Television Review: Sinatra (1992)

in Movies & TV Shows2 months ago (edited)


Most of the statues depicting Roman emperors were commissioned by emperor themselves and they show not what those persons looked like but how they wanted to be seen. It could be argued that Sinatra, 1992 biopic television miniseries, is a similar kind of monument. Made in two parts or four episodes, with total running time of roughly three and half hours, the series depicts the life of legendary American singer Frank Sinatra. The plot begins in 1925 Hoboken, New Jersey, when we are introduced to 10-year old Frank (played by Adam La Vorgna), son of two Italian immigrants - local firefighter and former boxer Marty Sinatra (played by Joe Santos) and midwife and local politician Natalie “Dolly” Sinatra (played by Olympia Dukakis). Young Frankie has a great singing talent, but nobody, and especially his parents, don’t take his plans of professional singing career seriously. As a teenager he leaves home and does variety of odd jobs before gets his professional break as member of singing quartet Hoboken Four, and later, as singer in big bands led by jazz musicians Harry James (played by Matthew Posey) and Tommy Dorsey (played by Bob Gunton). He also romances and marries Nancy Barbatto (played by Gina Gershon), which would bear him three children. In 1940s, during Second World War, Frank starts solo career and finally becomes great star, using both his singing talent and good looks to become idol for teenage girls. This allows him to move to Hollywood and start building acting career. Newly acquired fame and womanising puts a strain on his family, but it is his relationship with actress Ava Gardner (played by Marcia Gay Harden) that would start to affect him professionally and nearly cost him his career and life. Sinatra bounces back thanks to the “Oscar”-winning role in From Here to Eternity, becomes one of the nation’s greatest entertainers and the member of legendary “Rat Pack”. His fame is such that he would even play part in some controversial events that helped make John F. Kennedy (played by James F. Kelly) president.

Executive producer of Sinatra was Tina Sinatra, youngest daughter of Frank Sinatra. The legendary singer personally approved the script by William Mastrosimone and Abby Mann. Despite all that, Sinatra doesn’t look too hagiographic. While the script generally accepts myth of Sinatra as embodiment of American Dream – child of immigrant parents who conquered adversity to reach fame, fortune and influence as “Chairman of the Borad” – it never shies away from less than exemplary details of his life. That includes womanising, bad temper and connections with organised crime. The result is mostly convincing and sometimes fascinating portrayal of larger-than-life character whose exploits could have filled plot of more than one miniseries. Philip Casnoff, television actor best known as main villain in North and South, uses a rare opportunity for leading role and does very good job in portraying Sinatra from his teenage to middle age years. His Sinatra is flawed but charismatic and watching Casnoff, despite lack of actual physical resemblance to “Ol’ Blue Eyes”, manages to convince audience that they are seeing legendary singer. The rest of cast is good, especially those playing important women in Sinatra’s life – Olympia Dukakis as his larger-than-life mother, Gina Gershon as his long-suffering first wife and Marcia Gay Harden as his lover. Despite limits of television production, various settings and periods are reconstructed in efficient way, while Sinatra’s songs serve as good soundtrack and some sort of Greek chorus. Great effort by director James Steven Sadwith is, however, compromised by conceptual flaw. First part of the series, which covers Sinatra’s rise to fame, is much better and easier to comprehend than the second part, which rushes through some of the most eventful events of Sinatra’s life. There is very little attention given to legendary “Rat Pack” and Sinatra’s marriage to Mia Farrow (played by Nina Siemaszko) happens in matter of minutes. Viewers who weren’t Sinatra’s contemporaries or who aren’t well vesed in history of Hollywood and 1960s America would have serious problems understanding this segment. Sinatra was nevertheless greeted well by critics and even won Golden Globe for Best Miniseries. The general impression is still disappointing, especially in the light of Rat Pack, television film made six years later in which Sinatra was played by Ray Liotta. All those wanting to see proper Sinatra biography would probably be better served by documentaries.

RATING: 4/10 (+)

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