Cast & Crew
Edward G. Robinson
Twenty years ealier, Tony Manetta, now a forty-year-old widower with an eleven-year-old son named Ally, came to Miami Beach from the Bronx with two buddies, Jerry Marks and Mendy, hoping to make a fortune. He now lives like a "big shot," but in truth is broke and in danger of losing the modest Garden of Eden Hotel, which he owns. After his banker, Abe Diamond, gives him forty-eight hours to come up with the money he owes in back payments, Tony calls his conservative older brother Mario in New York to ask for a $5,300 loan. Mario, a self-made small businessman who disdains his brother's lifestyle, refuses, but when Tony falsely tells him that his son Ally, whom the childless Mario and his wife Sophie adore, is sick, Sophie convinces her husband to fly to Miami. Tony's current girl friend, the free-spirited Shirl, would like him to let Ally live with Mario and Sophie, so that Tony would be able to enjoy a responsibility-free life with her. After Mario and Sophie arrive and find Ally well, Mario, who repeatedly calls his brother a "bum," offers to set him up in a five-and-dime store if he gets married and settles down. Seeing that Ally is afraid that he will be forced to live with Mario and Sophie, Tony agrees to meet a widow whom Sophie knows, Mrs. Eloise Rogers, who also lives in Miami. Tony then explains to Shirl that he is just trying to placate his brother and promises to take Shirl to dinner that night, then fly with her to Cuba for a romantic overnight stay. Shirl hopes that she can convince Tony to keep traveling with her after Cuba to places undetermined. When the kind and attractive Mrs. Rogers arrives at the hotel, Ally likes her immediately and prays that Tony will marry her, but when Mario boorishly explains his plan to set her and Tony up in a small business, then crudely asks if her deceased husband left her any money, Mrs. Rogers is so embarrassed, she walks out. Tony catches up with her and after a short spat, they buy groceries and drive to her apartment for dinner. Shirl sees them leave and cries in her room. As Mrs. Rogers prepares dinner, she talks about the accidental drowning deaths of her husband and son and admits that she is lonely. Tony, feeling she is too fine a person to "kid along," admits that he only agreed to meet her so that Mario would loan him money. To his surprise, Mrs. Rogers invites him to remain and says she is glad to be needed, even if it as only as a "stooge." When Tony returns to the hotel and says he had a wonderful time, Sophie and Ally are hopeful, but Mario, suspicious of his brother, refuses to give him any money until he opens the five-and-dime store. After Tony discovers that Shirl has left, he confronts Mario, telling him he refuses to become like him. Just as Mario is threatening to take Tony to court over custody of Ally, Tony is invited to a party at the Fontainebleau Hotel by his old pal Jerry, who is now a wealthy promoter. At the extravagant party, Tony tells Jerry about his dream of buying up decaying property and constructing a Florida Disneyland. Because Jerry acts as if he is interested in investing, Tony agrees to meet him in an hour at a dog track to discuss it further. To get enough money to act like a big shot, Tony quickly sells his Cadillac convertible for $500, and at the track, when Jerry and his vivacious secretary-girl friend Dorine each bet $500 on a dog, Tony matches their bets. His dog wins, and when he learns that it paid enough for him to make up his back payments on the hotel, he exuberantly calls Ally. Mario, upon hearing the news, is distraught that Tony would get the money from someone other than his own brother. Later, when Tony sees that a dog named "Lucky Ally" is entered in the next race and Jerry suggests they let their bets ride, Tony agrees and prays for the dog to win. The dog loses, and Jerry, unaffected by the loss, is about to leave when Tony grabs him and asks about their deal. Jerry reminds Tony "never try to promote a promoter" and gives him a wad of bills, which Tony throws in his face. After one of Jerry's thugs punches Tony in the stomach, doubling him over, a distraught Tony returns to the hotel where Ally has assembled his friends, including Mrs. Rogers, to celebrate. Admitting he is a bum, Tony asks Mario to take Ally because he does not want his son to become like him. Although Mario now feels sorry for Tony and offers him money to keep the hotel, Tony refuses it. Hoping to convince Ally to go with Mario, he lashes out at the boy, pretending to blame him for his loss of the hotel, his money and Shirl. When this does not work, Tony slaps Ally and walks off to the beach. The next day, Tony watches from the oceanfront as Ally, Mario and Sophie say goodbye to Mrs. Rogers and get into a cab. A still distraught Ally runs back to his father, however, and they fall into the surf, embracing and crying. Mrs. Rogers then invites them to a meal at her place, and Mario and Sophie, deciding to take their first vacation in years, follow them as they run playfully along the beach.
