A Hole in the Head (1959), starring Frank Sinatra, Edward G. Robinson, Eddie Hodges, Eleanor Parker, Carolyn Jones, Keenan Wynn directed by Frank Capra
Synopsis of A Hole in the Head
Frank Sinatra stars as Tony Manetta, a widower living well beyond his means. He lives in Miami where he’s raising his young son, Alvin (Eddie Hodges). With a limited understanding of the word “responsibility,” Tony, finding himself in debt. With his back against the wall, decides to reach out to his older brother, Mario. For yet another in a string of loans. He lies that the money is needed for Alvin who has taken ill. The plot takes full-swing when Mario and his wife decide to pay Tony and Alvin a visit.
Review of A Hole in the Head
What’s a Kiwi? A flightless bird that flaps its wings with massive, effort, but can never get off the ground. For me, A Hole in the Head comes down to that one line.
Tony Manetta (Frank Sinatra) is the kiwi, according to his girlfriend Shirl (Caroline Jones). He’s always looking for the big deal, the big score. He wants to be more successful than his older brother, Mario. He puts on a big front – expensive suits, etc. But he’s five months behind on the mortgage for his hotel. And some of the workers haven’t been paid for five weeks.
Mario, however, runs a successful business with his wife, Sophie. But unlike Tony’s loving relationship with his son Ally, Mario has no relationship to his son. The phrase “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” was written for Mario. Mario loves his brother truly, but has a hard time showing it.
Product description for A Hole in the Head
A Hole in the Head is a “genuinely entertaining” (Newsweek), Oscar (r)-winning comedy, directed by the legendary Frank Capra at his uproarious best! Meet Tony (Frank Sinatra), a wannabe big shot who’s constantly broke. And while the carefree widower may not have money, he is rich in one respect: he’s got the unconditional love of his adoring young son, Ally (Eddie Hodges). But when Tony asks his wealthy brother, Mario (Edward G. Robinson), for a loan, Mario, who disapproves of Tony’s swinging lifestyle, agrees to back his brother on one condition: settle down or give him custody of Ally! Tony may be desperate, but he’d have to have A Hole in the Head to agree to Mario’s terms wouldn’t he? *1959: Music (Song, “High Hopes“)
Cast of characters
- Frank Sinatra (High Society) … Tony Manetta
- Edward G. Robinson (The Stranger) … Mario Manetta
- Eleanor Parker (Between Two Worlds) … Eloise Rogers
- Carolyn Jones (The Addams Family, House of Wax) … Shirl
- Thelma Ritter (All About Eve) … Sophie Manetta
- Keenan Wynn (Neptune’s Daughter) … Jerry Marks
- Joi Lansing (Hillbillies in a Haunted House) … Dorine
- Connie Sawyer … Miss Wexler
- James Komack … Julius Manetta
- Dub Taylor (Bonnie and Clyde, The Rescuers) … Fred
- George DeWitt … Mendy Yales
- Benny Rubin (Here Comes Mr. Jordan) … Abe Diamond
Editorial review of A Hole in the Head courtesy of Amazon.com
A pair of Franks make an agreeable meal in A Hole in the Head, the movie that brought together messrs. Sinatra and Capra. While Sinatra was on his movie-star hot streak, Capra had been out of film for a few years, having conquered Hollywood in the 1930s and then fallen out of love with it. Capra found in Arnold Schulman’s stage play a different kind of hero from his past Mr. Deeds and Mr. Smith: a Miami hotelier with big debts, young son, wayward eye, and, well, high hopes.
The role fits Sinatra like a blue-eyed glove: he dodges creditors while hoping for a handout from his disapproving older brother (Edward G. Robinson), who in turn strongly wishes his younger sibling would settle down with a nice widow (Eleanor Parker) instead of a free-spirited, bongo-playing kook (Carolyn Jones). Meanwhile, kid (Eddie Hodges, from the stage version of The Music Man) believes in his old man, to a fault.
This easygoing tale shows Capra in a mellow, cooled-off mood; the propulsive rhythm of his 1930s pictures is nowhere to be seen, and the film does go on too long. He hits his stride when Sinatra approaches an old friend (Keenan Wynn) in search of backing for his big dream, a Florida resort modeled after Disneyland. (A Disney resort in Florida? Crazy.) Those scenes, which mash up excitement, disappointment, and humiliation, are the old sweet-sour Capra formula. Of Sinatra’s two Sammy Cahn-Jimmy Van Heusen tunes, “All My Tomorrows” plays under the opening credits, but wasn’t the song people whistled as they exited the theater. That was “High Hopes,” the irresistibly catchy hymn to optimism, sung by Sinatra and Hodges in an appealingly loosey-goosey two-shot. It won the Best Song Oscar; the other nominees never had a chance. –Robert Horton
Updated May 16, 2022