December 12, 2015 marks the centennial of Frank Sinatra’s birth. You’ll have an opportunity to celebrate the man and his music if you catch the encore presentation of Alex Gibney’s Emmy®-nominated documentary, Sinatra: All or Nothing at All, airing on HBO today, Saturday, December 12, 2015, from noon – 4:15 p.m. ET/PT; and on HBO2 from 7:00 – 11:15 p.m. ET/PT. The film is also available on HBO NOW and HBO GO.
Sinatra: All or Nothing at All will lighten your mood appreciably, as the man and his music take center stage in this fascinating, fast-paced and supremely entertaining four-hour profile. The film debuted on HBO on April 5, and April 6, 2015. My original review appeared in FrontRowCenter on April 5, 2015, and is reprinted below (edited from the original).
Director Alex Gibney frames his celebratory biography with the music and memory of Frank Sinatra’s 1971 “Retirement” concert at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles. The extraordinary concert vignettes, rarely if ever seen except by the Hollywood elite who actually attended this concert, capture the performer at his seasoned best. Sinatra apparently chose 11 songs in particular to propel his audience through the evolution of his career. Gibney ran with that concept, using the 11 songs to introduce and serve as a backdrop to Sinatra’s personal and professional biography.
Clips from various vintage TV interviews with Sinatra provide the film’s key running narrative, a ploy that effectively allows him to tell his own story and, most importantly, to set the record straight as he saw it. He is the most visible (on-camera) narrator, which enhances the evergreen value of this film going forward. Other “witnesses” (including noted journalists, professional colleagues and collaborators, his children, ex-wives and friends) are only heard in voice over for the most part. No one is allowed to steal the spotlight from the Chairman of the Board.
Aside from its fabulous music track, Sinatra: All or Nothing at All takes no prisoners as it addresses and answers many previously unanswered questions about Sinatra’s childhood and parents, his progression from band singer to teen idol, movie star and Las Vegas entrepreneur, his career missteps, his courtship of and problematic association with his wives, lovers, the Kennedys and the mob. While the story of his son’s kidnapping turns out to be far less explosive than one would expect, more complex revelations cover his association with Sam Giancana, his scuffle with the HUAC and the extent of his condemnation of racism and his support for racial equality.
Frank Sinatra’s earliest period of success coincided with my parents’ youth (my dad was also born in 1915), so Sinatra was for them what the Beatles were to my generation. I was drawn into Sinatra’s story with the arrival of Mia Farrow, and I was hooked by the media frenzy they engendered during their inexplicable May-December romance and brief marriage. Along with the rest of teenage America, I loved Farrow as the young anti-heroine in the hit TV drama, Peyton Place, and, subsequently, for her performance in one of my favorite films, Rosemary’s Baby.
I found Farrow’s commentary in this film to be especially informative and fair-minded. Other highlights include recollections from his son, Frank, Jr. (who refers to his dad as “Frank Sinatra” throughout the film); Sinatra’s daughters Nancy and Tina; his first wife, Nancy, Sr.; and, surprisingly, from Harry Belafonte and former friend and lover Lauren Bacall.
There are eye-opening revelations about the roles played by Joe, Jack and Bobby Kennedy, femme fatale Ava Gardner, close pal Sammy Davis, Jr., mobster Sam Giancana, and the Rat Pack in Sinatra’s life. His efforts to bite the bullet and remain current and competitive in the music industry, despite his disdain for Rock ‘n’ Rollers and the Hippie movement of the 1960s, are explored in entertaining vintage TV clips. The grainy footage of Sinatra trading barbs and swapping tunes with Elvis Presley is especially priceless.
From overture to final curtain, Sinatra: All or Nothing at All opens a fascinating window on Frank Sinatra’s extraordinary talent and mystique, with its rich and carefully edited blend of home movies, photos, film and TV clips and concert footage, all seasoned with a soundtrack that confirms Sinatra’s legacy for generations to come.
The encore presentation of Sinatra: All or Nothing at All airs on HBO today, Saturday, December 12, 2015, from noon – 4:15 p.m. ET/PT, and on HBO2 from 7:00 – 11:15 p.m. ET/PT. The film is also available on HBO NOW and HBO GO. (Check HBO On Demand and listings in your region for additional playdates.)–Judith Trojan