Columbia Pictures Corp. / Handout
"From Here to Eternity" (1953)
Sinatra's career was in the dumps when he was cast in Fred Zinnemann's landmark adaptation of James Jones' novel focusing on a group of soldiers stationed in Hawaii just before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He had a hard time appealing to a new teen audience in the 1950s and had suffered vocal problems in concert. No longer at MGM, the quality of his movies, including "Double Dynamite," was poor. Columbia and MCA dropped him in 1952.
But he became a bona fide superstar -- both in films and on records -- with his supporting actor Oscar turn as Angelo Maggio, the skinny, free-and-easy soldier who is beaten to death by the sadistic Sgt. "Fatso" Judson ( Ernest Borgnine). Eli Wallach was originally cast as Maggio, and over the years there has been much conjecture -- such as Mafia interference, Wallach demanding too much money and even a play conflict -- as to why Sinatra eventually got the role. Author Mario Puzo put a juicy fictional spin on the story in "The Godfather," when a high-powered studio executive (John Marley) gets an offer he can't refuse -- actually it's a horse's head in his bed -- and casts a failing singer (Al Martino) in his big war drama.