This biopic, originally screened for five hours across two nights, was executive produced by Frank’s youngest child, Tina Sinatra. As such, you could be forgiven for expecting a hagiography of her father. Thankfully, though one suspects this isn’t a warts and all portrait of Ol’ Blue Eyes, there are more than a few blemishes on display.
Depicted early on as a dreamer prone to brash confidence and rash acts, Sinatra’s professional life is amusingly chronicled as he rises from saloon singer to Big Band performer, solo recording artist and movie star. His personal life is another matter entirely. After lovingly depicting Frank’s courtship of first wife Nancy (Tina’s mother), the film does not shy away from detailing the hurt his adultery inflicts upon his new bride. Yet when Frank is besotted by Ava Gardner, his suffering affects him professionally as well.
By dwelling way too long on this period of decline, the success Frank enjoyed after his Oscar-winning role in From Here to Eternity is superficially covered by a montage of clapper boards, doctored movie stills and album covers. Fortunately, the biopic is redeemed by its recollection of Frank’s close friendship with Sammy Davis Jr, his fluctuating relationship with the Kennedy’s and his association with Mafia figures.
With vocals provided by Frank, his son and Australia’s Tom Burlinson, Philip Casnoff is on song from the outset, resembling the crooner more as the biopic progresses. A miscast Marcia Gay Harden nevertheless gives a fine performance as Ava Gardner, and Olympia Dukakis delights as Frank’s mother. However, the undoubted star of the film is the marvellous soundtrack which features over twenty of Sinatra's hits.
as Frank Sinatra
as Ava Gardner
as Mia Farrow
as Sammy Davis Jr.
The character of Maria Polini is based on Toni Francke, who according to Kitty Kelley’s unauthorised biography of Sinatra, was much more than a one-night fling.
Frank Sinatra had joined the Three Flashes before they auditioned for Major Bowes Original Amateur Hour.
Biopic presents the widely accepted version of how Sinatra escaped from his contract with Tommy Dorsey. Another version, apparently corroborated by Dorsey in an interview with American Mercury Magazine in 1951, was that he signed the contract releasing Sinatra because he was paid and told by the mafia "Sign it or else!"
Biopic features brief scene recreations from Sinatra’s early films Las Vegas Nights and Higher and Higher as well as backlot scenes for Anchors Aweigh, The Miracle of the Bells, On the Town and Mogambo. Also recreates scene from his Oscar-winning role in From Here to Eternity in the guise of a screen test.