CMBA Blogathon: Fabulous Films of the 50s – A Hole in the Head (1959)

Fabulous Films of the 50’s: Frank Capra’s A Hole in the Head

“Today I may not have a thing at all except for a dream or two, but I’ve got lots of plans for tomorrow, and all my tomorrows belong to you…”

First of all, I want to say that I am so truly honored to have been accepted into the Classic Movie Blog Association.  It really means a lot to me, especially because I’ve been reading and enjoying many of the CMBA bloggers for years — they are truly a very special group of passionate and knowledgable bloggers.  Secondly, I want to say that I’m feeling very sentimental about writing this particular blog post… not only because it’s about one of my favorite films of all time, but also because it brings back some very vivid and happy childhood memories for me…

A Hole in the Head Poster

I could say that A Hole in the Head is one of my all-time favorite films because it’s another Frank Capra gem, or because it stars Frank Sinatra, Edward G. Robinson and Thelma Ritter, or because the storyline is just so darn heartwarming.  And all of that would be true. Yes, definitely true…  But there’s ‘something’ even more to it than that; ‘something’ that has resonated with me ever since I was a little kid; ‘something’ that I’m not even sure I can put into words…

I distinctly remember my father introducing me to this film. I remember sitting in the living room with him as we watched it, and I remember him repeatedly saying “Watch, watch, when the chair hits Edward G. Robinson in the back of the head” every time that gag was repeated in the film.  I remember loving this movie from the first time I saw it.  I remember watching it whenever it was on TV, and I remember recording it onto a cassette tape so that I could listen to it over and over again (a treasure that I kept for many, many years). I remember loving the opening song “All My Tomorrows” and I remember determinedly singing “High Hopes” as I was roller skating around the block for the umpteeth time, exhausted and running out of steam but resolute to continue (oops there goes another rubber tree plant)… All of these memories are crystal clear in my mind even to this day — so how could I not love this movie???

Frank Sinatra and Eddie Hodges, A Hole in the Head, singing High Hopes“Oops, there goes another problem, ker-plop!”

THE PLOT:

Tony Manetta (Frank Sinatra) is a widowed dad who owns a small hotel in Miami Beach called The Garden of Eden where he lives with his 12-year-old son, Ally (Eddie Hodges). He’s also a big dreamer and a big spender with a weakness for ‘Eves.’  Tony’s nonchalant and irresponsible lifestyle constantly lands him in debt, and it has finally reached the point where he will lose his hotel if he can’t pay his landlord $5,000. With nowhere else to turn, he calls on his brother Mario (Edward G. Robinson) who has lent him money many times before. Suffice it to say that Mario is fed up with ‘the bum’s’ hard luck stories and fanciful dreams, and gives Tony an ultimatum…

THE FEATURED CAST:

Frank Sinatra, A Hole in the Head

Frank Sinatra as Tony Manetta

Tony: I’m in the hotel business in Miami Beach, Florida, working on my 1st million… If anyone thinks I’m a well-heeled big shot out on a spree, they got a hole in the head.  The truth is, I’m busted…

…..

Frank Sinatra and Eddie Hodges, A Hole in the HeadEddie Hodges as Ally, Tony’s son

Tony: Okay, once more, who’s the greatest champ of all time?
Ally: For one million dollars?
Tony: For one million dollars!
Ally: That’s easy! You are!

…..

Carolyn Jones in A Hole in the Head

Carolyn Jones as Shirl — Tony’s current ‘Eve’

Tony: Like good ole Adam, my weakness is Eves. My current Eve is a ‘lulu’. She woulda made the serpent eat the apple.

…..

James Komack, Thelma Ritter, Edward G. Robinson in A Hole in the HeadEdward G. Robinson and Thelma Ritter as Tony’s brother Mario and sister-in-law Sophie. (James Komack in the background is their son, Julius.)

Mario: He hung up. Ever see such a man??? Calls me for a loan and then hangs up on me.
Sophie: Never mind about that, what did he say about Ally?!?
Mario: What’s the difference what he said? Even when he’s lying, he’s lying.

…..

Eleanor Parker, A Hole in the HeadEleanor Parker is Mrs. Rogers — a ‘nice lady’ that Mario and Sophie think would be perfect for Tony…

Ally: Pop, it’s her!
Tony: Who?
Ally: Marilyn Monroe! Hurry Up!

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Keenan Wynn and Frank Sinatra, A Hole in the HeadKeenan Wynn (right) as Jerry Marks, Tony’s old friend who made it big.

Jerry: Get Walt Disney on the phone for me, right away!

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THE SCENES (at least some of my favorites):

Edward G. Robinson, A Hole in the HeadThe ‘chair’ that hits Mario in the back of the head every time he sits down! Used to love that as a kid 🙂

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Frank Sinatra, Thelma Ritter, Edward G. Robinson, Eddie Hodges, A Hole in the Head

Ally: He’s not a bum. He’s my pop and he’s a champ. Don’t let him call you that Pop!

