A Hole in the Head (1959)

a hole in the head poster

I received A Hole in the Head for my birthday in a Frank Sinatra double pack with the original Manchurian Candidate. I had put off watching it because it did not seem like a movie I would particularly enjoy. But in my quest to watch and review all of my movies, I had no choice but to put it in the player. Of course, the fact that my wife wanted to watch it prompted me a little further even to the point of watching it out of alphabetical order.

Frank Capra is the great godfather of sentimental movies. Many of these are deservedly hailed by fans and critics. From Mr. Smith Goes to Washington to It’s a Wonderful Life and Arsenic and Old Lace Capra made movies about the little guys fighting the system and coming out on top. These movies are sentimental enough to be dubbed “Capracorn” by critics but are handled with masterful hands that rise above the schmaltz created by so many others. Besides little guys, he also flooded his movies with eccentric characters standing out in a world full of normal folk.  Sadly, A Hole in the Head tries to mix both of these Capra types and fails on both accounts.

The film is the second to last picture ever made by Capra and was the beginning of an attempted comeback, as he’d taken a break from making Hollywood pictures. But instead of a comeback, this film serves only to remind us of what Capra used to be. Frank Sinatra plays a down-on-his-luck big dreamer who is about to be evicted from his hotel business in Miami, Florida. He calls up his brother, Edward G Robinson, and sister-in-law Thelma Ritter for help pretending his son is sick. Robinson and his wife quickly head down from New York to see what’s going on. Hilarity and sentimentality ensue. Swinging Sinatra butts heads with button-down Robinson until a quick ending and easy solution is found.

The performances of the stars are fine. At this point in their careers, Sinatra and Robinson are essentially playing themselves. Although Sinatra is more up and coming to the declining Robinson. There are some good jokes and the simple story is fair enough as it is. Capra fills Sinatra’s hotel with an odd collection of eccentrics that seem to have no other purpose but to fill up some time and tell a few jokes. The ending of the movie seems tied on and creates changes to some characters without any real provocation. The cheese factor is high even for a Capra film and it’s not subdued by any superb performances. The drama is not elevated above the schlock you would see in a made-for-TV movie.

The stand out of the film is Sinatra and his son singing the classic “High Hopes”. Being a fan of Sinatra more as a singer than an actor this amusing break in the middle of the picture helped keep my hopes up for a decent picture. Those hopes were not shattered, nor were they completely fulfilled. For beginners of “Capracorn” you should pick out some of his earlier, superior films. But for a lonely night in need of some corny sentiment, this is some fluffy candy that just might fill.

2 thoughts on “A Hole in the Head (1959)

  1. It’d be interesting to compare the original Manchurian Candidate to the re-make from a couple of years ago.

    Did Capra do the movie version of the play The Man Who Came To Dinner? If not, he would have done a great job from the way you depict his work. I’ve known, sort of, what you were saying about Capra, but never thought too much about it. The bit about the apartment filled with eccentrics reminded me of TMWCTD.

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