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


NOTE: Again, the subject matter and talent involved in the creation of these books, which begin to creep into the new millenium, are all over the map.  We have gift books, scholarly essays, photo-biographies, filmographies, two widely-divergent books examining the Rat Pack, a sessionography, a book detailing Frank's FBI files, a children's biography, and a book by Frank's daughter, Tina.  There is literally no consistancy in opinion or what the focus of material is - all that is apparent is that after his death, Sinatra continued to exert tremendous fascination for the literate public.


Frank Sinatra: Behind Blue Eyes
By Armand Eisen;
Andrews McMeel Publishing, 79 p.
Released October 1, 1998

 

"Before Elvis, before the Beatles, the world was swooning to the crooning of Frank Sinatra.  When he took the stage at the Paramount Theater in the early 1940s, the world had its first glimpse of the swinging, singing sensation.  But like anybody else, Frank Sinatra had his share of good times and bad times, successes and failures.  See them come together in this stylish, fun look at the life of an American legend." [from the introduction, pg. 7]

"I like broads." [quoting Frank, pg. 65]


REVIEW:  This is one of those diminutive gift books you can find near the cashier's register in almost any major bookseller - you know the ones - three-by-three-1/2 inch mini-guides to everything from how to bellydance to inspriational thoughts for the day.  This entry is an unoffensive guide to the life of Sinatra, with short, pithy bits of information and humor that makes a great stocking stuffer at Christmastime or is the perfect little gift for the Sinatra fan in your life.  Written by some guy named Armand Eisen, this write up probably took him all of one afternoon, and is just right for a daily dose of Frank in your day.  Chapter include: "The Fundamental Frank" which is quick bites of trivia on Frank's life like, "Sinatra was a gifted conductor, despite his inability to read music."  "The Sinatra Timeline" is an abbreviated look at Frank's life in five-year chunks; "Thoughts On A Legend" are quotes from various celebrities about Frank, including Bing Crosby, Shirley MacLaine, Walter Cronkite, Frank Sinatra Jr., and Nancy, Harry James, Nelson Riddle, Lauren Bacall, and Sammy Davis Jr.  "What the Legend Has Learned" is all Frank quotations, giving soundbite responses to diffrent questions, like the one quoted above.  Also you'll find "SinatraSpeak" which I have lovingly ripped off for this site in its entirety.  Closing out the book is a fun two-page section entitled: "AKA Sinatra" which lists the many nicknames Frank has been graced with over the years, including 'Angles,' 'The Bony Baritone,' and 'Saint Francis of Hoboken.'  This punitive publication is also peppered with pics of the 'Prince Charming Of Jukeboxes' with some very nice candid shots all reduced down to small, but discernable size.  It's out of print now, but you can still find it around, and for fun, it's definitely worth a nickel.


Sinatra: Portrait Of The Artist 1915 - 1998
By Ray Coleman;
Regnery Publications, 192 p.
Released November 1, 1998

 

"Crosby had been as perfect for his time as Sinatra was to prove as the 1940s unfolded.  The sceptics who wondered if he could survive outside the Dorsey umbrella did not have to wait long.  On 30 December 1942, billed as an "Extra Added Attraction," Sinatra opened alongside the Benny Goodman Sextet and singer Peggy Lee at the Paramount Theatre on Times Square, New York.  It was a prestige solo debut at the turn of the year, and Frank was in strong musical company.  Goodman's introduction of Sinatra was understated: "And now, Frank Sinatra."  The roar from the crowd was "tremendous," Sinatra recalled later.  He was "scared stiff... I couldn't move a muscle... Benny froze, too.  He turned round, looked at the audience and asked: 'What the hell is that?'"  Sinatra laughed and pressed into an upbeat song, "For Me and My Gal." 
Sinatra fever was born that night.
  [pg. 24]


