title
BOOKS I
I - II - III - IV - V - VI - VII - VIII


NOTE:  Frank Sinatra has been a fascination for biographers ever since his rise to fame in the 1940s, with the first being eyewitness accounts of his undeniable influence on popular culture. Sinatra's numerous successes and failures in music, film and life have always been somehow larger than the world he lived in, and even early on, observers have attempted, with various degrees of success, to quantify and dissect the power of his art and personality.  Sinatra was one of a kind, but the books chronicling his life are legion; hopefully this guide will direct you to the best - the ones that do the proper job of reaching into Sinatra's soul and shedding light on the Legend.  Used book sellers sometimes sell of Amazon.com, but if you can't find these titles there, I would suggest searching at abebooks.com or Alibris, as well as Half.com and eBay.com

The Voice: The Story of An American Phenomenon - Frank Sinatra
by E. J. Kahn, Jr.; Harper & Brothers Publishers, 125 p.
Released 1947

 

"Sinatra's eminence is as least in part a result of the feverish letter writing of his fans.  They are as diligent a bunch of correspondents as any older pressure group, and, at the instigation of their leaders, they keep bombarding people in the radio, movie, and recording business with demans for more of Frankie.


Most of Sinatra's fans are insatiable for information about him and find that the sustenance provided by movie magazines - articles with titles like "That Old Sinatra Magic," "Sweet Sin-atra," and "Sinatra - Prophet of Peace?" - is, like chop suey, filliing enough but of little nutritive value.  Their fan-club publications, mostly mimeographed affairs, which deal exclusively, and often lengthily, with Sinatra, provide more nourishment."
[pg. 76-77]
 


REVIEW:  I don't give The Voice, an early book on Sinatra four stars for its portrayal of Sinatra per se, but as a glimpse into another era, and more particularly as a glimpse of early Sinatra mania, it's unsurpassed.  There's something about the language, the first-hand account of seeing and hearing the phenomenon of Frank's appeal is far fresher and more alive than reading about it in modern recounts.  The author, E.J. Kahn, Jr., tells in the introduction how he first heard of 'Frankie' in 1941, as he was in boot camp, and one of his fellow soldiers had written "This Love Of Mine" which Sinatra had recorded, and was played on radios around the camp.  Later exposure after the war was so noticably pervasive, that the author began to study the singer, and his effect on the populace in general.  He humorously notes that even if people didn't like Sinatra, 'everybody had an opinion of him' (except his Grandfather, who was more interested in race horses, and considered Bing Crosby the better singer, since he owned race horses, and therefore, had to be a better singer).  What's also illuminating about this book is that its contents take place before his slide into obscurity at the end of the 1940s.  At the time this book was written, Frank was still extremely popular, had conquered radio, the Paramount, the Waldorf (where the hotel was innundated with phone calls from fans), and was still viewed as a humble, generous, and gregarious performer.  There is nothing mentioned of his fights with the press, his affair with Ava Gardner, his mob connections, or his communist leanings.  But there are paragraphs devoted to his charitable works, floppy ties, fan clubs, and family life.  It's a peculiar peek into an innocent time just shy of the years when it would all come tumbling down.  Included in the book are a packet of sixteen photographs, all of which might have been provided by Frank's publicist, as they show Frank with his family, with the Dorsey band, at an army hospital, and an autographed photo for fans to hang on their walls, among others.


Hollywood's Loveable Rogue - Frankie: The Life and Loves of Frank Sinatra
by Don Dwiggins; Paperback Library, 156 p.
Released 1961
 

"Clearly, the poor boy needed help.  MCA generously rushed to his aid.  Their strategy was simple - first it was necessary to convince Sinatra that he needed saving.  MCA men with flashy diamond rings and stiff shirts and stiffer upper lips moved in and jabbed expensive cigars at the tousle-headed entertainer.  "Brother, are you being taken for a sucker!" they told him, shaking their heads.  "Twenty-five gees for a movie?  Hell, you're worth two hunnert grand!"  "What can I do?" Sinatra asked plaintively.  "Sit tight, Frankie," they told him.  "Sit tight.  Maybe you got the laryngitis and can't sing because you're so shook up over those bum deals you made."  "So?"  Frankie asked innocently.  "So you don't sing, you don't make no money for those vultures.  So they get hungry.  We offer a better deal and zing!  You start working again.  We'll split commissions, of course."  Through the cloud of blue smoke Sinatra saw the logic here."  [pg. 53]


