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August 05, 2022


Thank you for this excelent take on one of my favorite pictures.

Director John Frankenheimer tells several fascinating stories on his DVD commentary for this unique film. One, as I recall it, involved the doubts Frankenheimer had about handling such a potential hot potato. Sinatra, as producer, set up a meeting with John F. Kennedy; if Sinatra's pal JFK wasn't concerned, then the director could rest a little easier and the film could proceed. Sinatra and Frankenheimer discovered to their surprise that Kennedy was an admirer of Richard Condon's novel. After the producer and director made their pitch, JFK had only one question: "So who's going to play the mother?"

Great piece of writing about a major film, certainly Frankenheimer’s best work. The re-make was, perhaps predictably, embarrassing. JFK’s assassination not long after its release covered the movie’s reputation like a shroud. Sinatra and/or the studio restricted its distribution at some point and it became unavailable for years. The controversy only added to the mystique surrounding it - and only years later did it appear publicly in VHS and then DVD format for audiences to rediscover and appreciate. To me, Janet Leigh’s character is there to work as a mysterious figure - NOT to be the stereotypical “love interest” for Sinatra’s character. This subversive shocker conveys the political angst of the sixties, and is one of that decade’s truly distinctive films.

Thank you, John M. Holmes, for this wonderfully appreciative comment.

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That Ship Has Sailed
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"Lively and affectionate" Publishers Weekly


I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman


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