A Movie A Day: A HOLE IN THE HEAD (1959) High hopes, he’s got high hopes! He’s got Apple pie in the sky hopes!
Published at: June 7, 2008, 1:49 p.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s movie: A HOLE IN THE HEAD. Yesterday was NEVER SO FEW with Sinatra, and we’re jumping back to the film he did before that one.
Sinatra stars as a struggling hotel owner in Florida… a single father trying to keep his head above water while holding on to his kid… and dealing with a batshit crazy swinging surfer girl.
Frank Capra was brought out of retirement, at Sinatra’s request, to helm this flick and you can feel his influence. There’s a lighthearted, effortless likability to this film. In any other director’s hands this would have been a really depressing movie, but there’s a sense of hope that overrides the desperation of the characters.
What’s really spectacular about this film is the banter between Sinatra and Edward G. Robinson, who plays his brother (!!!). Their relationship is classic… Robinson is a successful businessman and doesn’t take his little brother seriously. Sinatra has a history of hitting him up for money in order to keep his hotel afloat.
They bicker, they yell, they scream… but there’s an undeniable love there. Robinson isn’t a villain, he’s a concerned brother. When Sinatra is served with an eviction notice if he can’t come up with his back rent, he is forced to go once again to his brother for financial help, but it’s too much this time.
Thelma Ritter (the great Thelma Ritter) plays Robinson’s wife and she convinces him to go out to visit his brother, so soon you have all these different characters at odds with each other under one roof.
The core of the film is Sinatra’s relationship with his kid, Ally, played by Eddie Hodges (who later went on to play Huck Finn the year after doing his work in this flick). They’re great together. Hodges brings a lot of light, enthusiasm and charm to the film and makes it easy to buy that he’s Sinatra’s kid. Their duet of HIGH HOPES (which won the film an Oscar, by the way) is a great bit right smack dab in the middle of the flick. The movie’s not a musical at all, but it seems to fit perfectly that father and son would just sing at that particular moment in the film.
I will say it's weird, though... look at the DVD art at the top of the article... they give Hodges brown hair and a darker complexion... He's about as ginger as you can get, pale and red-haired (looks great in Technicolor, by the way). What an odd choice to do that for the DVD art...
Carolyn Jones deserves a special mention here. Her character, the swinging free as a bird surfer chick, is, on the surface, a despicable person. She’s almost like the snake trying to tempt Eve… in this case Eve is Sinatra who is doing all he can to keep his kid from being taken away from him by his well-meaning sister-in-law. She uses Sinatra’s loneliness and his hurt over losing his wife to tempt him into just letting his kid go and run off with her… no responsibilities, nothing but fun and take it as it comes mentality.
She encourages his worst traits and tries to stifle his best traits.
What’s great about this performance is that Jones really doesn’t have an evil motive. This is how she lives, what works for her, so in some weird backwards-ass way she’s trying to help Sinatra. Jones (best known for later portraying Morticia Addams) really handles a very difficult character with a lot of talent.
I really, really dug this flick. It actually made me really want to dig into more Capra. I’ve seen his big stuff, of course, but he made a shitload of movies and I haven’t seen a tenth of them.
Here’s the schedule for the next seven days:
Sunday, June 8th: SOME CAME RUNNING (1958)
Monday, June 9th: RIO BRAVO (1959)
Tuesday, June 10th: POINT BLANK (1967)
Wednesday, June 11th: POCKET MONEY (1972)
Thursday, June 12th: COOL HAND LUKE (1967)
Friday, June 13th: THE ASPHALT JUNGLE (1950)
Saturday, June 14th: CLASH BY NIGHT (1952)
If you haven’t checked out A HOLE IN THE HEAD and you are a softie at all, then you really should check it out. It’s a small film, but it’s one full of good humor and entertainment.
We have one more Sinatra flick before we move on and that’s tomorrow’s SOME CAME RUNNING. See you guys then!