REVIEW:  Oh, mercy!  You know, sometimes you can judge a book by its cover.  The second I saw this cheesy photo, and read the line, Hollywood's Loveable Rogue, I just knew that this book was going to be pure SPAM.  Reading like a 10-cent romance novel, Don Dwiggins weaves a tale as implausible as any fairy tale, with the curtain opening on an "angry-eyed Italian night club singer" who jumps up onto the stage of a local high-school and incites the crowd of doe-eyed bobby-soxers to rebel against a local strike.  I can just see the publicist pushing this manuscript at a Hollywood exec and screaming: "It's pure GOLD!  I can see Fabian as Frankie, Donna Mills as devoted, but heart-broken, wife Nancy, and a cast of THOUSANDS!  Talk to me, baby!"  But seriously, the book is a scream, re-writing the Sinatra story into a panting pot-boiler, complete with stilted dialogue and quick-cutting scenes which careen from hot-and-heavy romances to shady deals with the mob.  Through it all Frank is cast as the naive innocent who floats above all the ruckus with a wink and a smile, coming off as pure and unspoilt as a new-born lamb, but with just enough of a wicked gleam in his eye to make him just a little 'naughty."  The author has the gall to describe such uber-blunders as The Kissing Bandit as "a frothy musical" and even has the chutzpah to fabricate a scene where Queen Elizabeth falls head over heels for Frankie, only to be politely rebuffed!  Oh, the humanity!  But how seriously can you take a book which uses several pages to academically dissect Frank's frequent use of slang: ("Sinatra fans are apt to confuse the usage of gas and gasser.  A gas is a situation, like a date with a broad can be a wonderful gas.  A gasser, Sinatra explained, applies to a person") [pg. 118], or inventing a scene where Frank shudders like a nervous schoolboy in the grip of an amorous redhead: ("Frankie," she breathed in an alchoholic cloud, "You were wonderful tonight.  Do you know what you do to women?"  Sinatra gulped and looked for a fire escape") [pg. 37].  If Glamour and Spy magazines had had a love child, this book would be it, so bad it's good - so trashy you'll need to take a bath afterwards, but so dumbell that it's impossible to take seriously, Frankie is a guilty pleasure - loads of fun if you're in the right mood.


Sinatra and His Rat Pack
by Richard Gehman; Belmont Books, 200 p.
Released 1961

 

"The lights went up and [Joey Bishop] walked on stage.  His opening line was, "Some time I want to work in a room where there's a Jewish orchestra and Spanish people are dancing."  This reference to the audience was greeted with an uncontrolled laugh.  Bishop said, "On occasions like this there is a tendency to be a little nervous.  Please don't be."  He went on like that, croaking out one-liners in his tough, husky voice for nearly ten minutes.  At one point Sinatra and Martin suddenly entered from each side of the stage, without being introduced, stared at each other, shrugged, and walked back into the wings.  Both were in dinner jackets.  Bishop looked at the audience in bewilderment.  "Son of a gun," he said.  "Italian penguins."  This too provoked a loud laugh." [pg. 73]


REVIEW:  Sinatra and His Rat Pack is a marvellously entertaining book, written at the time of the Rat Pack's dominance in the entertainment industry, author Richard Gehman takes a front row seat in observing the Pack, and without cowtowing or genuflection, gives a remarkably candid, clear-eyed, and insider look at this tempestuous cabal of pals.  Gehmen spends time with each member of the pack, as well as their cronies, girlfriends, and hangers-on, getting first hand interviews as well as insightful observations of how the dynamic shifted each time they were together.  He paints a biographical portrait of each member, discusses at length their individual traits, spends copious amounts of ink transcribing their stage routines, and anaylizes their unique blends of humor, music, and night-life escapades.  He even labels each member, with the back cover of the book spelling out the chain of command: Frank Sinatra as Chairman of the Board; Dean Martin as Sommelier (pack animal driver); Sammy Davis, Jr. as Court Jester; Peter Lawford as the 'Liason Man'; Joey Bishop is the Needler; Shirley Maclaine is the Rat Pack Mascot; Tony Curtis is Scout Leader; Jimmy Van Heusen is the Keeper of the Royal Exchequer; Sammy Cahn is Court Wholesaler; Irving Paul Lazar is the Director of Sanitation; and Harry Kurnitz is the Roving Ambassador. Each gets time in the pages, with Sammy Davis' racial and religious persecution rising to the fore, but also mafia friendships and wild soiree's which bounced from club to club. Since the author was writing 'as it's happening' - the book has an immediacy and freshness that's almost entirely lacking from more contemporary accounts. I would love to see this rare item republished, since not only does it count as one of the more vital documents of the Rat Pack era; its flavor and presence serves as a living relic from the time. Fun stuff... and getting hard to find.