…..

Carolyn Jones and Frank Sinatra, A Hole in the Head

Shirl: You think I wanna settle down with a 12-year old kid? Why do you think I left my husband? Him and his whole family kept bugging me day after day… have a baby, have a baby. Who needs a baby? I’m a baby myself. I wanna be free… have fun.
Tony: Who don’t?
Shirl: You don’t. You’re not selfish enough.
Tony: You kidding? I’m the most selfish man in the world.
Shirl: Would you leave your kid?

…..

Frank Sinatra, Thelma Ritter, Edward G. Robinson, A Hole in the Head

Mario: You know your trouble?  I’ll tell you. You’re not satisfied to be just getting along like everybody else. You want to be a millionaire. You want to live on Easy Street. Easy Street! I’ll tell you who lives on Easy Street — nobody! You want to make a million over night! Well it don’t happen that way. I’ve worked hard all my life — 14 hours a day and I made a good living. I never took a vacation in my whole life, and I’m proud of it.
Tony: Is that so? You think I’m worried about what you say?

…..

Frank Sinatra, Thelma Ritter, Edward G. Robinson, A Hole in the Head

Tony: I got imagination. You got no imagination.
Mario: You got imagination?
Tony: Yes.
Mario: I haven’t got any?
Tony: None.
Mario: You got it and you’re poor!
Tony: No, no, no. Broke many times, but never poor! You would never understand that.

…..

Frank Sinatra, Thelma Ritter, Edward G. Robinson, A Hole in the Head

Mario: Settle down with a nice little store. Find a nice little woman. Live in a nice little town.
Tony: Listen, don’t you think that’s all I think about every minute of the day, every day. So help me, I should drop dead right here!
Mario: If he dropped dead all the time he was supposed to drop dead, I’d go into the cemetery business.

…..

Frank Sinatra and Eddie Hodges, A Hole in the Head

Tony: You’ve had some luck Ally… lucky Ally… You must have been hiding behind a pole or something the afternoon they gave away the Daddies. I don’t know, lately, you know, I could be walking right past a solid block of gold, and if I touch it, splish, spaghetti, right in my hands.

…..

Frank Sinatra and Eleanor Parker, A Hole in the HeadTony: I don’t want to get married Mrs. Rogers. I never had any intention of getting married.  I had to tell you that, because I didn’t want to hurt you or kid you along. I really enjoyed meeting you Mrs. Rogers. It’s really been a pleasure…
Mrs. Rogers: Who’s going to eat all the groceries?
Tony: Mrs. Rogers, maybe you didn’t understand me, but I needed you — for a stooge.

…..

Frank Sinatra, Thelma Ritter, Edward G. Robinson, A Hole in the Head

Tony: What do you want from me, my blood? What do you want me to do…crawl on my hands and knees? All I ask, you lend me a couple of bucks — you expect me to become a penny-grubbing five and dime character like you. You expect me to change my way of life — be you instead of me! Not a chance! You take your big brother sanctimonious act back to NY and turn blue!

…..

Frank Sinatra and Eddie Hodges, A Hole in the Head

Tony: I can’t go through with it Ally. I mean, you think I’m a champ? Do you think a champ would marry a nice woman like Mrs. Rogers to get a few lousy bucks from your Uncle Mario?

…..

Frank Sinatra, Eddie Hodges, Edward G. Robinson, A Hole in the Head

Mario: Ally, go pack your things, tomorrow morning you’re coming to live with us.
Ally: Pop?
Tony: He’s not going nowhere.
Mario: Now don’t you try to stop me. I’ll go to court if I have to. You haven’t got any money, no home, no job. And that’s the end of it. Ally’s going to live with us.

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Frank Sinatra, Thelma Ritter, Edward G Robinson, Eddie Hodges, A Hole in the Head

Tony: I guarantee you I’m gonna have all the money I need by morning and without your help…  And you know something else, you know that Easy Street you were talking about, nobody lives on. I’m gonna wind up owning it brother Mario. And you, don’t look so unhappy. Nobody’s gonna take you away from me.

…..

Thelma Ritter and Edward G. Robinson, A Hole in the Head

Sophie: Oh Mario. Maybe we shouldn’t. He loves him so much.
Mario: What do I care, love. Tomorrow’s he’s out on the street, that’s what he is. What’s love anyway? Is it gonna put a roof over his head? Is it gonna fill up his belly?
Sophie: Suppose Tony gets the money tonight.
Mario: Suppose, suppose it snows in this lobby, suppose. He’s a bum!

…..

