Movie Review: Frank Sinatra: All or Nothing At All Part 1:

Posted: June 1, 2015 in Documentary
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sinatra part 1

Frank Sinatra was born in Hoboken New Jersey in 1915.  His father and mother were both Italian immigrants who came through Ellis Island.  His father owned a bar under the pseudonym Mickey O’Brien, and his mother was a midwife around the neighborhood.  His father also helped the mob run booze during Prohibition.

Frank didn’t care much for school except for the choral classes, he dropped out of high school and his father kicked him out of the house.  He met and married his high school sweetheart, Nancy.  Soon after he went on the Major Bowes talent show as part of a quartet, the Hoboken Four, but he wanted to be a solo singer, so in 1936 he moved to New York City.  He got on the radio for 15 minutes every night, singing at the Rustic Cabin, in NJ.  He started taking vocal lessons, and started singing with Dinah Shore.

Then the jobs came quickly, he sang with Harry James, a horn player, then he played with the Tommy Dorsey Band, and soon after that became an attraction for Benny Goodman at the Paramount Theater.  That’s where Sinatra became a teen idol with the bobbysoxers, he then got jobs at the Rio Bamba and the Hit Parade, Sinatra tried to help out with the war effort but was rejected as 4F and couldn’t serve.

His career continued to take off, he did movies like Anchors Aweigh and continued to make hit records and for ten years.  He met Ava Gardner  and they were married in 1951, after carrying on a long public affair.  The relationship with Gardner took a toll, he drank heavily, his music stopped selling and he was released from his contract with Columbia Records in 1952.  Would his career ever recover?

This is a good documentary not a great one, it’s a little too linear for me, it does have songs form his last concert in 1971, but it goes pretty much straight from birth to the fall of his career, and a little after that.  What made it interesting to me is that Sinatra never forgot his roots, a poor Italian kid from New Jersey, he did a short film to promote racial and ethnic harmony and won an Oscar for it. He got lambasted for his political views, for not serving in the military, and for his affair with Gardner, but for 10 years there was nobody hotter.  What was more interesting than his rise to me was his precipitous fall from singing idol to washed-up drunk, in the matter of only a few years.

On top of being a top singer he became a good actor, in Anchors Aweigh he trained with Gene Kelly “as if it were a prizefight” to get the dance steps right, the same work ethic that he put into singing, he put into acting and made himself a good actor.

It’s a largely uncritical documentary of ol blue eyes, he’s portrayed as a victim of other people’s malfeasance.  It could have been more critical of Sinatra and the choices he made, but it wasn’t.

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