Sinatra
by Robin Douglas-Home; Grosset & Dunlap Publishing, 64 p.
Released 1962

 

I saw complete and utter involvement with the song he was singing - involvement so close that one might feel he was in the throes of composing both tune and lyric as he went along.  When he controlled his breathing he shuddered, almost painfully - shoulders shook, neck muscles twitched, even his legs seemed to oscillate.  His nostrils dialated and his eyes closed dreamily, then opened again as sharp as ever as he watched a soloist, then closed again and his face contorted into a grimace, and his whole frame seemed to be caught up in a paroxysm, quivering all over as he expressed a key note or word... He was putting so much into that song, giving so much of himself that it drained my own energy just to watch him - without hearing a note he was singing; left me so limp at the end that I felt I had actually been living through some serious emotional crisis."  [pg. 16]


REVIEW:  Sinatra is a slim book, which has a very similar tone and feel to E.J. Kahn's book above, yet is a completely personal commentary on the effect which Sinatra has had on the author's life.  Touching only briefly upon Sinatra's life and career, the author recounts how, as a college boy, he saw a fellow roomate with a picture upon his wall of Sinatra, and asked who it was.  Later, in the army, he heard Sinatra's voice on the radio, and not recognizing it,asked a subordinate who was singing: "'Frank Sinatra, sir,' he answered with a look suggesting I had asked him what my own name was..." It was not until five years later that, on a whim, he bought his first Frank Sinatra album, Songs For Swingin' Lovers, and understood what all the fuss was about. The most remarkable aspect of this brief book is the opportunity the author had to visit a recording session, Frank's last with Alex Stordahl, for the album Point of No Return. The depth of detail and the fine observant eye the author brings to the page is remarkable; quite possibly the best first-hand account we have of Sinatra's methods in the studio. He transcribes entire conversations between Frank and the orchestra and conducter in sharp detail. On another occasion, the author travelled with Frank and his entourage to Las Vegas for an early performance of the Rat Pack at the Sands; and at another time, he jet-sets with Frank on a worldwide Charity concert tour to raise money for underpriviledged children. The author resists the urge to turn these few moments he spent with Frank into a full-bore biography; but thankfully, he succinctly and vividly paints a portrait of a few days in Sinatra's life that stands as one of the best first-person accounts ever published.


Sinatra: Twentieth Century Romantic
by Arnold Shaw; Henry Holt and Company, 371 p.
Released 1968; Reissued 1969
 

 

"Beyond the appeal of other Sinatra images, mirror and retouched, was the magic of his comeback.  The press was mesmerized by his re-entry from the outer space of the has-been.  Over and over, reporters and freelance writers told the tale of the underdog who had beaten the tough odds against climbing back into the limelight.  But he had done more.  He had miraculously propelled himself into a new career as a dramatic actor.
His buoyance reflected itself in a new record style and taste.  Moving from Columbia Records to Capitol, he began recording with a large complement of rocking brass and rhythm, and using the finger-snapping charts of Nelson Riddle and Billy May.  Bounce and drive became the earmarks of a unique kick-ballad style, as he chirped "I've Got The World On A String," "Come Fly With Me," and "Young At Heart." 
[pg. 195]


REVIEW:  This book has been reissued several times over the years, with several different covers and titles, including Sinatra, and Sinatra: Retreat of the Romantic, as well as the original title above: Sinatra: Twentieth-Century Romantic.  Whatever the title or cover, this proves to be one of the more enduring glimpses of Frank Sinatra that's ever been written, even if it fails to be comprehensive.  In the introduction, the author lays out his thematic statement: "If Humphrey Bogart stands forth as the existential man, viewing life with a sense of detached irony but living with courage within the human condition, Sinatra is the archetype of the romantic man, raging against the human condition... Sinatra is a twentieth-century American with an almost renaissance flair for excitement, lavishness, and emotional extravagance." [pg. 3]  Not a bad way of viewing Sinatra - and Mr. Shaw manages to carry this promising ideal throughout the text, explaining and confirming his hypothesis several times over within the course of the balanced biography.  Mr. Shaw is an extremely talented writer, with through-thought ideas coursing over the narrative; he incorporates what was then modern psychological models, many of which still sound reasonable, especially with the examples which he pulls from Sinatra's own life: Frank's temper coming from his Sicilian heritage, his unforgiving nature pulled from his mother and her association with Italian heritage groups; his work ethic from the Hoboken community he grew up in, and his generosity from his mother's involvement with the Democratic party.  Shaw touches on all the more notable events of Sinatra's life, not overlooking his gangster friends or failed marriages, but the sociological and psychological models he has built for the reader, along with his clear, prosaic writing skills, make this book a pleasure to read, and may open the eyes of many Sinatra fans and foes alike to what made one of the most fascinating characters of the the twentieth-century tick.  Recommended.