REVIEW:  One of those quickie-release books that was published shortly on the heels of his death, this quickly pasted-together book is your basic over-size coffee-table ho-hum, with tons of pictures from all sorts of sources, a text which seems to be lifted out of the gee-whiz book of how-to-write celebrity bio's, and as it's big selling point, an introduction by cool-celeb of the moment, Bono.  I suppose as an introduction to Sinatra's life you could do worse, like pick up Kitty Kellys death-on-wheels tome, but if you want insight, or detail, or feeling in the writing, you might as well go down to your local supermarket and pick up the latest issue of Archie Comics.  That's about the depth we're talking about here.  A quick, painless look at the history, accomplishments and high points of Sinatra's life and loves, this was probably pieced together from various newspaper and magazine articles, and it reads like many of Frank's obituaries did at the time of his death - dull, colorless repetitions of what many people already knew; his famous marriages to Eva, Mia, Nancy, and Barbara, his rise to fame in the 40s and rebound with the Oscar-winning performance in From Here To Eternity, his ebullient Capitol albums and cocky Rat Pack years are all covered in straightforward text, without any pesky insight or subtlety to get in the way of the writing.  The mafia are whispered about, but this text is meant to sell to fans who don't want any dirt, just the post-funeral adulations.  It's too bad, but a sign of the times that books like these get snapped off of bargain shelves at all the major retailers, only to find their way into America's landfills.  There are better places to go than to this pale "portrait."


Frank Sinatra And Popular Culture: Essays On An American Icon
Edited by Leonard Mustazza;
Praeger Publishers, 328 p.
Released December 30, 1998

 

"With its trope of a divided, permeable self and its violent drama of eros versus lucidity, "I've Got You Under My Skin" is a major expression of the embattled consciousness of fifties America.  The record's amazing power stems above all from Sinatra's ability to articulate contrasting registers of desire and fear, outward bravado and inner doubt, through subtle variations in vocal color and phrasing (a dialogic approach crudely parodied by the 1994 duet version with U2's Bono, who heavy breathing and moaning in the role of Sinatra's inner voice turns the erotic turmoil of the original to kitsch).  As the closing diminuendo and final unresolved ninth chord suggest, the conflicts staged in the record subside without achieving any clear resolution.  The track exemplifies the inconclusiveness Leo Braudy attributes to fifites art in general, with its preference for dramatic over didactic or ideaological energies."  [pg. 67]


REVIEW:  A collection of essays, articles and musings written by a potpourri of authors, Frank Sinatra and Popular Culture is a fine, readable group of essays, which only occasionally steers itself into over-thought ponderousness.  Contributers to this well-chosen gathering include Roger Gilbert ("The Swinger and the Loser: Sinatra, Masculinity, and Fifities Culture"), James F. Smith ("Bobby Sox and Blue Suede Shoes: Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley as Teen Idols"), Will Friedwald ("Sinatra and Jazz"), Charles L. Granata ("Sounds Of Sinatra: A Conversation with Sid Mark") and yes, even the Chairman of the Board himself is chosen as one of the essayists, as Frank's "What's This About Races?" is included in the batch.  Very readable and loose in it's format, the editor has placed the essays into three sections, but the joy in reading these missives is their stark variety, their general humor which leavens the gravity of some of the pieces, and the genuine way in which the authors connect with the subject matter; these writers aren't writing just for the sake of writing something clever and sharp, but for the sheer love of their subject: Sinatra.  Wither it's discussing Frank as a modern troubadour, or a fine essay which equates music with theology, or simply an account of attending a Frank Sinatra concert and writing down the attendant feelings, this is a fun, enlightening read which might open your eyes to a new understanding of Sinatra's art and influence. Unfortunately priced at nearly seventy smackers, this book will best be sought out at your local library. 