Frank Sinatra, Kennan Wynn, Joi Lansing, A Hole in the Head
Tony: What a hunch bet this is! Lucky Ally! I tell you when I get hot, I really get hot, and I’m red hot this time. I got a feeling everything’s coming my way!
Jerry: What’dya say kid, what’dya wanna do, let it ride?…

Jerry: Are you sure you can afford it.
Tony: Are you kidding? It’s only money!
Jerry: That’s what I like to hear!

…..

Thelma Ritter, Edward G. Robinson, Frank Sinatra, A Hole in the Head

Sophie: Tell us. What’s the matter?
Tony: I lost the money and I lost the car and I haven’t got a dime.

Tony: Sophie, Mario… I was wondering if, well… would you take Ally to live with you?
Sophie: Ally? But he don’t want to go with us.
Tony: I don’t care what he wants. And don’t put me through a ringer Sophie, not you. You were absolutely right Mario. I’m nothing but a bum. Never have been anything but a bum. I had the money right in my hand, but I blew it trying to impress a guy who knows me like a book. Like you know me. Like everybody else knows me — except me. A cheap, chiseling, conniving bum. And I don’t want Ally to be like that, so please take him with you.

…..

Edward G. Robinson and Frank Sinatra, A Hole in the Head

Mario: What do you mean you’re a bum? How could you be a bum, you’re my brother! I can call you a bum…  You’re not a bum, nobody in the family is a bum. Now mama and papa when they came here, what did they have? I’ll tell you. Rags on their backs. But they worked hard and they made good. You’re part of them, you’re part of me…

…..

frank_sinatra_thelma_ritter_edward_g_robinson_a_hole_in_the_head_9

Tony: Listen, I know what you’ve been to me–  like a father since I was a kid. Just do me one more favor.
Mario: I got the check book in my hand.
Tony: Not that, no, no, I want you to take Ally. He’s not like me, he’s a good kid, he needs a chance.

…..

Frank Sinatra and Eddie Hodges, A Hole in the Head

Tony: Come here son. I think we better talk this over like a couple of men. I’m broke. I lost all the money. I can’t even feed you.
Ally: I don’t care.
Tony: But tomorrow we may not even have a place to sleep.
Ally: I don’t care WHERE we sleep.
Tony: Listen, I’m going on the road anyway. You know me, I’m the champ. I bounce back like that! Right? So you go up to New York and live with them and if you don’t like it, I’ll put you in one of those fancy military schools where you can wear one of those hats with the strap under the chin and look like a big general.
Ally: No Pop — I don’t want to be a general! I want to be with you! You promised! Please Pop, don’t send me away. They don’t need me. You need me!

…..

Frank Sinatra, Eddie Hodges, Thelma Ritter, Edward G. Robinson, A Hole in the HeadTony: Where’d you get the idea I need you? I need you like I need a hole in the head! How can I operate with you around? I lost Shirl. I lost the hotel. I’m broke only because I had you on my back all the time. That’s why. That’s why I couldn’t operate. So you go in there and pack your clothes. I don’t want you around anymore. Did you hear what I said?

…..

Thelma Ritter and Eddie Hodges, A Hole in the Head

Sophie: Ally, he’s a little boy at 41 years old, and you’re a grown man at 11. But he loves you Ally, he really truly loves you.
Ally: I’ll never speak to him again as long as I live.

…..

Frank Sinatra, A Hole in the Head

Now, I’m not going to tell you exactly how the film ends, but I will give you one last quote that always makes me smile, remember this is a Frank Capra film after all…

Thelma Ritter and Edward G. Robinson, A Hole in the Head

Sophie: The poor things… they’re so happy and so poor.
Mario: No, Sophie. Broke, yes, but they’re not poor. We’re poor. Come on, you’ll cry later. The meter’s running… the meter’s running… what do I care if the meter’s running? I could buy you and a hundred meters! Come on, let’s take a vacation!

…..

 Some fun facts:

Edward G. Robinson and Frank Sinatra cut the cake with cast members on the set of the new film "A Hole in the Head" during a birthday celebration for Sinatra and Robinson December 12, 1958 in Hollywood.

A birthday celebration for Frank Sinatra and Edward G. Robinson, who share the same birthday, on the set of A Hole in the Head on December 12, 1958.  Sinatra, born in 1915, turned 43 and Robinson, born in 1893, turned 65. Left to right:  Eleanor Parker, Sinatra, Robinson, Carolyn Jones, Frank Capra, and Thelma Ritter.

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The Garden of Eden Hotel

Cardozo HotelThe actual hotel used for the exterior Garden of Eden shots was the Cardozo Hotel, located on Miami Beach’s Ocean Drive.