The Films Of Frank Sinatra
by Gene Ringgold and Clifford McCarty; Citadel Press, 249 p.
Released 1971

 

"Sometimes called "The Monster with the Golden Charm," he's been profiled in every international magazine of prominence and too many scandal sheets.  The authors of more than a few novels... have patterned their protagonists in his unmistakable public image.  Others have used that concept for a background character as an opportunity to explicate and exploit his sex life and underworld associations.  A wealth of material about him is available for anyone to ponder.  Unfortunately, much of it is emotionally bankrupt and superficial.  It is hoped that someday he will write the real story. ...Because there is a real Frank Sinatra. ...The overblown accounts of his frailities and follies merely reaffirm his flesh and blood actuality."  [pg 22]


REVIEW:  The Films of Frank Sinatra, part of an entire series devoted to individual film stars like Kate Hepburn and Cary Grant, traces the films of Frank Sinatra from Las Vegas Nights to 1970s Dirty Dingus Magee. A true reference book, there is little here in the way of Hollywood gossip or dishing, although the authors take up several pages in the lengthy introduction which spells out his various affairs and other peripheral matters. The meat of the book is straightforward enough: amid generous sprinklings of black and white photographs, the book lists the production and technical staff, running time, full cast list, songs (if any) and composers, a story synopsis, and finally, contemporary reviews which appeared after the film's premiere. So we have Hollis Alpert, of The Saturday Review quoted as saying, in regards to 1956's High Society, "There is one delightful duet however, when Sinatra and Crosby get together for five minutes or so and show solid professionalism in their handling of "What A Swell Party This Is." If the rest of the movie were up to that level - but it isn't." and more chatty comments on both sides of the fence for each film.  High praise is given for From Here To Eternity ("[Sinatra] is simply superb"); low for Sergeants 3 ("It's more din than Gunga"), and all ranges in between.  Books like this are still being produced, but for the most part they have been out-done by definitive web sites such as the Internet Movie DataBase and the AllMovie Guide.  But this book contains more photos, and more classic reviews than either of those sites, and may still be useful to Sinatraphiles who wish to have something to read in their hands.  The format of the book is not generally attractive, with each picture in flat black and white, but for the sheer amount of information, and the Sinatra-centric theme throughout, it's worth a peruse.


Frank Sinatra: The Man, The Myth and the Music
by Peter Goddard; Greywood Publishing, Ltd., 154 p.
Released 1973

 

"No matter what time of night it is in Miami, as soon as the sun goes down, it seems like midnight.  Anywhere else, midnight is the great dividing line when all the gawkers and gee-gosh guys go home, when all the good hustling starts and everyone plays it real loose and knowing. ...So guys with rotisserie-even tans rush into bars at dusk, leaning over their drinks with their experienced Miami slouch, and start playing it loose.  you can catch this at hotels which deal primarily with charter flights for middle ages  housewives from Chicago to New York, where everyone hits the lounge about 9 p.m. to drink pastel colored drinks, and experience the rush of Miami nightlife.  But you only get to the throbbing core of all this at the Gigi Bar at the Fountainbleau, or at the bar ajoining the La Ronde Room, when Frank Sinatra is around."  [pg.39-40]


