1953’s racy historical romance From Here To Eternity was one of the decade’s biggest box office draws. Telling the stories of three soldiers based in Hawaii in the build-up to the Pearl Harbor attack, the movie opened to rave reviews and went on to win eight of the record 13 Academy Awards for which it was nominated—including Frank Sinatra’s first and only Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

But despite Sinatra’s awards success, he allegedly had to pull quite a few strings to land his part, as Columbia Pictures weren’t too keen to cast him. Around that time, Sinatra was in a career lull and, although an established movie star, had more experience in comedies and Technicolor musicals than weightier dramas.

Seeing the role of Private Angelo Maggio as a way out of his slump, Sinatra campaigned fiercely for the role—and supposedly called on some of his contacts in the Mafia to try to convince the studio to take a chance on him. One version of this tale even claims that one of Sinatra’s heavies placed a horse’s head in the bed of one the executives involved—but this part of the story, at least, is untrue!

Other versions assert that Sinatra didn’t use his Mob connections at all, but rather relied on his then-wife, Ava Gardner, to petition Columbia head Harry Cohn to cast him. Reportedly, Cohn only agreed to Gardner’s suggestion when he heard that Sinatra was at such a career low that he would take on the role for free. (In fact, he went on to be paid $8,000—a vastly reduced rate for one of the biggest names in show business.)

Whatever the truth behind Sinatra’s casting, rumors about his Mob connections have continued to this day—and were famously fictionalized in Mario Puzo’s The Godfather almost two decades later.