Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Sinatra: All or Nothing at All: Review: About All You Could Ask For

I saw all of Sinatra: All or Nothing at All - all of four hours - last night on HBO, and found it excellent.

In addition to the great music, I learned the following from this documentary -

  • Sinatra was a fierce advocate for FDR (I knew about JFK) and for equal treatment of African Americans in this country - at a time, the 1940s and 50s, when few others in Sinatra's positions were out there.   He then tarnished this a little with stupid racist humor at Sammy Davis Jr's expense in the Rat Pack (not that Sammy ever complained).
  • The oft-told tale of how Sinatra landed a crucial part in a movie with the mob's help - dramatized in The Godfather - is an urban legend.  What really happened is Ava Gardner went to bat for him.
  • Sinatra hated rock 'n' roll, Elvis, and the Beatles - I already knew some of this - but it was great to see Sinatra nonetheless do a fine duet with a young Elvis on television.
  • Sinatra did use mob connections to help JFK win in the crucial states of West Virginia and Illinois - this was pretty well known already - but the depth of Sinatra's hurt when Joe Kennedy through Bobby cut Sinatra out of Camelot was a sight to behold in the documentary.
  • Back to Ava Garder - she had a caustic tongue, to say the least, and assuming those words attributed to her were really spoken by her - the documentary had someone else render her voice - we get a lesson in the language used behind the scenes in these supposedly slightly more genteel times in show business.
The singing, which was all Sinatra, was just wonderful, as I said.  My wife and I saw him in a concert in Westchester in the late 1970s, and have always admired his work - even though, unlike Frank, we love the Beatles, and I (not my wife) love Elvis, too.

There was one thing lacking in the movie - at least a minute or so of Frank and Nancy's "Something Stupid" duet in the mid-1960s would've been nice to hear - and I caught one little error on the screen (the election in which Sinatra helped JFK was listed as 1963 when it course took place in 1960).  But, overall, I highly recommend this movie to Sinatra fans or anyone who's heard of him and has wondered what all the fuss was about.   In an age before social media and cable TV, Sinatra catapulted to the top via the media at his disposal - band tours, concert halls, radio, motion pictures, and network television - and became a towering icon we have yet to see duplicated.

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