Frank Sinatra’s family donated many of the items in the exhibition, “Sinatra: An American Icon.” But even if I didn’t tell you this, you could probably figure it out for yourself once you saw the exhibition.
Sinatra’s music and acting and public persona are explored, of course, but there are also a lot of intimate, behind-the-scenes items that make this exhibition a must-see for any Sinatra fan: Stage plots from 1943 and ’45, a collection of hotel room keys, home movies, abstract paintings that Sinatra made himself and gave to family members, one of his ’80s tuxes (as well as more casual clothes from his wardrobe). The Sinatra family has a warehouse full of stuff, and opened it up for this exhibition, organizer Robert Santelli of the Grammy Museum at L.A. Live told members of the press in a pre-opening press event, earlier this month.
The exhibition, which celebrates Sinatra’s Centennial (he was born in 1915), was curated by the Grammy Museum in collaboration with the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts and the Sinatra family, and can be seen at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center through Sept. 4. There is no admission charge; visit nypl.org/sinatra for information.
Sinatra’s early years in New Jersey are explored, of course, with items like photos of his parents, who raised him in Hoboken; a mini-exhibit on the Rustic Cabin in Englewood Cliffs, where Sinatra performed early on; and a poster for a Bing Crosby concert at the Loew’s Jersey Theatre in Jersey City that Sinatra attended, and was influenced by. (A great quote from Crosby, “Frank Sinatra is a singer who comes along once in a lifetime, but why did he have to come in mine?,” is on another of the exhibition’s wall, in large letters.)
You can watch Sinatra’s short film, “The House I Live In,” listen to an episode of the radio program “Songs by Sinatra” on a vintage radio, and mix your own arrangement of a Sinatra recording. Artifacts include a hand-sewn bowtie made for Sinatra by his first wife, Nancy; a set of golf clubs; iconic black and white photos of Sinatra by Herman Leonard; classic album covers; gold and platinum records; fan club newsletters; movie costumes; various award statuettes (including an Oscar, a Grammy, a Golden Globe and a Congressional Gold Medal), and drawings of Sinatra at various stages of his career by Al Hirschfeld.
Here are some of the other free programs the library is offering in conjunction with the exhibition.
March 16: Screening of the 1949 movie, “On the Town,” with guests from the musical’s current Broadway revival.
March 19: Ben Yagoda discusses his new book, “The B-Side: The Death of Tin Pan Alley and the Rebirth of the Great American Song.”
April 2: Screening of the 1953 movie, “From Here to Eternity.
April 18: A rarely heard 1947 radio broadcast of Sinatra performing songs by Irving Berlin with Jane Powell and the Pied Pipers will be played.
April 25: Singer Karen Luschar presents a concert titled “Sinatra: Time After Time.”
May 4: Screening of the 1955 movie, “The Man With the Golden Arm.”
May 14: Singer Harvey Granat will perform songs written by Sammy Cahn and sung by Sinatra, with accompaniment by David Lahm.
May 15: “Frank Sinatra Singalong Show and Tell.” An opportunity to sing along to live performances of Sinatra songs, and tell your own stories.
June 4: Screening of the 1956 movie, “High Society.”
June 8: Screening of the 1957 movie, “Pal Joey.”
June 15: Screening of the 1959 movie, “A Hole in the Head.”
June 20: “Sinatra on the Radio”: Excerpts from Sophie Tucker’s private recording collection and a 1945 VJ Day show with Bob Hope, Meredith Wilson and Orson Welles.
July 2: Screening of the 1960 movie, “Ocean’s Eleven.”
July 20: Screening of the 1962 movie, “The Manchurian Candidate.”
Aug. 6: Screening of the 1967 movie, “Tony Rome.”
Aug. 17: Screening of the 1968 movie, “The Detective.