Sinatra: An Annotated Bibliography, 1939-1998
By Leonard Mustazza;
Greenwood Press, 312 p.
Released January 30, 1999

 

"The duration of Frank Sinatra's fame and the attendant media attention it received are unprecedented in the annals of popular culture.  His public career began when he joined the Harry James band in June of 1939, and it ended with his final live performance in February of 1995.  Even after he retreated from the public eye, media, critical and scholarly fascination with this extraordinary man did not end.  Between that final performance and his death on May 14, 1998, articles and books continued to proliferate, and the announcement of his death made worldwide headlines and occasioned literally thousands of news reports and assessments of his contributions to American life over the course of some sixty years.  Popular culture has a short memory, and accordingly, the media's interest in its products is short.  Still, Sinatra managed to endure, and there is not a single year in his six-decade run of fame in which he was entirely absent from the news.  [from the Preface]


REVIEW:  Leonard Mustazza, at the time of this publication was an associate dean and professor of English and  American Studies and Pennsylvania State University's Abington College, has put together a fabulous tool for researches and Sinatraholics who are looking for every scrap of news that has appeared about the Chairman of the Board.  This annotated bibliography is everything it claims to be - a treasure-trove of information on everything and anything that has been put into print on Sinatra for nearly sixty years.  Divided neatly into five sections, the first section deals with books which have had Sinatra as their main subject - books both large and small, unimportant and vital - you'll find them listed here, with author, publisher, year, and a brief synopsis.  Section two then digs deeper, listing books which may contain a chapter or two about Sinatra, whether it be a book on Jazz, or Film Stars, or The Rat Pack.  The third section devotes itself to chronicling the nearly uncountable articles on Frank which have appeared in magazines and newspapers for the past six decades.  Over six-hundred references, all listing title of article, source it appeared in, date and author.  The fourth section devotes itself completely to liner notes which have been penned for various album released, such as the Complete Columbia Recordings, but also many older sources which had special notes penned for their release.  Finally the final section details internet sources which tackle the subject of Frank, unfortunately, this last section is much more fluid and unstable as a reference source, and many of the sites listed are no longer viable, while other sites (like this one) which have sprung up more recently, will not be found.  Still, this is an invaluable resource for researchers, but at eighty dollars a pop (the common price for items like this which are sold mainly to libraries and universities), it won't be found in many fan's homes.  Not for casual fans, but pure gold for scholars.


Rat Pack Confidential
By Shawn Levy;
Doubleday Books, 344 p.
Released July 20, 1999

 

"The joint was packed; the rest of the town might as well have been dark.  And for what?  A movie, a party, a floating crap game, a day's work, a hustle, a joke:  They'd make millions and all they had to do was show up, have a good time, pretend to give a damn, and almost as an afterthought, sing.  Sometimes it seemed like Dean had the right idea: "You wanna hear the whole song, buy the record..."  But there was something in the music, wasn't there?  With the right band and the right number, it was like flying - and like you could drag everybody up there with you.  So let Dean do jokes, and Sammy - Sammy would start numbers and they'd stomp all over them and he'd like it.  But when Frank sang, it would be straight.  It could be New Year's Eve, the very stroke of midnight, the middle of Times Square, and he would stop time, stop their hearts beating, and remind them where the power was.  It was in his voice.  It was his. [pg. 4]


