Can Sinatra Thank the Mob for His Eternity Win?

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Harry Cohn, the head of Columbia Pictures, purchased the rights to From Here to Eternity  for $82 thousand. Many didn’t think the 800-plus page novel could be adapted and called the project “Harry Cohn’s Folly.”

The film proved doubters wrong though when it made more than $12 million in the first few months. In fact, when it was first released, some theaters stayed open all night to accommodate the crowds.

Eternity also charmed critics and received 13 Academy Award nominations and won 8 Oscars – most notably Best Picture.

More like "Harry Cohn’s Fortune," huh?

1. Big names might have been cast.

Humphrey Bogart and Robert Mitchum were considered for Milton Warden, a part which went to Burt Lancaster. Joan Crawford almost took the role of Karen. However, she insisted on having her own cameraman hired for the production. Cohn vetoed the demand, and she walked. Deborah Kerr got the part, and she considered it a turning point in her career because she received offers to play more diverse characters afterwards.

2. It was Clift or the highway.

Cohn originally wanted Aldo Ray, who was under contract with the studio. However, director Fred Zinnemann believed that Montgomery Clift was the better choice, especially after he had garnered attention for his recent performances in Red River and especially A Place in the Sun. He refused to budge on the matter, even threatening to quit, so Cohn caved. Clift trained vigorously to perform the boxing scenes and to make it seem as if he could play the bugle.

3. The mob allegedly helped Sinatra get the part.

Remember the horse head scene from The Godfather? Well, allegedly Cohn needed some convincing to cast Frank Sinatra. He wanted Eli Wallach. As the story goes, the mob wasn’t horsing around and sent him a clear and bloody message. Sinatra worked at the part though, taking a lesser salary than his co-stars and giving the role everything he had. The Academy recognized him as well, awarding him the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.