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A Hole in the Head Playbill, February 1957

The film was based on the Broadway play of the same name which debuted at the Plymouth Theatre on Broadway on February 28, 1957. Actor Paul Douglas played the lead role. The show closed on July 13, 1957 after a total of 156 performances. Sinatra’s agent, Bert Allenberg, bought the film rights for $200,000.

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And a song 🙂

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A Big Thank You to the marvelous Classic Movie Blog Association for hosting this very special event! There are so many more wonderful Classic Bloggers participating in this event so please be sure to check out the other entries.

—Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

 

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15 Responses to CMBA Blogathon: Fabulous Films of the 50s – A Hole in the Head (1959)

  1. Thanks for sharing your very personal recollections of “A Hole in the Head”. “High Hopes” has carried me through a lot of rough spots, including the spots that weren’t as rough as I imagined.

    When I was a kid watching this I would worry so about the family. It’s a little easier nowadays when I just smile at Edward G. Robinson’s performance. He has that effect on me.

    • Annmarie Gatti says:

      I understand exactly what you mean about “High Hopes”!

      And I have to agree about Edward G. Robinson — he absolutely makes me smile during this film; he’s such a gem; his performances are so heartfelt and natural — from the funny to the serious…

  2. Lovely post on a very sweet film. It warmed my heart to remember it while I read your screen caps. And I loved your sharing of your childhood memories about it – some films are so special just for that. Thanks so much!

    • Annmarie Gatti says:

      Thanks so much for reading the post. Isn’t it funny and so wonderful how such special films can resonate with us for such a very long time. Magic memories…

  3. I just love this post! We must be identical twins separated at birth because we share the same papa….my dad introduced this film to my sister and me when we were young and we have been delighting in it ever since. ( My dad adored Eleanor Parker in this role ). I’m glad you included some of the dialogue because that’s what really makes this film superb. Edward G. Robinson and Thelma Ritter are sheer delights! “My son’s an idiot.”…. Thelma looks at him….”What??? What did I say? It’s true!”. Perfection. And the story line was really ahead of its time! I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Walt Disney got the idea to build Disney World in Florida after watching the film. But best of all….Parker’s little apartment. How cute! Great post on a really great film. All I can say is “Yeeeeeeeee…yipeeeee!”

    • Annmarie Gatti says:

      Just love being in the Classic Movie Community for exactly that reason — it’s like we’re all family, truly enjoying and sharing such wonderful films, moments and memories!

  4. Page says:

    Hi, Annmarie,
    Thanks for sharing your memories of first watching AHITH. I can see what it’s so special to you. I have very similar memories from watching classic films with my mother at a very young age. I’m very grateful to her for getting me started on my journey involving classic cinema. Without that I certainly wouldn’t have ever met all the fascinating, talented writers within the CMBA and elsewhere.

    I’m a big fan of Thelma Ritter, Edward G. and I’ve been trying to watch more Eleanor Parker films. Unfortunately I haven’t come across this film. (Not so crazy about Sinatra but that’s okay too.)

    A fun review and the candid photos on set as well as the then and now photos of one of the locations was just icing.
    So glad you could join us for your first CMBA Blogathon.
    Enjoy the rest of your Memorial Day,
    Page

    • Annmarie Gatti says:

      I have to say that it was such fun writing this post, and a wonderful excuse to watch one of my favorite movies again! I am so honored to be in the CMBA and hope to be participating in many more Blogathons 🙂

  5. Rick says:

    I knew the song “High Hopes” long before I saw the movie. We sang it in music class at school and it was on an album of Oscar songs we got as part of a gas station promotion. Your charming review was almost as good as watching the film again! I would have loved to have seen Paul Douglas in the stage version.

    • Annmarie Gatti says:

      Wish we would have sung “High Hopes” in music class! Such a fun and inspiring song!

      Would have loved to see this on the stage as well. Such a gem of a film!

  6. Oh boy. I’m feeling a little sheepish because, not only have I not seen this movie, I’ve never even heard of it! (And I call myself a classic movie blogger – yeesh!) What a fabulous cast, and I love the premise.

    Thanks for reviewing this movie, and prompting someone like me to see it ASAP.

  7. The Lady Eve says:

    Frank Sinatra made his best films in the ’50s, and there were so many of them that I think “A Hole in the Head” sometimes gets lost in the shuffle. “High Hopes” was a big hit at the time the movie was released, on the radio all the time, so I knew the song years before I saw the movie (too young to go to the theater alone at the time). Your enthusiasm for the film is so infectious, Annmarie, that you rekindled my own affection for it. You also pointed out a thing or two in the film that I’d never noticed. Nice work!

  8. Thank you for your full-of-memories review. I saw this movie a few summers back, for the first time, in Paris where they often release classic movies in their local cinemas. It was such a thrill to watch, that it really made my trip even more unforgettable. Seriously, anything directed by Frank Capra, I’m in! 🙂

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