REVIEW:  Shawn Levy has written a poetic, clear-eyed love-letter to that thickest-of-thieves ensemble, The Rat Pack.  Not entirely swayed by their charms, but not unbeguiled either, Rat Pack Confidential swaggers along almost like the unseen sixth member of the pack; full of juiced up tales to tell, yet in with the joke; the author cannily adopts the language of the Vegas Five in his narrative, dropping phrases like "Frank had definitely cleared his marker" and "[Marilyn Monroe] was a walking embodiment of license and pleasure and furfeit and fun - as desirable and modish and swank as tail fins and sharkskin" [pg. 255].  There's a cadence to his prose that is as much a pleasure to read as the events and people he writes about; a romanticized rhythm that occasionally feels like dancing, rather than writing - it's a pleasure to read.  But it's also tough and ribald, with enough seedy details to remind the reader that these weren't no choirboys he's talking about; Frank, Dean, Sammy, Peter, et al., had friends in high places (the Kennedys) and low (Sam Giancana), and rubbed shoulders with gangsters on both ends of the political spectrum.  The book's language is often too salty for me, with profanities turning the pages blue with their smoke, but that's part of the world Frank walked in, and Mr. Levy doesn't turn a blind eye to his subject's more off-color comments.  He recounts the group's highs - from their infamous live shows in Vegas, to their lows, like the cinematic flame-out of Four For Texas, which wilted in the nations movie theaters; from their racist, bigoted, and often hysterical stage patter, to the half-hearted sets which were perfuntory and lifeless, the author recounts it all, sometimes in scenes that play out like episodes from a broadway show, and ties it all up the way that we all get tied up in the end - the throat cancer that silenced Sammy; the personal despair that ate away at Dean after the death of his son; the slow fade that took Peter Lawford from the spotlight, the loneliness of the last standing native son: Sinatra.  A book that's expertly written, and well worth perusal, if only for the pleasure of its charms.


The Rat Pack: Neon Nights with the Kings of Cool
[First issued as "The Rat Pack: The Hey-Hey Days of Frank and the Boys" ; Taylor Publishing Company, April 1, 1998]
By Lawrence J. Quirk and William Schoell;
Perennial Currents, 368 p. 
Released August 1, 1999

 

"They had fun.  Loads of it, actually.  In between making hit movies and million-selling records, and sometimes even during their raucous, anything-goes stage shows, they pursued pleasure like there was no tomorrow.  They surrounded themselves with beautiful women, celebrities, politicians, actors, singers, songwriters, gangsters - everybody who was anybody wanted to rub shoulders with the Pack, to feed off their energy.  They influenced dress and style and music and even social movements.  They were the center of the entertainment universe.

But that infinite cool hid a dark side: neglected wives and children, ties to the mafia and corrupt politicians, vicious feuds and betrayals, rampant alcoholism and drug abuse. [from the front flap]


REVIEW:  In direct contrast to the excellent Rat Pack Confidential above, Lawrence J. Quirk proves the theorem that for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction.  This is that reaction.  As tepid as the above book is engaging, as flat in its prose as Levy is poetic, as one-sided and mean as the previous book is well-rounded, this book is a total rip-off.  The reader is left wondering, 'why write a book on a subject that doesn't interest you?' as it becomes quickly apparent that the authors of Neon Nights don't give an olive about the Rat Pack, but are happy to shell out plain, uninteresting descriptions of the main players, pulling facts from other sources without embellishment or style, and are quick to deride every act from Frank, Dean, Sammy and Peter whether it be their chumminess with the Kennedys or a charity show put together to benefit men in prison.  The authors seem more intent on insulting and putting down every action with snide comments, rather than paint a full portrait.  The authors begins the tale by first smearing Humphrey Bogart's affair with Lauren Bacall; how Sinatra was enamoured by Bogie's high-class circle of friends and wild nightlife; and how Frank gathered the forces of the Rat Pack around himself in order to fashion his own "Rat Pack."  Authors Quirk and co-author William Schoell (better known for writing cheap horror novels) don't bother to find any psychological or social meaning to the Rat Pack, they simply exploit it with well-worn recitations of stories told better elsewhere, and lay the dirt on thick and fast, spewing out tales racial bigotry, uncorroborated tales of mob influence, weepy accounts of jilted lovers, and overheated exchanges with power-hungry politicians.  Yecch.  This could've been a juicy and grab-you-by-the-throat account of these swinging hipsters, but due to the inadequacies of the writers, it reads more like a laundry list.  First issued as The Rat Pack: The Hey-Hey Days of Frank and the Boys, it was retitled for paperback release.  Pass this one by.


