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Even though he had a very successful career as a singer and entertainer, Frank Sinatra was in one of his several career declines when he first agreed to appear on television.
One of the earliest performers to venture into the unknown world of television after World War II when TV was still in its infancy, Sinatra’s first weekly musical/variety show was a one-hour programme on CBS scheduled opposite Milton Berle’s very successful Texaco Star Theater.
In addition to Sinatra, this early TV show also featured comedians Ben Blue and Sid Fields, and Erin O’Brien, singer Roberta Lee, and Axel Stordahl and His Orchestra as regulars.
When the show was cancelled after struggling along for a season and a half, Sinatra avoided appearing on a regular TV show for five years and mainly concentrated on guest slots on other performers’ TV shows.
In 1957, Sinatra was convinced to try another weekly show of his own. By this time, however, Sinatra’s career had taken a massive turn for the better.
He had won an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor for his work in From Here To Eternity (1953), and the singer/actor was paid a reported $3 million by ABC to appear on their network.
The shows, with Sinatra in complete control, were one-third dramas starring Sinatra, one-third variety shows, and one-third dramas starring other performers.
Nelson Riddle, the arranger for many of Sinatra’s hit recordings, was the show’s musical director, and guests included such big-name entertainers as Bob Hope, Peggy Lee, and Sinatra’s own daughter, Nancy, who made her TV debut on the show.
Sinatra was said to have had little time to rehearse his weekly half-hour show, and the result was a disaster. It was cancelled after less than a full season.
Thereafter, Sinatra confined his television appearances to guest-starring on other performers’ shows and, much later, on occasional one-off TV specials of his own.