REVIEW:  The Man, The Myth and the Music is an embarrassingly gushy fan letter in the form of a biography.  This fawning, gee-whiz love letter to Frank trips all over itself to immortalize the Chairman of the Board in remarkably stilted prose.  Glossing over warts and punching up his successes, The Man, The Myth and the Music is much more about the Myth than the Man, and hardly touches the Music in it's quest to immortalize Sinatra the God.  The biography is a fairly straightforward chronological account of Frank's life, with snippets of interviews from folks who knew him in Hoboken before he became famous, and the author does a perfunctory job of recounting basic facts about Sinatra's rise to fame, his slow fall from popularity, and rebound - but often he contributes paragraphs which go over the top in thier adulation: "The magnetism he displayed in New York has never left him; even recently, whenver he appeared in one of his favorite clubs, when he started to sing the most cynical of reporters noticed quickly how silent the room became and how transfixed everyone was."  He goes on to say that Hollywood both catalpulted and nearly ruined Sinatra: "It... made him richer, more famous, more feared, more loved, and more memorable than anyone who first met him there could possibly have imagined." [pg. 48]  The author breathlessly enumerates the many news-worthy romances which Frank enjoyed, with Ava Gardner, Juliet Prowse, and Mia Farrow all getting heated write-ups, and the author seemingly envious of every conquest.  Honestly, this is just a ridiculous exercise in fan worship, and quickly gets tiresome as a read.  There's not a jot or tittle of new insight or information to be found in its pages - just 150-plus pages of adulation.  It's too much even for a big fan like me.  Long out of print, this item can be found in numerous used book sellers bins, but don't kill yourself trying to scope it out - most fans could write better.


The Entertainers - On Stage: Frank Sinatra
by Harriet Lake; Creative Education, 47 p.
Released 1976

 
"Once again, Sinatra was back on top.  His career seemed to be taking off in all directions.  On television, he starred in a musical version of Our Town.  ABC signed him for a $3 million, 13-segment T.V. series.
With fame and fortune again within his grasp, Sinatra glowed with confidence.  "Man, I feel 8 feet tall," he told one reporter.  "Everything is ahead of me.  I'm on top of the world . . . The career is going wonderfully.  People are wonderful to me and I'm a happy, happy man."
Frank's exuberant mood was revealed in his music.  Along with the romantic ballads he'd always sung, he began experimenting with jazzy, hard-driving numbers.  Record promoters began creating a new image for him - the "Swinging Sinatra."
[pg. 35]

REVIEW:  This children's biography of Frank Sinatra from the mid-1970s is the first young persons look at Sinatra which had been published, and as such, it serves its purpose, giving a dry, by-the-numbers look at Frank's life, glossing over the music and films except when they serve the narrative.  It's hard to imagine that this ugly, dated format could appeal to kids who at the time were hungry for biographies of Keith Partridge and the Osmonds, but there you are.  The writing is terribly dull, with countless cliches littering the pages, and lazy descriptions showing a real lack of enthusiasm for the subject by the author.  Broken into several short chapters flowing in chronological order, the bio begins by painting a particularly unflattering view of Sinatra's parents, intimating that they were lower-class white trash who took particular glee in berating Frank's desires to become a singer.  Then the narrative flashes quickly over Sinatra's tenure with the Hoboken Four, devotes all of two paragraphs to Harry James, then plows into the Dorsey Years.  The entire book is quickly written, and although it skims over several important events, it manages to be concise, even though it smacks of cynicism throughout, and paints a portrait of Sinatra as a brute, whose success in music and film is propped up by the Mafia, and just plain good luck.  Not exactly the kind of values I'd want my kids to absorb about such conciencious and hard-working man, but Ms. Lake apparently is writing on deadline and is content to spoon feed little minds a biography filled with character assasination and like-minded sludge.  On Stage has black and white photos scattered thorughout, taken from various newspapers, and there are no sources noted, or bibliography included.  Not worth seeking out, even for rabid collectors.   


Sinatra
by Tony Sciacca; Pinnacle Books, 248 p.
Released 1976

 

"Perhaps Sinatra's insecurities in the face of the most incredible public adulation ever given any performer may be at least a partial explanation for his constant, although unspoken, demand for respect.  It's a guess, pure speculation, but after months of researching this man, I am left with the very strong feeling that his Il Padrone attitude, his public brawls, and private vendettas, his close association with real-life Mafia Godfathers, his lack of compulsion that Nancy cited - all the conflicting "schizophrenic" (to use Cheshire's rather careless word) behavior by Frank Sinatra is a form of defence enabling him to avoid facing himself.  On a few rare occasions, Frank has come close to admitting that his fears and insecurities may be the unconscious motivation behind his erratic behavior, but then he's backed away from such potentially dangerous self-analysis."  [pg. 112-113]