The Frank Sinatra Film Guide
by Daniel O'Brien;
B.T. Batsford, 224 p.
Released September 1, 1999

 

"Set in the fictional town of Parkman, Indiana, [Some Came] Running offers a relentlessly sour take on humanity, its characters emerging from their selfish, self-protecting shells only after one of their number is violently killed.  Even hero/anti-hero Dave Hirsh is often contemptible, squandering his writing talent in pursuit of unfulfilling low-life seductions, and treating those who care for him like dirt. ...Running does contain the odd flaw, the cast being generally superior to the soap de luxe script.  Unable to overcome the harsh truth that writing is a fundamentally uncinematic activity, the film is more seriously flawed by its blatant misogyny, ...Dominating the proceedings from frame one, Sinatra's full-blooded performance coneals most of Running's faults...  [pg. 109]


REVIEW:  Although Frank Sinatra's films have never been the artistic equal of his music, Frank often was fascinating to watch on film, with his bullet stare and deeply felt performances amply showing why he was nearly as successful a film actor as he was a singer.  This book is a marvellous resource and commentary on Frank's wide range of roles, from his earliest, in Higher and Higher and Step Lively, to his marvellous musicals with Gene Kelly; from his cinematic slide which corresponded with his popular hemmorage on the music charts, to his stunning rebound in From Here To Eternity, to his final major role in The First Deadly Sin.  The authors shun mention of cameo appearances, which is fine, since only the most die-hard fans will seek those out, and focuses upon Frank's starring roles.  Full of behind-the-scenes trivia, wise commentary, and no-holds-barred reviews, this guide serves as an in-depth examination of Frank's films. Pulling quotes from people who worked on the films, as well as dishing out the times when Sinatra was difficult on the set, this book also manages to paint a portrait of the artist who was a different creature while filming than he was when recording or performing live. Frank loved how films could put him in front of a large audience, but wasn't always careful which projects he chose, and with few exceptions, Frank never was the craftsman in front of the cameras that he was in the recording studio. In addition to the main commentary, there are several appendixes which list movies in which Frank was cast, or had an interest, but didn't appear in, films in which he has a cameo, and a final detailed appendix which lists personel for each film. My only big complaint is that I wish the final appendix had been incorporated into the main text, since I hate flipping back and forth for information on each film, but that's just a small nit. Filled with black and white pics of scenes from each film (including some behind the scenes shots), this book will be a nice addition to fans who love to see Frank on film.


Sessions With Sinatra: Frank Sinatra and the Art of Recording
by Charles L. Granata;
Chicago Review Press, 238 p.
Released December 1, 1999

 

"Although the oft-repeated story about Sinatra leaving the recording studio in tears after singing "I'm A Fool To Want You" on the March 27, 1951, session may be apocryphal... this dramatic performance was no doubt influenced by the singer's deep personal turmoil.  So gripping a performance is this, replete with fragments of the singer's carefully guarded reserve of personal anguish, that it vies for position as the single most devastating recording he has ever made.  The precision with which Sinatra controls his vibrato on these late Columbia efforts is remarkable, and his vocal dexterity is compellingly displayed in the sotto voce ending... the ending then builds feverishly until Sinatra's voice becomes one with the soaring choir that brings the song to an intense climax. [pgs. 75-76]