Edward G. Robinson
B. S. Pully
Jack R. Berne
Arthur S. Black Jr.
William H. Daniels
James Van Heusen
A Hole In the Head
Since the film was directed by Frank Capra, and was advertised as a warm family comedy, audiences may have expected a lighthearted romp. The comedy is there, and the warmth, but there is a darker, desperate undercurrent in the film, which suits Sinatra's edgy personality. He plays Tony Manetta, a small-time promoter running a shabby hotel in Miami's South Beach neighborhood, a run-down area at the time. The widowed Tony is raising a young son (Eddie Hodges) and dreaming of creating a Disneyland-type resort. But he's about to lose his hotel because of his irresponsible ways, and his stodgy businessman brother (Edward G. Robinson) is after him to give up his freewheeling life and settle down with a respectable widow (Eleanor Parker).
A Hole in the Head was based on a Broadway play of the same name by Arnold Schulman, which had starred Paul Douglas. In the original play, the characters were Jewish, but for the film, which Schulman also scripted, they were changed to Italian, over Schulman's objections. Robinson, who was Jewish, explained the change to Leonard Spigelgass, who co-authored his autobiography: "Jews are out of fashion." That's probably too simplistic, and the fact that both Sinatra and Capra were Italian was obviously part of the reason. Still, the script retained much of the Yiddish-style humor, especially in the character of the older brother as played by Robinson.
The film gave Sinatra the opportunity to work with two men he greatly admired, Robinson and Capra, both of whom were his personal choices for the film. Sinatra's agent packaged the film as a "Sincap" production, with Sinatra getting two-thirds of the profits, and Capra one-third. It no doubt rankled Capra that he was the lesser partner and had to share the creative control with his leading man, but Sinatra was still a huge star, and Capra had not made a film in eight years. At 61, the director had to prove that he wasn't over the hill. It didn't take long for Capra to show that he still knew how to handle stars. As an actor, Sinatra was at his best on the first take, and hated to rehearse or do multiple takes. Robinson, on the other hand, liked extensive rehearsals, and got better as he went along. According to Capra's autobiography, he managed to satisfy both men by having Robinson rehearse with someone else reading Sinatra's lines, and convincing Robinson that to do so was not disrespectful to him. And Capra instructed the other actors to keep it interesting for Sinatra by improvising dialogue, while Capra kept the camera rolling.
The superb cast featured veterans Thelma Ritter as Robinson's warm-hearted wife, and Keenan Wynn as Sinatra's old friend, now a successful businessman. Carolyn Jones, who had been nominated for an Oscar® for playing a "kooky" girl in The Bachelor Party (1957), played a comic variation of that role, Sinatra's free-spirited girlfriend. Making his film debut in A Hole in the Head was 12-year old Eddie Hodges, who played Sinatra's son. Hodges had appeared in the Broadway show The Music Man (1957), and had also been a contestant on a quiz show, Name that Tune. (His partner on the quiz show was future astronaut and future Senator John Glenn.) Hodges later appeared in several other films, most notably The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1960), and had several hit records in the early 1960s.
