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Las Vegas Nights--"The Last Frontier Town"

Las Vegas Nights--"The Last Frontier Town"(1941)


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teaser Las Vegas Nights--"The Last Frontier Town" (1941)

Las Vegas Nights (1941) is a lightweight entertainment about three sisters with a nightclub act who go to Vegas, win money, lose money, inherit money, open their own club, and get hired by Tommy Dorsey - but mainly this picture is of interest for Dorsey's wonderful music and for the feature film debut of Frank Sinatra.

It was also Dorsey's feature debut, and without his band, the movie would barely be worth a mention. The New York Times called it "utterly lacking in snap" but also said, "on account of Tommy Dorsey and his band being hopefully but vainly involved, there may be some mild jitterbugging interest."

The review didn't even mention Sinatra, which is understandable since he wasn't yet a superstar and actually appears only fleetingly (and uncredited) in the movie, crooning "I'll Never Smile Again" with Dorsey's female singing group, the Pied Pipers. In fact, the movie only lets us hear part of the song.

The song, however, had already become a major hit with the public. Written by Ruth Lowe, it was recorded by Dorsey and Sinatra in November 1939 and released in January 1940. It reached #1 on the charts on July 27 and stayed there until October 19. It was not only one of Sinatra's first big hits with Dorsey's band, it was a career milestone, and he received more publicity than he ever had before. When the sheet music went on sale, it was Sinatra's likeness and name that commanded the cover, with the Pied Pipers relegated to the background.

When Dorsey's band performed in public, young bobbysoxers would call out for "I'll Never Smile Again," and then they'd sway on the floor and kiss while Sinatra gave them what they wanted to hear: "I'll never smile again, until I smile at you..."

The band was playing an engagement at L.A.'s Palladium when they were hired by Paramount to do Las Vegas Nights; Sinatra got $15 a day for his troubles. His biographer Anthony Summers has written that at this time, the married Sinatra "set himself up in a luxury suite, charging the bill to Dorsey, and installed in it a blonde actress, Alora Gooding." She was but one of many affairs. Dorsey later recalled witnessing the effect Sinatra had on women: "I used to stand there on the bandstand so amazed I'd almost forget to take my solos. You could feel the excitement coming out of the crowds when that kid stood up to sing. He was no matinee idol. He was a skinny kid with big ears. Yet what he did to women was something awful."

Other songs here include "Song of India," "I've Gotta Ride," and "Dolores," which was nominated for an Oscar®. (It lost to "The Last Time I Saw Paris" from Lady Be Good.) "Dolores" would later become a number-one hit for Sinatra and Dorsey, though it is performed here by vaudeville comic Bert Wheeler.

Legend has it that Bing Crosby visited the set when Sinatra sang his song, and afterwards said something to the effect of, "Real nice, Frank. You're going to go far."

Producer: William LeBaron
Director: Ralph Murphy
Screenplay: Harry Clork, Ernest Pagano, Eddie Welch (additional dialogue)
Cinematography: William C. Mellor
Art Direction: Hans Dreier, A. Earl Hedrick
Music: Louis Alter
Film Editing: Arthur P. Schmidt
Cast: Constance Moore (Norma Jennings), Bert Wheeler (Stu Grant), Phil Regan (Bill Stevens), Lillian Cornell (Mildred Jennings), Virginia Dale (Patsy Lynch), Hank Ladd (Hank Bevis), Betty Brewer (Katy), Henry Kolker (William Stevens, Sr.).

by Jeremy Arnold

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