REVIEW:  In the introduction, Mr. Sciacca disabuses himself of having any bias in the examination of Frank Sinatra, due to the fact that for several years he claims to have been a Sinatra apologist, exusing Frank's many public fracasses with the press and certain individuals, but later admits that his admiration for Sinatra suddenly flip-flopped; and, when a fellow reporter suggested that he could write a "balanced" biography on Sinatra since he had been both a fan and a detractor, (and also, the associate asserts, because the author is Italian and therefore, more intuitively able to tackle Sicilian subject Sinatra), he apparently thought enough of his own understanding of Sinatra's character to tackle the project.  Unfortunately, the author, who is only identified as "a top investigative reporter" on the back cover, has no first hand information or contacts to work with, and so we have two-hundred-plus pages of him recounting newspaper and magazine reports, tied together with his shaky grasp of pop-psychology.  So this blunted biography reads like left-overs, with Sciacca attempting to dig beneath Sinatra's skin, but rather obviously not able to even scratch the surface of Sinatra's complex personality.  Ignoring his music (how can a biography of Sinatra ignore his music?) and clutching onto the coat-tails of any published scandal sheet he can find, Sciacca fumbles around in an attempt to delineate an obtuse theory on Sinatra's psychology that fits his incomplete facts, and lays a great big egg.  Not even successful as a juicy tell-all, the prose is flat and, saddled with his flailing sidebars into what makes Frank tick, sinks Sinatra quicker than any iceberg could.


Frank Sinatra (Rock'nPopStars)
by Paula Taylor; Creative Education, 30 p.
Released 1976
 

 

"At first Frank Sinatra seemed to be just another pleasant-voiced band singer.  He sounded much like Bing Crosby.  So did most of the other young singers.  Crosby was still the top male vocalist in the country.  Everyone had tried to copy his style.  But Frank didn't want to sound like anyone else.  "It occured to me," he said later, "that maybe the world didn't need another Crosby.  I decided to experiment a little and come up with something different."

Frank began listening carefully to the musicians around him.  He particularly admired Tommy Dorsey's trombone playing.  When Tommy played, the melody flowed on endlessly, smooth and unbroken.  The trombonist never seemed to take a breath.  Fascinated, Frank began watching Tommy closely..."  [pg 23]


REVIEW:  In what may have been the first of its kind, this slim book, part of a series called Rock'nPopStars introduced the artistry of Frank Sinatra to elementary-age children back in the mid-1970s.  Related in extremely simplistic tones, Frank's story is told in 30 pages, accompanied by clunky watercolor images depicting Frank at the poolside, or exiting a train as a throng of fans mob him.  A true relic of the 1970's, this book recounts a modern-day concert setting featuring (gasp!) the 5th Dimension and Jose Feliciano, but states that Sinatra rules over them all. It then announces to the children that Sinatra has been around so long he even pre-dates Elvis Presley! (Wow!) Neither terribly informative, and carrying its share of errors, the book nevertheless finds the time to discuss Frank's tastes in food: ("In the 40s every Sinatra fan knew that Frank's favorite food was a banana split. Now he lunches on prociutto and melon, cheese and red wine, and orders clams and Italian bread flown in for dinner from his favorite restaurant in New York.") The author takes pains to describe Sinatra as old, tempermental, authoritative, and yet completely unique in American pop culture, while glossing over his music, his films and his charitable works. On the plus side, apparently his many affairs and marriages are considered too spicy for the grade-school crowd, and his mob friends also are thankfully missing.  This comic book-level narrative may be a collector's item now, but as a biography, it's distinctively behind the times.


SINATRA: An Unauthorized Biography
by Earl Wilson; McMillan Publishing Co., Inc., 357 p.
Released 1976

 
"Frankie became a fad, a fashion, a rage, a hurricane, a household word, a jest, a Cinderella story, a subject for columnists to dwell upon in "think pieces," a subject for dinner table debates.  He was the new wonder boy, the greatest thing in the entertainment business in recent times, and he was also a tough kid who had taken on many bigger guys and licked them.
Often he sat quietly thinking of the miraculous thing that had happened to him. He felt humble, and he expressed his thanks in one way he knew. He bought presents for those who had helped him. He would do it all his life. [pg. 56]

