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Hollywood stars vs variety show hosts: The incompatible case of Frank Sinatra on 1950s television

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This article considers the identity of the variety show host on 1950s American television, exploring how Frank Sinatra's poorly received assumption of the role reveals its strictly limited alignment with a perceived middle-class suburban family audience. Television's attempt to invest its stars with a sense of the everyday in contrast to the extraordinary glamour provided by Hollywood guest stars is examined in the context of the positioning of Dinah Shore and Perry Como as idealized archetypes of the host identity. Exploring the critical reception of Frank Sinatra as both a variety show host and guest, as well as the unconventional star image presented through his performances on the small screen, the article argues that Sinatra explicitly illustrates the distinct ways in which the roles of variety show host and guest star were defined around the oppositions of television and Hollywood, comfort and disruption, ordinary and extraordinary, and suburban and urban.

Keywords: 1950s American television; Dinah Shore; Frank Sinatra; Hollywood stars; Perry Como; variety show host

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: London Metropolitan University

Publication date: July 31, 2012

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  • The European Journal of American Culture (EJAC) is an academic, refereed journal for scholars, academics and students from many disciplines with a common involvement in the interdisciplinary study of America and American culture, drawing on a variety of approaches and encompassing the whole evolution of the country.
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