2 March: The slings and arrows of Rocky Fortune


Sinatra. (Photo: NBC.)

Sinatra. (Photo: NBC.)

Depending upon whose analysis you heed, Frank Sinatra was either bored with or marking time with Rocky Fortune. The premise of starring Sinatra as a down on his luck temp worker stumbling his way into crime solving wasn’t necessarily a terrible one. As often as not Sinatra has seemed to go through the motions, to several critics and to many listeners.

Yet a closer listen discovers traces of the same quality Sinatra has brought to the luckless Angelo Maggio in From Here to Eternity, the air of a once-blessed kid brought down hard. Which is exactly what Sinatra has been until he scored that career-remaking film triumph, from the paralysis of his musical career in the wake of his 1950 vocal cord injury to the collapse of his marriage to Ava Gardner.

β€œIt was Ava who taught him how to sing a torch song,” his most sympaticao musical arranger, Nelson Riddle, would observe in due course. β€œShe was the love of his life and he lost her.”

Perhaps it was Gardner, too, who taught Sinatra that no amount of ring-a-ding-ding could protect him from such blows, and that it might be a fool’s errand to try too hard, too soon. Like Maggio, Fortune gives the invariable air of a young man trying to make sense of things that make little sense. If only Rocky Fortune had benefitted from the kind of writing and direction that’s going to deliver From Here to Eternity to film immortality at the Academy Awards three weeks after tonight’s Fortune episode.

Maybe in old-time radio’s dying decade nothing could have made a difference. But considering Sinatra’s talent it couldn’t have hurt to try harder, because with Rocky Fortune there was something there, however inconsistently it was allowed to breathe.


Rocky Fortune: The Doctor’s Dilemna (NBC, 1954)

An eerie telegraph to Sinatra’s future film role in The Man with the Golden Arm (as a heroin-addicted drummer leaving the joint bent on staying away from what was once called the horse).

Tonight, Fortune works for a grateful attorney (Jack Carroll) who wants him to learn more about a doctor (Maurice Hart) whose burial in work following his wife’s death alienates his sensitive son. The dilemna: the son has stolen a large amount of narcotics from his father’s offices, above and beyond what he himself needs for a fix, leaving the stricken doctor torn between his legal duty to report missing narcotics and his anguish as a father bolted upright by his own alienation.

One of the series’ genuine highlights. Stay with it.

Additional cast: Georgia Ellis, Barney Phillips. Announcer: John Wald. Director: Andrew C. Love. Writer: Norm Sickel.

Further Channel Surfing . . .

The Shadow: Death Rides a Broomstick (crime drama; Mutual, 1941)
Fibber McGee & Molly: Breakfast in Bed for Molly (comedy; NBC, 1943)
The Abbott & Costello Show: With Hedda Hopper (comedy; NBC, 1944)
Suspense: Portrait Without a Face (mystery/thriller; CBS, 1944)
The Fred Allen Show: Murder in the Penthouse (comedy; NBC, 1947)
Fibber McGee & Molly: Volunteering for Jury Duty (comedy; NBC, 1948)
Adventures of Maisie: The Farmer’s Matchmaker; or, Maisie Plays Cupid on the Farm (comedy; Mutual, 1950)
Dragnet: The Big Kill (crime drama; NBC, 1950)
Fibber McGee & Molly: Income Tax Preparation (comedy; NBC, 1954)
Frontier Gentleman: The Lost Mine (Western; CBS, 1958)

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