Some of the Miami scenes were filmed on location, and part of the fun of watching A Hole in the Head is seeing a Miami Beach very different from today's high-glitz version. The Fontainebleau Hotel, then the epitome of Miami glamour and luxury, was the setting for a few scenes. The Cardozo Hotel, now refurbished and owned by singer Gloria Estefan, was the location for the Garden of Eden, Tony's shabby hotel. Today, of course, South Beach is one of Miami's hippest neighborhoods, and Tony Manetta's impossible dream, a Florida Disneyland, is a longtime reality.
Most critics liked A Hole in the Head, and welcomed Capra's return. Bosley Crowther wrote in the New York Times, "It is hard to say which is the more exciting...the picture itself, or the drama of Mr. Capra's amazing return." Crowther also had high praise for the acting. "Edward G. Robinson is superb...Eleanor Parker is touchingly responsive....But the prize goes to Mr. Sinatra, who makes the hero of this vibrant color film a softhearted, hardboiled, white-souled black sheep whom we will cherish, along with Mr. Deeds and Mr. Smith, as one of the great guys that Mr. Capra has escorted to the American screen." The Times picked A Hole in the Head as one of the top 10 films of the year. Peter Bogdanovich, then a critic for Frontier magazine, was one the few who disagreed, calling the film "overlong, meandering, and mawkishly sentimental." But his was a minority opinion, and A Hole in the Head was a box office success, tying for #11 for the year on Variety's list of the year's top-grossing films.
"High Hopes" not only won an Oscar®, but also had a new life as a political campaign song. Peter Lawford, one of the charter members of Sinatra's "Rat Pack," was married to John F. Kennedy's sister. In 1960, Sinatra and the rest of the Pack were active in Kennedy's presidential campaign, and with new lyrics, "High Hopes" became JFK's theme song. Schulman's original play also found new life, as a Broadway musical called Golden Rainbow (1968-69) starring Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme. The show did not use the song "High Hopes," but one of the songs from the score, "I Gotta Be Me" did become a hit for Sammy Davis, Jr.
Frank Capra went on to make one more film, Pocketful of Miracles (1961), a big budget, color remake of his 1933 hit, Lady for a Day. In spite of wonderful performances by Bette Davis and an Oscar®-nominated Peter Falk, it was not a success. Capra spent years trying to get financing for various projects, but he never directed another film.
Director: Frank Capra
Producer: Frank Capra
Screenplay: Arnold Schulman, based on his play
Cinematography: William H. Daniels
Editor: William Hornbeck
Costume Design: Edith Head
Art Direction: Eddie Imazu
Music: Nelson Riddle, song "High Hopes" by James Van Heusen & Sammy Cahn
Cast: Frank Sinatra (Tony Manetta), Edward G. Robinson (Mario Manetta), Eddie Hodges (Ally Manetta), Eleanor Parker (Mrs. Rogers), Carolyn Jones (Shirl), Thelma Ritter (Sophie Manetta), Keenan Wynn (Jerry Marks), Joi Lansing (Dorine).
by Margarita Landazuri
A Hole In the Head
Life is just a bowl of cherries- Fred
Why- Tony Manetta
I don't know. I ain't a philosopher!- Fred
The film's working title was All My Tomorrows. According to various contemporary news items, the play went through a number of transformations before opening on Broadway: Arthur Schulman first wrote it in a playwriting course as a one-act piece entitled "The Dragon's Head" in the late 1940s, and later expanded it to a full-length play entitled My Fiddle Has Three Strings, which was tried out in Westport, CT in 1949. He then wrote a new version, which was never produced, and rewrote it as a television play which ran on Playwright's '56.
When Garson Kanin expressed an interest in producing the play, Schulman revised it again, and it opened on Broadway as A Hole in the Head in February 1957, starring Paul Douglas. After a preview of the film, Schulman wrote a novelization of the story, which, he said, contained material not found in any previous version. According to news items and information in the press book on the film, Frank Sinatra saw the play on Broadway and in 1957 paid a reported $200,000 to the author for the screen rights. Sinatra hired Schulman to write the screenplay, then contacted Frank Capra, who agreed to direct.
