The Trouble With Frank Sinatra . . .
Ever since last November when he was admitted to Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York, because of “nervous exhaustion,” Frank Sinatra has been the target of suicide rumors.
It was whispered of Frank then that when he learned of Ava’s determination to divorce him he grew depressed and in a subsequent fit of despondency tried to slash his left wrist.
Sinatra’s physician said there was no truth to this report and that his patient had been suffering from fatigue.
Although Sinatra is not indefatigable, he is close to it. Thin, wiry, with an almost inexhaustible supply of energy, Frank has burned the candle at both ends for years with practically no sign of physical deterioration.
The one exception has been his hair. Despite consistent and expensive treatments it is thinning and he will probably be as bald as his father is.
When Frank checked out of Mt. Sinai Hospital on November 19, one of his acquaintances said, “With him suicide is always a possibility. He is a volatile person. He is either way up on top or way down on the bottom. No medium level for him.
“But I don’t believe he would ever commit suicide because of a woman. He has known too many and he is too much in love with himself to love anyone so desperately that her withdrawal would make his life meaningless.
“A year or so ago, he was really low, and maybe he contemplated it then. As an entertainer he seemed to be all washed up. He made Meet Danny Wilson at Universal for practically no money, maybe $10,000 and a percentage, and it laid a bomb. His recordings were selling almost zero. His attempt to buck Milton Berle on TV was hopeless and the network dropped him. He had left Nancy and the three kids for Ava. Then he fought with Ava all the time. He was in hock to the Government for back taxes. Besides a few gambling characters, most of his friends and employees had pulled out.
“If Frank had put a gun to his head then I could have understood it. But now? I don’t think so. Maybe he scratched himself or took an extra pill in order to frighten Ava into returning to him, but the chances are he wouldn’t.”
That was on November 19, 1953.
The next day Sinatra flew into Los Angeles, seeking another reconciliation with Ava Gardner. At the airport he was surly, irritable, and unsmiling. He wore a long overcoat, completely covering his wrists. Reporters who questioned him were brushed off with “no comment.”
On November 26, Ava announced that she had talked to Frank and had decided finally and definitely to divorce him. Then she took off for Rome where she is starring in The Barefoot Contessa.
On November 29, after moving into a suite in the Beverly Hills Hotel, Sinatra reported to El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood for a rehearsal of the Eddie Cantor television program. He was to be a guest on Eddie’s show along with singer Eddie Fisher.
At the rehearsal where visitors are allowed, a fan of Eddie Fisher asked if she might take a photograph of Sinatra talking to the two Eddies. granted, and the girl, Mary Nogueras of San Bernardino, California, began to shoot. In one of his poses, Sinatra put his left hand up to his jaw, thereby exposing his left wrist.
When Mary developed the film and made a print she noticed the inch-long sear on Frank’s wrist, a scar which, you can see, looks as if it were the result of a knife wound, perhaps a superficial slash, but a slash ‘deep enough to have drawn blood.
Mary sent her photograph to a Los Angeles newspaper. e paper sent reporters around to talk to Sinatra. As he had previously refused to talk to the representatives of MODERN SCREEN, Frank at first refused to talk to reporters from the Los Angeles Mirror. Later, however, he agreed to talk, spoke to them over the hotel house phone.
“Is it true that you recently attempted suicide?” he was asked.
“That’s ridiculous,” Sinatra snapped.
“Don’t you have a deep cut on your left wrist?”
“No,” the crooner said.
“But we have a photograph showing you wrist with a slash mark,” Sinatra was told.
“Oh, that,” Frank suddenly recalled. got it when I bumped into a corner of a desk and scratched it—and that’s all there is to it.”
“When did it happen?”
“Where did it happen?”
“I told you,” the singer repeated. “I don’t remember and that’s the truth. Why should I lie about it?”
Actually, there are several reasons why Sinatra should lie if he had made a suicide attempt.
First and most important of all, it could reveal an instability, a neurosis, great unhappiness, and an inability to adjust to circumstances.
In fairness to Sinatra, however, it must be said that besides Ava’s loss, he has no apparent motive for suicide and had none as far back as November 15.
Frank’s career, in fact, has rarely been better than it is now.
His role in From Here To Eternity has sent his film stock soaring. His salary for guest appearances on TV has jumped from $5,000 to $7,500. His agent is asking and getting a minimum of $75,000 per picture. He has a new recording contract with Capitol Records. His nightclub salary has jumped to $10,000 a week. He owns 2% of the gambling casino at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas. He has been offered a new CBS radio show.
Moreover, people who are currently working with him on the set of Pink Tights say he has never been more jovial, has never worked harder, and has never been more cooperative in his life.
Yet this is not the first time that rumors of Frank’s attempted suicide have reached the newspapers. A few months before he and Ava were married, they had a fight at Lake Tahoe. Then Frank took a few too many sleeping pills.
Sheriff’s deputies and other persons who were present said that it looked like an attempted suicide.
Los Angeles newspapers duly reported the news. Frank said the stories were not true and threatened to sue.
“The rumor that I took an overdose of sleeping pills last Tuesday,” he insisted, “just isn’t true. Last Sunday night Ava and I and Mr. and Mrs. Hank Sanicola went to the Christmas Tree restaurant. When I got back to my quarters I found that I didn’t sleep well. I took two pills.
“When Ava went to Reno to take the plane back to Hollywood I drank two brandies and later broke out with a rash. That’s all there was to it.”
That was in August, 1951.
Most of Sinatra’s unhappiness might be dated from the time he first began to go with Ava. Miss Gardner has a way of sending her lovers to great heights and great depths.
Howard Duff, for example, who was her steady before the “Thin Man” moved in, was desperately in love with Ava and made no secret of the fact that he wanted to marry her.
Ava’s attitude was to refer to him as “Puppy,” a dog she might lead around on a leash. Duff has never recovered from this humiliation and the mention of Ava Gardner still inspires his friends to say bitter things.
There is no doubt that Sinatra had a tremendous and overpowering love for Ava. Otherwise he never would have defied convention, the church and the public by leaving Nancy and his three children.
There is no doubt that he still love Ava and would do practically anything short of killing himself, to get her back.
One actress who knew Frank well explained his behavior when she said, This boy specializes in the dramatic approach. I don’t think he really attempted suicide. I think maybe he was just rehearsing—firing blanks.
“I do think these rehearsals were done well enough to fool his friends who picked up the phone and called Ava from New York.
“ ‘You’ve got to take Frank back,’ they probably screamed. ‘He tried to kill himself. We got him in time, but you’re the only one who can save him.’
“It’s my guess,” this actress said, “that Ava refused to fall for this routine after it had been worked a couple of times, and called it quits.
“Ava is a soft-hearted dame, a good dame and a nice dame. And I’ll give you dollars to doughnuts that when she returns from Europe, she and Sinatra will announce a reconciliation. Unless, of course, she finds someone in Italy she likes much better than Frankie. Chances are against that.
“When Frankie wants to pour on the charm, he is absolutely irresistible. I think he is the greatest charmer the world has ever known. He has a tremendous ego, too, and because of that I think his suicide is completely out of the question.
“He would never think of suicide, genuine, complete, death-producing suicide, unless maybe he could do it in the Los Angeles Coliseum before 120,000 people and be promised a twenty-year contract in heaven.”
—BY WILLIAM BARBOUR
It is a quote. MODERN SCREEN MAGAZINE MARCH 1954