Directing Frank Sinatra, Jr. in McKnight’s Memory
by Paul Kyriazi
I had heard Frank Sinatra, Jr.’s audio commentary on three of his father’s movies, Robin and the Seven Hoods, Ocean’s 11, and Sergeants 3. His voice and articulation, as well as his respect for character actors, impressed me, so I approached Frank to do the narration on my full cast audio-book McKnight’s Memory.
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. Thus, Frank was very much interested in doing his first audio-book.
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. I asked him why he waited so long to do an audio-book. He 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. Since 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 two-hundred-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.
Then Frank said, “Okay, fellas, I’ll read it as written so that you’ll have a choice.” But I knew right then which reading I would use. This happened a few other times as well. I was in awe of his enunciation and how he sometimes ended a paragraph in an upward tone, leaving it hanging as if more would come. I don’t know what that’s called, but I loved it.
During our breaks, he talked about some of the now-classic movie sets that he had visited, 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 I worked with him 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.
Endnote by Betty Dravis: In addition to McKnight’s Memory, Paul Kyriazi has written and directed the following full-cast audio-books with movie-like acoustics:
2007 – Rock Star Rising – Narrated by Rod Taylor, performed by Russ Tamblyn, George Chakiris, Robert Culp, James Darren and Kevin McCarthy. 3.6 hrs.
2007 – My Casino Caper – Performed by Edd Byrnes, David Hedison, Alan Young, Henry Silva, and Michael Callan. 77 min.
2007 – The King and McQueen – full cast Audio-Bio, with Barbara Leigh, David Hedison and Joe Esposito. 2.6 hrs.
2006 – How to Live the James Bond Lifestyle – Taught at The Learning Annex. 8 CDs or download. 8 hrs.
2005 – In the West – 90-minute travel production for Japanese company; appearance by Pat Morita.
1975 – 2004 – Wrote/Directed six feature films: Omega Cop, Weapons of Death, One Way Out,
Drawn Swords, NinjaBusters, and Death Machines.
Paul is now producing his audio-novel I Justice performed by Frank Sinatra, Jr. and cast. For more about this talented man, check his websites: