Written by: Arnold Schulman
Starring: Frank Sinatra, Edward G. Robinson, Eleanor Parker, Keenan Wynn, Carolyn Jones
Money makes the world go round serves as a common phrase thrown around often because it dictates how much we live our lives. Good utilization of it allows for a comfortable lifestyle while mismanagement can put someone in a hole they need to tread carefully to get out of. The protagonist we follow in A Hole in the Head battles with this very struggle as he tries to get his life together while already having many responsibilities on his plate.
Making his way to Miami from Bronx, New York, Tony (Frank Sinatra) runs a small hotel but has found himself in a high amount of debt. Now with 48 hours to pay his $5,300 debt, he asks his brother for help, who will only help Tony with a few conditions attached.
Serving as the penultimate feature in the filmography of one of my favorite directors to ever live, Frank Capra brings his usual charm to this feature but somewhat misses the mark with all it wants to portray in this father’s journey. It has all of the whimsy one would expect but the narrative does not land with the accuracy and poignancy many expect from the famous director. The master of the feel-good film could not save a misguided film but it still contains many of his lovely eye-watering trademarks.
As a character, Tony represents immaturity in his approach to living life in more than just his handling of finances. He has high hopes for what he could achieve with this small hotel. He hopes to build it out to make it something massive and extremely profitable. Unfortunately, reality strikes for him and the financial woes of his decision making are now threatening to take away his very livelihood. Daring to dream does not necessarily mark an immature person as most Capra films would say, but the way he enjoys the finer things in life contradict his visions, such as buying Cadillacs and the finest suits around. He has the vision but lacks the real conviction to do what it takes to reach the top.
This immaturity also appears in who he dates as he spends time with younger women as a bachelor, which has left him with nothing but severed bonds and no one for his son to connect with. It would be one thing to be a perpetual dater, but bringing in a revolving door of women brings a level of instability in the life of Tony’s son. These grievances get addressed directly by Tony’s brother as the conditions for more money being loaned out and the tension applied causes the protagonist to reconsider everything and informs the arc he will go on.
Working as a musical utilizing the voice of Frank Sinatra, this feature works towards his strengths. If you have a musical with Frank Sinatra, you must show off his massive talent and all of the numbers work fairly well. Nothing really dynamic sticks out with these songs but they play well to the themes of the film and Tony’s overall journey. A pleasant surprise came in Eddie Hodges in how he matches up well with Sinatra in those singing moments. Their musical sequences highlight the bond they have and how much the young boy loves his father even with all of the screw ups and mismanagement of their financial picture. To the kid none of it matters because he just likes having his father around. These particular scenes highlight the best this film has to offer, but they do not come by as often as they should.
As we get towards the end of this film, A Hole in the Head lacks the magic Capra typically incorporates into his films. The script he receives leaves too much of a stale climax in order for Capra to save it with his directorial prowess. A bit of a shame because the narrative had some good things going for it in order to tell this story. It feels universal because many parents can probably relate to the struggle of having their own dreams but the reality of having a kid to take care of can slow down and even stop it with the responsibilities put on their plates. With all of this in mind, the film just ends in a fairly unsatisfactory and lackluster manner that ruins any good momentum it had going into it, which was not much, believe me.
Ultimately a misfire even with all of the talent involved. A Hole in the Head contains several aspects I love about Capra films but it never really comes together in the ways I would hope. It felt like the story needed another passover before getting the green light and making it to Capra’s director’s chair. Good musical sequences to connect to but on a narrative level it left me wanting more.