'The Frank Sinatra Timex Special' - March 1960
The King of Rock 'n' Roll had just returned from a stint in the Army and Sinatra agreed to host a televised homecoming party for him. Of course, Frank was no fan of Elvis's brand of music and had had a few choice words to say about it in the past. But whatever the reason - ratings ploy or simply to placate his teenage daughter - Sinatra was feeling gracious enough to invite Presley to join him on his show.
Elvis Presley - 'The Frank Sinatra Timex Special' - March 1960

It's too bad the result wasn't more satisfying. Frank and Elvis both shine when performing individually. But when they team up for a duet at show's end, it's a bit of a dud. Someone had come up with the bright idea that they should sing each other's hits, but neither is comfortable in the other's genre.

According to Nancy Sinatra, who appeared on the same bill, both show biz legends were nervous. It's obvious from the very beginning, when Elvis comes out, still dressed in his Army uniform, snapping his fingers on the first and third beat of each bar - a remarkably unhip mannerism, even for a rock 'n' roller unfamiliar with Sinatra's music. (He corrects himself when he returns at the end of the show.)'It's Nice To Go Travelling' Joey Bishop, Frank Sinatra, Elvis, Nancy Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr

But whatever the program's musical merits, it was an important event in pop music history, the only public pairing of two different generations' biggest teen idols. The other specials have their highlights - duets with Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, Bing Crosby, and Dean Martin, and Frank soloing on some of his greatest 1950s hits, to name only a few. The Timex shows still hold up today as solid entertainment.

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