REVIEW:  An intensely personal look at Sinatra's recording habits, Mr. Granata traces Frank's long career which spanned nearly every type of recording medium, from early cylinders to digital technology, Sinatra embraced every improvement in recording technology which came along. He was one of the first vocalists to understand and exploit the qualities of the microphone in singing live.  And the author had the rare opportunity of hearing many of these recordings from the original session tapes, enabling him to experience "you-are-there" fidelity, and hear first-hand how Sinatra produced himself in the studio. While not as thorough as Will Friedwald's book above in it's examination of Frank's output, Charles Granata's account of Frank's recordings are more emotionally rewarding for the reader, as he chooses touchstone moments from Frank's recordings as examples of how Sinatra chose the right songs, the right arrangers, and the right engineers to maximize each recording.  He draws on several first-hand accounts and interviews with professionals involved in the recordings to explain how they were able to achieve the fidelilty in evidence on each song.  So, while the writing occasionally gets technical with details about which microphones, mixers, tapes or other specific elements were used on certain songs, this is far from a dry exposition of recording techniques.  Mr. Granata contantly brings in the emotional equation to the songs, trying to explain the how and why a certain song affects the listener the way it does.  He discusses the arrangements, and how Nelson Riddle could color a chart a certain way in order to emphasize a mood, or bring in a section of the orchestra to change the feel of the lyric.  The author carefully notes how Sinatra would play with a lyric, leaning on a note or slurring a tempo in order to bring out a meaning which otherwise would've stayed hidden.  One of the finest book on Sinatra's art to be written, and essential reading for those who love his music.


Sinatra - Night and Day: The Man and the Music
By Fred Dellar and Mal Peachey;
Chameleon Books (UK) 1997; Carlton Books, Ltd. (US), 142 p.
Released March 6, 2000

 

"It always felt good to be back among his people.  Frank was at home with Skinny and his wiseguy pals.  There were even made guys here.  Back in New York in the early days, Frank had watched with awe, the respect handed out to the men with big rings and fancy clothes.  back then they dismissed the little runt with clothes too big and a mouth to match.  Now here they were, in the 500, watching intently as he, Francis Albert, swung his way through That Old Black Magic, Birth Of The Blues and a co uple of numbers he was planning to record in November, Cole Porter's I Get A Kick Out Of You and George and Ira Gershwin's They Can't Take That Away From Me.  Frank held on to some old stuff for live work, things like Tenderly and Ol' Man River, but he was starting to create a new set out of songs he wanted to record, or just had.  He mixed up the swingin' numbers with ballads."  [pg. 50]


REVIEW:  Yet another coffee-table book (I swear, Sinatra has more of these than the Louvre), with a handsome layout filled with great photographs, and a fine year-by-year chronological narrative, which is severely undercut by the sophmoric writing, which self-consciously attempts to cast itself as the long-lost sixth member of the Rat Pack.  First, the good stuff: I really like the way this book maps itself out - devoting a couple of columns of text to each year of Sinatra's professional career, with glossy paper showing off to best effect the black and white (which gradually begin to include color) photographs appropriate to each era; and color reproductions of all of his album covers, also in chronological order, and serving as iconographic tags for each 'chapter' as it were.  It's a very nice book to look at, from the striking cover image, which cleverly includes the authors' names in the marquee, to the nicely spaced text.  Unfortunately, the book is saddled with a text which swings nauseatingly between broad generalizations and fey attempts at mimicking Sinatra's natural slang.  On the fly-leaf, the author's biography claims that Fred Dellar is 'one of the most respected music writers in Britain' as has written for NME, Melody Maker and Vox, as well as a contributing writer to Mojo; but in my estimation, it sounds like he making it all up as he goes along.  The textual slang, which is either an affectation of Sinatra's, or his own, permeates the tone of the book, and is extraordinarily distracting, even laughable at times, as he describes the executives at Capitol Records as 'smooth Joes'  or slithering out a sentence like, "...his voice sounded young again.  He was gliding like Tommy's 'bone, holding on to notes clearly, no wavering.  The omens were good." [pg. 46]  Whew!  There's a fine line between carving out your own styllistic nitch and leaping off the cliff into self-parody, and these authors clearly took the plunge.  Still, it's an interesting book, and perhaps your stomach is stronger than mine when it comes to overheated prose - check out your used and imported book sellers for this title.