REVIEW:  Sinatra: An Unauthorized Biography is one of the few balanced biographies of Frank Sinatra which have ever been written.  Earl Wilson was a reporter who covered Sinatra's early success, and because of his favorable articles, was given access to Frank's entourage and saw many of his personal traits close up.  He also got on the outs with Frank in the early seventies, and was forced to observe him from the outside, which strangely, only strengthened his admiration for what he often describes as an absolutely unique individual.  This thick book is probably the best you'll find for in-depth detail about Frank's rise to fame in the 1940s, with first-person accounts of the hysteria which 'Swoonatra' was able to produce in his female fans, and Earl's personal recollections of Frank's two-sided personality, which could be humble and generous, or proud and unforgiving.  But reading this book also makes it clear that Earl Wilson is undoubtedly caught up in the Sinatra 'Legend' - he's as much a fan as a reporter, and although he doesn't shrink from recounting Sinatra's more seedy side, the author is forgiving, and understanding of Frank's faults; justifying many of them through psychology or societal forces at work.  He goes into detailed accounts of certain events; the death of an early supporter and friend, Rags Ragland, and Frank graciously stepping in to Rags' shoes to be the brunt of Phil Silvers' comedy routine on night at the Copa; his conversations with Ava Gardiner the day she signed the divorce papers; the punch in the gut directness of Frank's curt dismissal of him at the Fontainbleau in Miami, it's all told with clarity, directness and a little awe, as if Earl himself cannot quite understand the power that Sinatra holds over him.  The one large fault in this book is that it's strictly an examination of Sinatra's life and the effect that his art and character had on others - it completely ignores the art itself, with no mention of any of Frank's recordings, films, or other ventures, other to recount their occurance.  But even though the book is not a complete look at Frank's life, ending just short of 1976, it's undoubtedly one of the clearest-eyed accounts of the man which we're going to get; Earl knew Sinatra, and loved him; and with a reporter's keen eye and a writer's skill, gives an understanding, compassionate report.  Highly recommended.


Frank Sinatra: A Photobiography
by George Bishop; Epps-Praxis Publishers, 80 p.
Released 1976

 

"...the house lights were up and an air of good-natured expectancy prevailed.  Suddenly the lights would dim, a single spot would bathe a microphone perched on an elevated podium several feet in front of the bandstand, and a voice would dramatically announce: "Ladies and gentlemen, Frank Sinatra!"
As the famed Stordahl strings slipped into the first song's introduction, other spots would converge stage left or right, and, flanked by four or six husky bodyguards who temporarily screened him from view, a slight, curly-haired, hollow-cheeked young man would stride purposefully to the podium.  The bodyguards would melt away and htere, in the flesh for all to see, IN PERSON, stood Frank Sinatra.  The crowd was on the edge of their seats uncertain how to react, and before they made up their minds, Sinatra began to sing.  The general rapture knew no bounds."
  [pg. 18]


REVIEW:  Both cheaply made, and cheaply written, this oversize paperback book is yet another canon-shot at Sinatra's image, filled with insults, degrading descriptions, and a haphazard narrative which reels like a drunken sailor.  Although appearing the same year as Wilson's bio above, Photobiography has the temerity to quote from the previous book, as well as Richard Gehman's Rat Pack bio, and, it wouldn't surprise me to learn that the author cribbed everything here from other sources, as the tone of the book veers wildly from fawning admiration of his talent ("can anything equal the thrill of hearing a song delivered as only he can?") to purile sensationalism ("reportedly extremely well-endowed, Sinatra has attracted prominent, beautiful women"), to vilification ("his public image," Reed wrote, "is uglier than a first-degree burn.")  While this might give the appearance of 'balance,' it reads more like a shoddy cut and paste job, with little regard from continuity or forethought.  The author throws in everything he can in the brief space he's given, from a worthless filmography containing nothing more than brief synopses, to scattershot discussions of Sinatra's albums, to lazy attempts to analyze Frank's cultural significance, and joyless examinations of his well-publicized relationships and romances.  The book takes the tack of quoting numerous articles which show the worst side of Sinatra, and then explaining them away as misunderstood character flaws or blown-out-of-proportion one-time events, a tiresome exercise in apologism and justification see-sawing relentlessly without coming to a conclusion.  The book is filled with black and white photographs from stock production and promotional releases, as well as numerous shots snapped by paparazzi; in other words, nothing terribly exciting or personal.  Not recommended.


