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Frank Sinatra, the Benefactor
For every story about Sinatra's temper, impatience and revengeful petulance, there is another one about his generosity, compassion and thoughtfulness. Some stories made the papers -which was a useful antidote to some of the bad press he received - but many others did not. As Burt Lancaster said: "If you say to Frank 'I'm having a problem', it becomes his problem."
In September 1947, for example, when Phil Silvers had lost his straight man, Rags Ragland, a fortnight before opening at the Copa and had tried to cancel, only for the club to insist that he perform, Sinatra stopped filming It Happened In Brooklyn to join his USO partner, raising Silvers' spirits and contributing to glowing reviews.
When Sammy Davis Jr. lost an eye in a car accident in November 1954, Sinatra was there to save him from self-pity and restore his confidence, despite an article in Confidential that suggested intimacy between Davis and Ava Gardner.
When Lee J. Cobb, an actor who Sinatra knew for their appearance together in The Miracle Of The Bells but was not especially close to, nearly died of a heart attack in 1955, Sinatra gave him moral support, paid his bills and housed him during his recuperation. In Cobb's words: "He built an insulated wall around me that shielded me from tension, worry and strain."
When the owner of the Hollywood club the Mocambo, Charlie Morrison, died in 1957, leaving his widow virtually penniless, Sinatra stepped in and packed the place for two weeks, and the club grossed $100.000 in a fortnight.
When the B-movie horror star Bela Lugosi checked into hospital as a drug addict in 1955, Sinatra sent him a gift and a message of support. "It gave me such a boost", said Lugosi, who had never met Sinatra. "He was the only star I heard from."
Close to God
There are many stories of Sinatra's routine generosity and goodwill, to individuals -strangers and friends- and to institutions. It was a trait that some interpret, however, as an expression of his inability to show conventional care. "Frank doesn't know how to express affection", said Phil Silvers. "He does it with expensive gifts." Others connected his reaction to his need to be in control. "Once his friend, you're a friend for life", wrote Vincente Minnelli. "Of course, he is prone to tell friends how he'll help them rather than ask how he can help. But I suppose that's the prerogative of any leader."
According to the book by daughter Nancy, when's Frank mother Dolly visited Rome she had an audience with Pope Paul VI, who told her: "Your son is very close to God: he does God's work and he does not talk about it."
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