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the night we called it a day, biographical film, biography, review, biopic

The Night We Called It a Day (2003) 

A tour down under can be a perilous undertaking for the unprepared. Laurence Olivier blamed the Old Vic’s tour of the Antipodes for the dissolution of his marriage to Vivien Leigh; Tony Hancock committed suicide while filming a television series in Sydney; and Johnny Depp and Amber Heard had to apologise to the nation for smuggling in Pistol and Boo. No such apology was immediately forthcoming from Frank Sinatra, who during his 1974 tour of Australia made some unsavoury comments about female journalists. The resulting fracas was the stuff of legend. Pity the makers of this film decided to obscure the story with clumsily imagined subplots.

Rod Blue from Woolloomooloo is a penniless rock promoter who convinces Old Blue Eyes he can handle the Australian leg of his comeback tour, but no sooner does the crooner step off his plane does that boast prove unfounded. Greeted by an unwanted throng of press, Sinatra implies female journalist Hilary Hunter is a two-dollar whore, later clarifying his remarks mid-performance that actually, she’s not worth a buck and a half. The Journalist’s Union is outraged and demands an apology and when none is given, the entire Trade Union movement places a black ban on the singer. His concerts are cancelled, his plane can’t get refueled and the hotel he is staying at becomes a virtual prison.

Yet the farcical nature this situation lends itself to is barely explored, save for a few establishing shots of the room’s utilities not working and Frank being reduced to eating out of a can. Instead the focus remains on the fictional Rod Blue, his budding romance with a new employee, his liaison with the female journalist in question and his strained relationship with his father. Intended comical touches involving buffoonery bodyguards, a heavily pregnant assistant and Blue’s constant brawling contribute to the film’s uneven tone.


In what was potentially an inspired piece of casting, Dennis Hopper portrays Sinatra, lip-syncing to Australian actor Tom Burlinson. Unfortunately, while he may look the part, Hopper’s recognizable mannerisms shade the illusion. More successful is Melanie Griffith, who shines as Sinatra’s companion and soon-to-be wife Barbara Marx. Biopic also features early starring roles for Joel Edgerton and Rose Byrne.

Dennis Hopper, Frank Sinatra, Stephen O'Rourke, Jilly Rizzo, John Simeon
fact check, fact vs fiction, Sammy Davis Jr.

The character of promoter Rod Blue is fictional.

The character of female journalist Hilary Hunter is fictional.

Sinatra’s comments were not targeted towards one particular journalist, remarking “It’s the scandal men that bug you and drive you crazy, and the hookers, the broads of the press are the hookers of the press… I might offer them a buck and a half – that’s true”

Paul Hipp, Elvis Presley
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