HBO’s Sinatra: All Or Nothing At All

Category: Television

SinatraOn December 12, 2015, Frank Sinatra would have been 100 years old. This crooner whose songs were the backdrop of the post-war generation, was not only a singer. He was an actor and a controversial figure. Having attached himself to politicians as well as mafia “friends,” Sinatra held the attention of audiences for many decades.


Sinatra started as a young, skinny man from Hoboken, New Jersey. He was the icon for “bobby sox” fans and quite possibly the first singer to evoke screams from young women. This phenomenon was later followed by fans of Elvis and The Beatles.


The new documentary on HBO, Sinatra: All Or Nothing At All, has been running on the network and will continue to run.


Executive Producer Alex Gibney told the media, “I think one of the most amazing things about the world in which we live in – the sort of mash‑up culture in which we live in – is the distant past can exist in the present in ways that are kind of unprecedented. And, you know, the whole sort of sample culture that we live in, too, amplifies that. So I think that was the thinking in terms of trying to set [this film] in a kind of present‑day context.”


The documentary includes interviews with Sinatra’s family, however most of them are done as voice-overs. Viewers will hear the voices of Frank Sinatra’s children, Nancy, Tina, and Frank Jr., yet they won’t see them, most of the time, as they divulge many interesting and personal things about their father. There are on-camera interviews with Sinatra himself, which provide a lot of insight to the man, as viewers see his facial expressions as he discusses aspects of his life. This is very interesting, especially when he was asked about a potential marriage to Mia Farrow.


“I think we’ve become familiar with the mature, Sinatra, the Rat Pack Sinatra,” Gibney said, “but seeing his insecurity as a young man and the striving that he had and the way his mother, who was a very forceful woman, was determined to make him succeed, that king of Gatsby-like rise, that was something that was really interesting to me that I hadn’t considered initially. And a lot of that comes out of Frank himself talking about it.”


This documentary is shown in two parts. As Gibney explained, “The film’s roughly chronological, and we come to a moment where he achieves something very big, which is his Oscar in From Here to Eternity. And there’s a magical moment where he’s walking alone with that Oscar, and it’s the culmination of his dreams. And then we push forward.” So basically the first part is his rise to stardom in the music and film industries. However, as we all know, his star continued to rise and his personal life continued its ups and downs for many years after that.
“I think his ambition is what impressed me,” Gibney confessed. “I mentioned Gatsby earlier. I think [Sinatra’s] a figure that’s very much like that. And he willed himself to a prominent position at the center of our culture, and he stayed there for a long period of time.”


Sinatra’s temper is not overlooked in this film. Also, his loves and losses are included. This is not a glossy story of the man who is known as “old blue eyes” and “the chairman of the board.” He had faults and he had talent.
On a personal note, when watching the film I was struck how he was taken aback by the press who followed him around. And this was a long time ago. I wonder how he would handle the paparazzi of today.


Sinatra aged in the public’s eye. When his popularity waned, he put on a farewell concert. But this was a man who could not stay still. And ultimately, two years into his retirement, he went back to performing. That was another thing that struck me while watching this film. He was constantly doing something and always on the move. He would fly off to Las Vegas for a night if he were bored. He would go to Palm Springs for a few days. He just couldn’t stay comfortable in one place not doing anything.


Frank Sinatra was a master storyteller via music. This was what set him apart from the other crooners of the day. The film focuses on his singing, his associations with other celebrities, and his ups and his downs. John Kennedy, Ava Gardner, Lauren Bacall, Sammy Davis, and others were publicly involved with Sinatra. Yet the man also worked privately with charities around the world.


Frank Marshall, Executive Producer and Director, acknowledged, “The experience has been great. [The Sinatra family has] been extremely cooperative. Obviously, we need the rights to a lot of the material that they have. They opened up the archives. They’ve done interviews with us. Frank Jr., Nancy, and Tina, and Nancy Sr. have all talked to us.” So, the Sinatra family has sanctioned this documentary.


Sinatra: All Or Nothing At All airs on HBO.


About the Author

Francine Brokaw has been covering all aspects of the entertainment business for 20 years. She also writes about technology and has been a travel writer for the past 12 years. She has been published in national and international newspapers and magazines as well as internet websites. She has written her own book, Beyond the Red Carpet The World of Entertainment Journalists, from Sourced Media Books.

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