When it comes to music I am a bit all over the place. There have been times when I really dug me some old school Frank Sinatra, although for the most part growing up so many generations removed a lot of his music is a little hard to resonate with, listening with modern ears. That said, good stuff the “Wee Small Hours of the Morning” stuff for instance is as timeless now as it was when it was first recorded.
As a documentary I wish there was a little more about the music as well as the man, but that said this was still a fascinating piece of business. I am not sure that with a little editing that it could have been cut down to a manageable one part series instead of a two part deal like it wound up being.
This is another in the series of unique HBO music documentaries like “Crossfire Hurricane” and “Montage of Heck” for the Rolling Stones and Kurt Cobain respectively that take the approach of using mostly first hand audio and video accounts to tell these very familiar stories.
I grew up hooked on A&E biography shows as well as VH1’s classic “Behind the Music” series, and this series here is a chip right off the old block, although it plays more like a feature film than those shows did.
Sinatra’s life story is incredible, even if you don’t like the man or the singer, you have to admit that. He was the original “Elvis/Beatles” style teen sex symbol in the 1940s, had numerous highs and lows, but wound up making a big career comeback in the 50s becoming a respected actor and producing some of the best music of his career.
Later in the 60s he headlined in Vegas with the “Rat Pack” along with his friends Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. He had long affairs with the most famous women of his era, and was an original tabloid fixture.
Along the way he became friends with JFK, who you sense was a little jealous of Sinatra’s freedom. Then there’s the bizarre kidnapping of Frank’s son, which happened the week after the JFK assassination. I remember a problem I had with the Stones documentary was that, as a big fan I basically knew every story that was told before they told it. If one is a similar level fan of Sinatra that will probably again be an issue here. I was not however, so most of it just struck me as very interesting.
This is, if nothing else, a very good primer on one of the more significant pieces of 20th century America pop culture that anyone with half a brain should know at least something about.
Sinatra: All or Nothing At All gets a three out of five: GOOD.