Sinatra's Women
by Gerry Romero; Manor Books, 220 p.
Released 1976

 
"... Frank appeared in Australia for a concert tour at the same time Ava was there for the filming of On The Beach.  The country/continent down under was backward in many ways, but its press was decidedly forward.  Suffering from an inferiority complex, the newsmen took offense at iust [sp] about anything.  When Ava had jokingly made the comment, "I'm here to make a film about the end of the world, and this sure is the place for it," the press took her words as a challenge to make her life miserable - more miserable than it, unfortunately, already was.
Frank did not fare any better with the reporters, but at this time he was stronger and better able to take the hassle than Ava was ... All they got was hostility and angry responses for their rudeness, which the press managed to turn into news.  And the press would not forget their angry exchanges with Sinatra.  They would let the embers smolder for another fifteen years, so that - when Frank finally came back for another tour of Australia - they would get their revenge in a big way."
[pg. 167]

REVIEW:  In Sinatra's Women, author Gerry Romero seems to take great pleasure in constantly denigrating the media (although, from the list of sources found in the back of the book, he had no problem with perusing trashy biographies).  The sample above is typical - the evil press hound and harass Frank and his loves at every turn, and the author paints them all with the same diabolical brush.  Although not as one-sided as I might have expected, (assumed from the thuggish photo of Frank used on the cover) Sinatra's Women is nonetheless a tedious book - part social commentary, part flabby biography, and part breathless tell-all, the author is obviously a Sinatra fan, but lacking any direct sources to use, he's left to freely lift his facts from other author's books, and stitch together his own patchwork portrait of Sinatra's many affairs.  The author does try to be balanced, which is why I award him an extra half-star; but the prose is so stilted, and the author does so little in the way of first-hand research, that the book reads like day-old bread, with a "he said, she said" mentality which simply wore me out.  It doesn't help that the author occasionally tries to be socially adept; ham-fistedly throwing in topical references with little or no applicability to the main subject - no, they're just there to lend an air of respectability to what is, at its core, a prying, gossipy, tabloid-like expose exactly like the fodder the press he so gleefully lambasts, yet here is the same material, cloned in all it's purile nakedness.  The author at least manages to touch all the bases - from his mother Dolly to his final wife Barbara, each known female acquaintance gets a nod, and Frank, despite his rampaging libido and well-documented infidelities, still manages to come out smelling like a rose.  It's a good thing that the faceless press is such a handy scapegoat for the author, otherwise this book might have to turn the spotlight on Sinatra himself.  A cheap, poorly researched book, and a thinly-disguised hagiography.


The Revised Compleat Sinatra
by Albert I Lonstein and Vito R. Marino; Lonstein Publications, 702 p.
Released 1979

 

"The modern-day singer of popular songs is the victim of an unrpredictable species; in a large part he is pushed rapidly into prominence by a momentary whim of taste and just as rapidly, when that taste has been satisfied, he is back where he started, living out the remainder of his career in a sort of musical limbo. There he remains, perhaps not entirely ignored by the public, but passed over in favor of someone new; someone who may not have an equal amount of talent, but now is the possessor of a different talent, sounding gimmick, one which captures the vagaries of public attention for a few fleeting seconds. This is the general pattern of success in popular musical circles but as in the conjugation of French verbs, there are exceptions. Certainly, one of the most obvious of these is the career of Frank Sinatra, ...Unchanged and unchanging, Frank has altered his style not one whit from the days when he was occupying more musical space than the president of the United States, when teenagers were falling over themselves to get glimpses of this romantic figure. Frank has not changed and public acceptance of his vocal styling has changed even less. ~ Bill Zeitung [from the foreword].


REVIEW:  This monster, weighing in at over five pounds and over seven hundred pages in length, is a heavily expanded revision of the earlier (and less ponderous) Compleat Sinatra, and stands proudly as one of the first scholarly reference works chronicling Sinatra's many songs, films, and appearances (including television, radio and concerts), and is the grandfather to all Sinatra reference books which have followed it.  A massive undertaking an true labor of love, the authors painstakingly gathered and edited a complete sessionography, including musicians, arrangers, live appearances, radio performances and more, giving information on session dates, songs recorded, album appearances, arrangers, conductors, alternate takes, song indexes for each of Sinatra's major labels, V-Discs, a complete listing of television appearances, radio appearances, a complete filmography, air checks, a complete discography (up to the time of publication) a selected bibliography containing books and articles written about Sinatra, as well as a section of books containing short material about Sinatra, a list of major awards and honors, a full section of rare photographs, and much more.  It also contains chapter prefaces which help delineate the different eras of Sinatra's career and recording history.  It's simply breathtaking - and the fact that it's been surpassed in recent years by other books in no way diminishes this book's importance or worth, since much of the infomation has since been fragmented into different publications; this stands as the best single all-around reference book of its kind. Later supplimented with an 120-page addendum in 1981, which is rare and hard to find. The Revised Compleat Sinatra may be out of date now as far as completeness, but it's still the gold standard, and worthwhile finding for the Sinatra collector.

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