The Joker Is Wild (1957)


Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB

USA, 1957Screenplay by , based on the book by Cinematography by Produced by Music by Walter ScharfProduction Design by , Costume Design by Film Editing by .

Frank Sinatra gives a terrific performance as real-life performer Joe E. Lewis, a golden-throated singer whose refusal to be pushed around by the mob nearly gets him killed after he decides to quit a crummy speakeasy to perform at a classier joint. A gangster’s thugs beat Lewis up so badly that he is no longer able to sing, and after recovering, and a number of years of hiding out from the world, he comes back as a nightclub entertainer and comic. Unfortunately, he has brought his drinking problem along with him and his penchant for self-destruction alienates him from his friends and the women (Jeanne Crain, , who is fabulous) who love him. The producers cram as many songs as possible into the opening of the film to really give Sinatra the chance to show off his skills, and the true-life biography has clearly been tailored to suit Ole Blue Eyes in personality and style, but as a man bent on destroying everything good in his life he comes very close to recreating the intensity of his career best work in The Man With The Golden Arm. The Oscar winning song “All The Way” is just one of the highlights of this glamorous and indulgent but never cheap or ridiculous melodrama, one which tells its subject’s story with a great deal of sympathy and understanding.

Academy AwardBest Original Song (“All The Way”)

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