Put Your Dreams Away: A Frank Sinatra Discography
By Luiz Carlos do Nascimento Silva;
Greenwood Press, 640 p.
Released March 30, 2000

 

"The recordings of radio programs and of live shows deserve a separate volume of their own.  I have included some that have been issued as V-Discs or by the official labels (and some labels that at least have an address) or are ready to be issued, maybe even before this book is published.  In some cases, I have left space for inclusion, by the collector, of the catalog number for issues that are being currently prepared.  These recordings, however, must be considered as "bonus tracks", since I list only the tracks issued, not the whole programs.  You will also find some dates that are different from the ones given in the notes that come with the records, but I believe the ones I give are the correct ones."  [from the Introduction, pg. xi]


REVIEW:  Greenwood Press, the premiere publisher of reference books concerning Frank Sinatra, released this thick tome by Mr. Silva which can only be described as a labor of love. The author claims in the introduction that this book was actually begun back in 1957, which he was a writer for a Brazillian monthly magazine, and the creation of which literally spanned decades of his life.  Put Your Dreams Away compiles in loving detail literally every known recording Frank Sintra ever undertook, from a 1939 private demo disc which Sinatra recorded with the Frank Mane Orchestra (where he sang "Our Love", based on the theme from Romeo and Juliet), to the final Duets sessions in May of 1994 - this book lists them all.  More of a sessionography than a discography, though it serves both purposes equally well, each session is listed chronologically with notes on who played on each session (names and instruments) the studios the sessions were held at, songs recorded at the sessions, both partial and complete; the composers/lyricists, arrangers, used takes (if known), and finally where the finished songs can be found, both LP numbers and CDs.  Also, the author includes several notes for sessions where there may be discrepancies or where there is missing/lost data.  It's mind boggling the sheer amount of information here, and if this book were made available generally at a reasonable price (right now it retails for over a hundred dollars - no wonder so many Universities are falling into the red), it would be a necessary for lots of Sinatra fans.  Mr. Silva deserves a medal for putting so much time, effort and love into this book, which is easily one of the best reference books for Sinatra scholars ever produced.


The Sinatra Files: The Secret FBI Dossier
By Tom Kintz and Phil Kuntz, Editors;
Three Rivers Press, 269 p.
Released June 6, 2000

 

"On 1/30/46 GERALD L.K. SMITH testified before the HUAC Committee, which was headed by Honoroable JOHN W. WOOD, Chairman.  Page 17, paragraph 1, of this testimony contained a petition filed with the committee by SMITH.  This petition was entitled, "A Petition for Redress of Grievances and for an Investigation into Promoted Terrorisim, Denial of Civil Liberty, Conspiracy Against Freedom, Organized Character Asasssination, Corrupt Practice, Organized Rioting, etc."  The part of SMITH's petition pertaining to SINATRA is quoted as follows:
"I petition this committee of Congress to investigate the activities of FRANK SINATRA who, on the surface seems to be just a highly paid emaciated crooner, but who recently gave support to a meeting of the American Youth for Democracy which held an elaborate banquet at the Hotel Ambassador in Los Angeles adn which organization was recently branded by J.EDGAR HOOVER as the successor to the Young Communist League and one of the most dangerous outfits in the nation."
[pg. 54-55]


