After my producer, Larry Metzger and myself had finished recording all the actors and dramatizations for our audio-book McKnight's Memory, we still needed a narrator.
Larry had heard Frank Sinatra Jr's audio commentary his father's movie, Robin and the Seven Hoods and was impressed with his voice and articulation, as well as Frank's respect for character actors, so Larry asked me, "What about Frank Sinatra Jr for the narrator?" I said ,"It would be great to get him, but maybe impossible."
Larry got in touch with Frank's office and pitched the deal for him to record with us, even though other Hollywood agents and casting directors had told Larry that he could never get Frank as he was too busy and would have to go through too many people who would stop Larry before he ever got to Frank. However, Larry finally got the information to get in touch with Frank's management office and then to Frank.
It turned out that Frank was coached for voice work by the great voice actor Paul Frees. Frank also collected recordings of some of the great actors reading books, such as James Mason and Charles Laughton, listening carefully to them, so as to perfect his narrating technique. Thusly Frank told Larry that he was very much interested in doing his first audio-book with us.
In his live concerts, Frank Sinatra Jr is known for his great story telling on stage, so it was an easy jump for him to do the narration for a story. Larry asked him why he waited so long to do an audio-book. Frank said, "This project is a 'story well told', so I decided to do it."
Frank requested his recording be done at night as that is when most singers feel their voice is the best. He gave a concentrated performance, only taking one break during the three hours as he wanted to stay 'in character'.
On my other audio-novel I had Rod Taylor (The Time Machine, The Birds) do one take on his narration. Basically a continuous read unless he was unsure of a line, then he'd ask a question.
Frank however, wanted to read a one minute section of the text and then do two more takes of that same section, so I'd have a choice when it came to editing. After we finished he said, "Most of the best takes will be the third take." And with a couple of exceptions that turned out to be true when I got to the editing the next day.
Frank found a few places where he asked if he could change the words, as I wrote the text I encouraged him to do so. All his additions were great. For example, there is a line that read, "The hit man was dead before his 200 pound body crashed to the floor." Mr. Sinatra changed it to: "The hit man was dead before his 200 pounds crashed to the floor." When I heard that, I was overjoyed that this subtle, but powerful change had happened.
"Okay fellas," Frank said to us in the control room, "I'll read it as written so that you'll have a choice." But we knew right then which reading we would use.
This happened a few other times as well. Larry and I were in awe of his annunciation and how he sometimes ended a paragraph in an upward tone, leaving it hanging as if more will come. We didn't know what that's called, but we loved it.
During our breaks, he talked to us about the sets that he visited of some of the now classic movies, such as Journey to the Center of the Earth and Them.
After hearing the final test product with sound effects and music. Frank said he had some additional ideas and worked with Larry and I for three more nights adding a lot more effects and music. The end result was so much more powerful. Frank has the Music Supervision credit on the project.
The McKnight's Memory cast includes Robert Culp, Nancy Kwan, David Hedison, Henry Silva, Don Stroud, Barbara Leigh, Alan Young, Edd "Kookie" Byrnes, Gary Lockwood, and others. Produced by Larry Metzger. Directed by Paul Kyriazi.
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