"From the Bottom to the Top": Frank Sinatra, the American Myth of Success, and the Italian-American Image

By Frontani, Michael | Journal of American Culture (Malden, MA), June 2005 | Go to article overview

"From the Bottom to the Top": Frank Sinatra, the American Myth of Success, and the Italian-American Image


Frontani, Michael, Journal of American Culture (Malden, MA)


When one thinks of Frank Sinatra, numerous images come to mind. Some will think of the young crooner, heartthrob to countless bobbysoxers; some will think of the cocky leader of the so-called Rat Pack. There is the bellicose casino owner daring the authorities to shut him down after it is reported that a well-known Mafioso had visited the property. There is the man of great philanthropy, and great cruelty. There is the liberal star challenging the McCarthyism of the nation's capital, the active democrat supporting John Kennedy in the 1960 presidential election, and the Reagan Republican campaigning for the "great communicator" in the 1980 election. There is the unrepentant womanizer, and the spurned lover. There is the broken man, nevertheless persevering to once again scale the heights of success. For most people, one's recollections of Frank Sinatra share at least one essential feature: they are based upon media constructs, the product of media industries promulgating information satisfying various agendas and paymasters. As such, the meanings of texts comprising those media constructs are of paramount concern for any analysis of Sinatra's cultural importance.

This article focuses on national media coverage of Sinatra, from his first appearance in a national magazine, Newsweek in March 1943, through his "fall from grace" during the late 1940s and early 1950s, to his eventual and ultimate rise back to the top of the entertainment industry following his Oscar-winning success for From Here to Eternity (1953). The media images that came to dominate the national discourse on Sinatra throughout his career were the products of specific organizations operating at a particular time. It is the thesis of this study that the Sinatra known to millions that is, Sinatra's image-was promulgated through a national yet New York-centered media that, ensconced in an environment alive with both nativist and progressive rhetoric, presented Frank Sinatra, implicitly and explicitly, in ways consistent with local representations of Italian Americans. That is, the national media disseminated, through Sinatra's image, stereotypes of Italians and Italian Americans that originally circulated in local press items and progressive literature focused primarily upon migration of southern Italians to the United States from 1890 to 1920. Within this context, this study provides an analysis of Sinatra's image, with particular reference to the American myth of success.

Texts, Terms, and Concepts

Texts

This study addresses the dissemination of stereotypes in the national mass media. Hence, Time magazine, "perhaps the most often-read newsmagazine in the United States" (Noune and Nourie 495), was chosen because of its status as a "gatekeeper" for information distributed to the public. It was, and remains, among the most read magazines in the nation. Newsweek was chosen for similar reasons. This study, however, while focused upon Time and Newsweek, integrates analysis of materials appearing in other national publications, the vast majority of which were published in New York City (see Appendix). Seventy-one articles published were analyzed, fiftyseven of which were published in New York. Embedded within these texts is a star-making apparatus that had been perfected in Hollywood's promotion of its product and had developed its own values and themes. Of all of the conventions present in the star image, perhaps none is as ubiquitous as that of the American myth of success, and it is to this myth that we now turn.

The American Myth of Success

For Richard Weiss, author of The American Myth of Success (1969), the eponymous myth is among the "most enduring expressions of American popular ideals," the notion that "ours is an open society, where birth, family, and class do not significantly circumscribe individual possibilities": "The belief that all men, in accordance with certain rules, but exclusively by their own efforts, can make of their lives what they will has been widely popularized for well over a century. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

"From the Bottom to the Top": Frank Sinatra, the American Myth of Success, and the Italian-American Image
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.