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Fort Lee Film Commission Celebrates Sinatra Centennial, Eyes Future

Actor Paul Sorvino
Actor Paul Sorvino Photo Credit: DAILY VOICE PHOTO
Lodi Police Officer Don Nicoletti, actor Dominic Chianese
Lodi Police Officer Don Nicoletti, actor Dominic Chianese Photo Credit: DAILY VOICE PHOTO
Fox News correspondent Laura Ingle
Fox News correspondent Laura Ingle Photo Credit: DAILY VOICE PHOTO
Fort Lee Film Commission Director Tom Meyers
Fort Lee Film Commission Director Tom Meyers Photo Credit: DAILY VOICE PHOTO
William Fox family members
William Fox family members Photo Credit: DAILY VOICE PHOTO
Comedian Freddie Roman
Comedian Freddie Roman Photo Credit: DAILY VOICE PHOTO
Mayor Mark Sokolich presents Billy Bitzer Award to actor Paul Sorvino
Mayor Mark Sokolich presents Billy Bitzer Award to actor Paul Sorvino Photo Credit: DAILY VOICE PHOTO

FORT LEE, N.J. -- The Fort Lee Film Commission celebrated the 100th birthday of Frank Sinatra, along with its own proud heritage, with a sold-out awards dinner Saturday night at In Napoli.

Some of Sinatra's favorite dishes, including veal marsala, were prepared by chef Sam Gnasso at the Main Street restaurant, within walking distance of what once as Bill Miller's Riviera nighclub -- where Sinatra in 1953 launched a legendary comeback with a two-week engagement.

Mayor Mark Sokolich presented former Tenafly actor Paul Sorvino ("The Godfather" "Goodfellas") the Billy Bitzer Award, named for cameraman Billy Bitzer, who shot films along the Palisades and in Fort Lee with D.W. Griffith.

Also honored was the family of William Fox, who founded Fox Studio in Fort Lee in 1915, as well as Fox News correspondent Laura Ingle, recipient of the Alice Guy Blache’ Award.

Guests also included Dominic Chianese, who played Uncle Junior on "The Sopranos" -- and sang for the attendees -- as well as Tom Austin, the former drummer with the Dumont- and Fort Lee-based Fifties group the Royal Teens ("Short Shorts"), Directors Guild of America Second Vice-President Gary Donatelli and Friars Club Dean Freddie Roman, the "king of the one-liners" -- and an In Napoli regular.

While celebrating "the quintessential American art form," Film Commission Director Tom Meyers and others also looked to the future -- in particular, the organization's own single-screen, 250-seat movie house and film museum, targeted for completion late next year.

The Barrymore Film Center and Fort Lee Film Museum will be on Main Street at the corner of Park Avenue, where Griffith and other film pioneers shot scenes for movies a century ago. It will stage annual film festivals and retrospectives, screen new independent films and host live stage performances by, among others, Fort Lee High School students.

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