According to Capra's autobiography, with a handshake, Sinatra and Capra formed SinCap Productions in which he held one-third interest, while Sinatra retained two-thirds. Because of Sinatra's previous commitments, production was not scheduled until late 1958. According to his autobiography, Capra, in the meantime, planned to make a film for Columbia Pictures, but when Columbia president Harry Cohn died, the project was cancelled. As noted in several reviews, A Hole in the Head was Capra's first feature film since his 1951 Paramount release Here Comes the Groom.
According to news items and the film's press book, after having seen Eddie Hodges on the television quiz show Name That Tune, Capra introduced the young actor, who was then appearing in The Music Man on Broadway, to Sinatra, and they agreed to hire him. A Hole in the Head marked Hodges' feature-film debut. Connie Sawyer, in her screen debut, reprised her role as "Miss Wexler" from the Broadway production. The character of "Jerry Marks" was newly created for the film. As noted in some reviews, the principal characters, who were Jewish in the play, had been changed to Italian Americans in the film. The Los Angeles Times reviewer commented that the change seemed to be "more of a loss than a gain. As it is, Edward G. Robinson, called Mario Manetta... makes little effort to disguise the ethnically Jewish humor of the character originally known as Max."
Much of the filming was done in locations at Miami Beach, including the Fontainebleau Hotel, West Flagler Dog Track, the Cardozo Hotel, which doubled for the fictional "Garden of Eden" hotel, and the South Beach oceanfront area. The company also had one day of shooting at Hollywood Beach near Oxnard, CA. Interiors were shot at the Samuel Goldwyn Studios, and after most of the crew returned to California from Florida, a second unit remained in Miami Beach to shoot the opening credit sequence, which has the cast names preceding the title, as well as the title, in letters connected to 300 feet of netting pulled by the Goodyear blimp.
According to the film's press book, director of photography William Daniels used the new high-speed Panatar lens developed by Panavision for color photography, which allowed outdoor night scenes to be shot with one-tenth the lighting that was normally required. According to a news item in Variety, shooting in Miami occasioned two lawsuits against the producing company, and filming, which was supposed to take three to four weeks in Miami Beach, was stopped after an aborted two weeks. Hollywood Citizen-News notes that the party scene at the Fontainebleau Hotel included water skiers from Cypress Gardens, two orchestras, wild birds and "some 85 beauties, most of them hired locally."
The film contains a gag Capra used in The Strong Man, starring Harry Langdon, which he directed in 1927 (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30). In both films, the protagonist carries a woman up a flight of stairs while walking backward and without realizing it continues climbing up the steps of a ladder before falling. The song "High Hopes" won the Academy Award for Best Song. On June 10, 1959, just prior to the release of A Hole in the Head, Capra appeared as the honoree on Ralph Edwards' popular television biography program This Is Your Life.
According to Capra's autobiography, problems on the set occurred because he found that Sinatra's acting suffered from repeated rehearsals, while Robinson needed them. Although at first Robinson resented Capra's insistence that they film without rehearsals, Robinson soon accepted the situation and gave a performance which Daily Variety called "the comedy stand-out of the film."
Although in the late 1950s the South Beach area of Miami, where the film was set, was overshadowed by the more glamorous areas surrounding large hotels like the Fontainebleau, beginning in the mid-1980s the South Beach was revitalized. The 1939, art deco Cardozo Hotel, which appeared as the Garden of Eden in the picture, was completely renovated and subsequently reopened as a small, luxury hotel, in keeping with the now trendy South Beach neighborhood in which it is located. The "Florida Disneyland" that "Tony Manetta" dreams of building in the film, eventually became Disney World, which opened near Orlando, FL in October 1971.
Voted One of the Year's Ten Best Films by the 1959 New York Times Film Critics.
Released in United States 1959
Released in United States 1959