This Co-Star Called Frank Sinatra "No-Talent" and "Stupid"
Sinatra and Meet Danny Wilson co-star Shelley Winters had violent altercations.
There are a lot of things that can be said about Frank Sinatra, but "no-talent" isn't usually on the list. When it came to his Meet Danny Wilson co-star Shelley Winters, however, that's exactly what she thought—and she wasn't shy about making her feelings known. The 1952 movie is neither Winters' nor Sinatra's most memorable work, but it made its mark in pop culture history thanks to the infamous feud between Winters and Sinatra on set.
There was ample name-calling between the two actors, and Winters even punched Sinatra in response to an insult. Read on to find out more about the troubled set of Meet Danny Wilson.
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Frank Sinatra and Shelley Winters had to act and sing together.
Meet Danny Wilson is about a singer (Sinatra) and his piano-playing friend (Alex Nicol), who are trying to find work performing in clubs when they cross paths with another singer (Winters). She then connects them with a mobster club-owner, played by Raymond Burr.
Sinatra and Winters didn't just have to act together, but they also sang the duet "A Good Man Is Hard to Find." According to the book Frank: The Voice by James Kaplan, Winters was nervous about singing, but Sinatra helped her out. Reportedly, things took a turn after that.
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Sinatra was going through a difficult time.
While filming Meet Danny Wilson, Sinatra was at a low point in his career and his personal life. He was going through a divorce from his wife, Nancy Barbato, and dating Ava Gardner. "His children were quite young and there were always psychiatrists and priests and his kids visiting him on the set," Winters said, according to the book His Way by Kitty Kelly (via Frank: The Voice). "Frank was losing about a pound a week, which made me look heavier in the rushes."
Winters also said that on the days a priest from the Catholic Family Counseling Service visited Sinatra on set, there was no point in work continuing for the day. She said Sinatra was "truly impossible" and "so disturbed" that he couldn't pay attention to anyone.
Their issues came to a head violently.
"I can't remember what started our vicious argument, but the mildest things we called each other were 'bow-legged [expletive] of a Brooklyn blonde' and 'skinny, no-talent, stupid Hoboken [expletive],'" Winters shared.
She also wrote in her own book, Shelley (via Frank: The Voice), "At about three in the morning Frank flew into a terrible rage at me, and despite my gorgeous hat and white gloves and beautiful elegant navy dress and stone Martens, I screamed like a fishwife and I think I slugged him." She continued that she was scared that Sinatra's "makeup man/bodyguard" was going to shoot her, because she suspected he carried a gun.
Winters hitting Sinatra is also mentioned in a 1989 Chicago Tribune interview with Winters, which notes that she "punched out Frank Sinatra."
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There was also a second violent incident.
Frank: The Voice relates that when Sinatra and Winters were filming their last scene for the movie in which her character is in the hospital, Sinatra was supposed to say the line, "I'll have a cup of coffee and leave you two lovebirds alone." Instead he said, "I'll go have a cup of Jack Daniels or I'm going to pull that blonde broad's head out by its black roots." At this, Winters hit him with a bedpan and left the set for two days.
Winters did finish making the movie, but she said that before she returned to set, Barbato had to beg her to complete the film so that Sinatra would have money to support their family.
They stars made up—somewhat.
In an interview with the Chicago Tribune in 1985, Winters talked about her relationship with Sinatra.
"In some ways, he was the hardest person I ever worked with," she said. "We're friends, but for about five years after the picture came out … oh, I want to tell you a story. It's a bad story on myself, but I'll tell it anyway. I went to see Frank perform—it was after my book had come out—and he was introducing celebrities in the audience, Spike Jones and so on, and then he says, '…and a great actress who's won two Oscars, and I'm the only [slur for Italians] in America she's never slept with.'"
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