By Matt Micucci
The Frank Sinatra Show‘s 1957 Christmas special, co-hosted by Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby is a treat for those looking to jazz up their Christmas preparations.
Between 1950 and 1952, Sinatra made his first attempt at hosting his own television series. It aired on CBS and was a major disappointment, taken off the air before its scheduled run was over. This was of course due to the unfavourable publicity that had affected his career at this point, mostly due to his controversial affair with Ava Gardner. But when it came time to try it again, this time on ABC from October 1957 to June 1958, Sinatra had risen out of the ashes of his bad days like a phoenix to become America’s most popular entertainer, which ensured The Frank Sinatra Show great success.
The series was originally slated to include thirteen variety shows, thirteen dramas starring Sinatra and ten dramas presented by Sinatra. The variety shows were always by far more popular than the drama, and they starred such guests as his fellow Summit leaders Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin as well as others from Peggy Lee and Ella Fitzgerald to Robert Mitchum and Natalie Wood. For these shows, Sinatra was granted complete artistic freedom.
The show’s run meant that it would be playing right through Christmas, hence giving way to the production of its most fondly remembered episode – the Christmas Special entitled Happy Holidays with Bing and Frank. As the title suggests, it was a variety musical Sinatra co-hosted with his idol and former “rival” Bing Crosby. The two had co-starred the previous year in the beloved musical film High Society.
This episode has very little narrative. Crosby visits Sinatra’s house in preperation for Christmas, and the two enjoy each other’s company. The show is of course very much driven by the two performing some beloved Christmas classics. This is done in duet form on such numbers as The Christmas Song, and solo, with Frank doing Santa Claus is Coming to Town and Bing singing Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer. The finish, of course, sees the two taking one final libation from the festive punch bowl and indulging into a performance of the best selling song of all time, according to the Guinness World Book of Records, White Christmas, which was popularized by Crosby and was the opening track of Sinatra’s first Christmas themed album from 1948.
The orchestration by Nelson Riddle is lush and romantic, echoing the warmth of the show overall. Interestingly, this was also the only episode in the series to be filmed in color, despite the fact that it could only be broadcast in black and white. It is an added bonus for a modern audience looking to jazz up their Christmas preparations , as the special is available on DVD. Happy Holidays with Bing and Frank is fun and a further testimony of the charisma and abilities of these two great entertainers at a peak of their powers.