Frank Sinatra, one of the most influential entertainers of the 20th century, would have turned 100 on Dec. 12.
“A Centennial Celebration of Frank Sinatra,” presented by the USC School of Cinematic Arts and Visions and Voices, culminated three days of film screenings on Nov. 8 in Frank Sinatra Hall. The event included a lecture and discussion led by Professor Drew Casper, followed by a Q&A with daughters Tina and Nancy Sinatra.
“I feel like it’s our job is to carry on his legacy,” Nancy Sinatra said. “This year, his centennial has been a true gift. We wanted to take advantage of the timing to make sure that the next generation and the generation after that knows his work and knows him as a person.”
Sister Tina added: “I’ve been very surprised by the grassroots nature of the support for the centennial. Events have been popping up spontaneously. Every month, we’ve seen something to honor him. This event [at USC] is really a part of everything that’s been going on to honor him.”
SCA Dean Elizabeth M. Daley said: “It’s hard to do a showcase of Frank Sinatra’s memorable performances because all of his performances are memorable. SCA is incredibly honored to be a part of preserving Frank Sinatra’s legacy. All of our students grew up with either Frank’s music or movies, and I hope this event inspires them to look further into his incredible life.”
In 2002, the family dedicated Frank Sinatra Hall to serve as a home and showcase for a unique collection of the legendary entertainer’s lifetime achievements and memorabilia. The theater serves as the school’s main screening venue as well as an exhibition space for an extensive collection from his storied career, including his gold and platinum records, Grammy awards, the Academy Award for From Here to Eternity and his Congressional Gold Medal.
The family has also established The Frank Sinatra Endowed Fund for Student Support, providing tuition assistance to talented USC School of Cinematic Arts students with financial need, to serve as a lasting legacy.
Doing it his way
Sunday’s celebration featured a presentation covering Sinatra’s early life in New Jersey, his rise in the music industry, his heyday as a movie star and his life at home. Afterward, Nancy and Tina discussed their personal lives with their father and answered questions from the audience, many of which took the form of a thank you from people whom Sinatra had personally touched with his generosity.
Sinatra rose to popularity as a big band singer before moving on to movies. In 53 films, he showed his versatility in comedy (4 for Texas), drama (From Here to Eternity, The Man With the Golden Arm) and musicals (Guys and Dolls, On the Town, High Society).
“[Sinatra] brought an uncharacteristic realism to his acting and singing,” Casper said. “After an earlier, cotton candy phase in his career, his persona always came from him. Sinatra’s songs and his characters all came from his own personality.”
Higher education also resonated with Sinatra.
“My father believed that an education was the greatest gift in the world,” Tina said. “For him, an educated person was not only our best defense in suppressing prejudice and hatred, but a supreme instrument for instilling creativity and inspiration for generations to come.”