Synopsis by Mark Deming
Frank Sinatra stars as legendary nightclub comic Joe E. Lewis in this dramatic screen biography. In the 1920s, Lewis was a popular singer in Chicago who could fill any nightclub he chose to play. This doesn't go unnoticed by the mobsters who control many of the city's venues; when they ask Lewis to leave his steady gig and come work for them, he politely but firmly refuses. This does not make Al Capone and his men happy, and they respond by brutally attacking Lewis, cutting his throat and damaging his vocal cords so severely that he can never sing again. Lewis sinks into a deep depression and develops a highly caustic sense of humor, but his friend Austin Mack (Eddie Albert) suggests that he could put his sharp wit to work as a comedian. With little to lose, Lewis tries his hand at comedy, and with the encouragement of famous entertainer Sophie Tucker, Lewis once again rises to stardom as his salty material makes him the talk of late-night spots and burlesque houses everywhere. Along the way, he becomes involved with chorus girl Martha Stewart (Mitzi Gaynor) and wealthy socialite Letty Page (Jeanne Crain); while he marries Martha, he's not able to get Letty out of his thoughts for long. Lewis' romantic conflicts and the pressures of success fan the flames of his already potent taste for alcohol, and soon Lewis becomes a bitter drunk whose addiction to the bottle threatens to send his career (and his life) back into the gutter. The classic Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen number "All the Way" was introduced in The Joker Is Wild, and it won a 1957 Academy Award for Best Song; the film was later re-released as All the Way.
comedian, nightclub, comeback, alcoholism, chorus-girl, gangster, singer, socialite, stars [celebrities]