Joker Is Wild, The (1957): Charles Vidor’s Oscar-Nominated Musical Biopic, Starring Frank Sinatra

Charles Vidor directed The Joker Is Wild, a musical biopic about Joe E. Lewis, the popular singer and comedian in nightclubs from the 1920s to the early 1950s.

Sinatra stars as Joe E. Lewis, a successful 1920s Chicago night-club entertainer who is invited to work for the Mob during the Prohibition era. When he refuses, his face is slashed and throat cut, preventing him from continuing his singing career.

Lewis develops an acerbic and witty sense of humor and is given a break as a stand-up comedian from singer Sophie Tucker (playing herself).

However, heavy drinking and a self-destructive streak leads him to question his way of living.

The part was tailor-made for Sinatra, and the complicated song was deliberately composed as a challenge to him as a singer.  It paid off, the tune won Best Song Oscar that year.

Oscar Nominations: 1

Song: All the Way, music by James Van Heusen, lyrics by Sammy Cahn

Oscar Awards: 1


Frank Sinatra as Joe E. Lewis
Mitzi Gaynor as Martha Stewart
Jeanne Crain as Letty Page
Eddie Albert as Austin Mack
Beverly Garland as Cassie Mack
Jackie Coogan as Swifty Morgan