REVIEW:  Depending on how you look at it, this book is either a ridiculous exercise in govenmental prying, or a chilling reminder of how easily our civil liberties can be wrested from us.  What The Sinatra Files really is however, is a bone-dry exhumation of hundreds of official government reports on Sinatra's supposed Communist and organized crime connections over the span of decades, all wrapped up in a cover depicting Frank's one and only mug shot, taken when he was arrested on a morality charge early in his life.  In fact, the cover is easily the best selling point of this book, since the text inside consists of official reports, interviews, letters, and official minutes, many of which have large sections blacked out for security concerns.  You get a pretty good sense of the hysteria involved in the passage quoted above - a just-the-facts recitation of what the petition is about, followed by a direct quote which laughably describes Frank as a 'highly paid emaciated crooner' who's cow-towing up to a local youth group.  It's a telling time-capsule of the communist hysteria of the time, which quickly erupted in post-World War II America into the cold war and the McCarthy witch hunts.  The editors do a very good job of explaining in italicized scripts what each document entails, and putting each one into historical context, but even they can't make this deluge of documents compulsory reading - it's like trying to wade through the tax code.  Later on, Sinatra was heavily investigated due to his chumminess with the Kennedys and other presidents, and because of his associations with organized crime figures, especially Sam Giancana.  What the government never seemed to quite 'get' was that Frank was a powerful figure, and he was drawn to similar people, he had no specific interests in communism or organized crime; only power and influence, and the inability of the FBI to pin anything specific onto Sinatra becomes readily apparent through the mountain of paperwork devoted to his activities, all leading to a big, fat nothing.  This is an intruiguing subject, but it's hardly engrossing reading - If you're intrigued, I would suggest checking it out from your local library before committing cold, hard cash to it.


The Importance Of Frank Sinatra (September 1, 2000)
By Adam Woog;
Lucent Books, 112 p.

 
"What made him so special? ...It was, first and foremost the voice.  In an era before television made visual images all important, the quality of a singer's voice was crucial.  The words of a song heard on the radio or a record evoked powerful, private images from the listener's imagination.  Sinatra's elegant long phrasing, subtle sense of rhythm, and perfect diction made every word clear as a bell, and he sang with such conviction that his fans had no trouble believing in him. ...Sinatra recognized the importance of visual impact, and he turned himself into a master dramatist.  Each song became a mini-drama, a complete story.  Since the songs he sang were generally ones... which touched him personally, he was able to convincingly convey their emotional power."  [pg 38]

REVIEW:  Although this slim book is primarily aimed at children ages twelve to sixteen, it makes an ideal introduction for anyone wanting a clear-eyed, unbiased, and brief overview of Sinatra's life and impact.  The author, Adam Woog, masterfully chooses first-hand accounts from close friends and Sinatra himself, to illustrate his narrative, which artfully balances Sinatra's art, and his life, in a manner that other, more densely-written bios fail to accomplish.  Part of its success must lie in the fact that it's written for children, and is part of a series of biographies written for educational purposes.  Because the series' goal is to educate, rather than deify or villify, the true pattern of Sinatra's life and importance come shining through.  The author's list of books cited as sources is impressive for such a short work, and although some of the less savory biographies are cited, their influence isn't the prevalent flavor; and a wide range of both pro- and con- sources were synthesized to make this remarkably balanced book.  Primarily chronological is format, the book takes the time to analyze Sinatra's influences, his childhood, his breakthrough with the Hoboken Four, his initiation with Harry James and flowering with Tommy Dorsey; his swift rise into fame, his affair and marriage to Ava Gardner, and his decline from fortune, and his remarkable rebound and lasting popularity and finally his death.  It takes the time to analyze his success with different arrangers, his film career, and peeks at friends and associates surrounding Sinatra.  Peppered throughout the book are quotations from friends, associates and family, as well as Frank himself, lending credulence to each era of Frank's life, as well as a fine selection of black and white photographs appropriate to each period. I don't think I can overstate how impressed I was with the even-handedness of this book. In my eyes, it would serve as an ideal templet for the perfect Frank Sinatra bio. The only downside I can see is that the writing is dry, but well-suited to it's purpose and audience, and after having read so many biographies which lean heavily on one aspect or another of Frank's life, this book was like a breath of fresh air. Highly recommended.


My Father's Daughter: A Memoir
By Tina Sinatra with Jeff Coplon;
Simon & Schuster, 313 p.
Released October 10, 2000

 

"As Kirk [Douglas] and I chatted, a tall, reedy, silver-haired man came out and approached us.  It was Sidney Korshak, the legendary (and absolutely charming) attorney who'd cut his teeth with Al Capone, a man who could fix the bitterest labor dispute.  Sidney had a unique perspective on the day's big event.  He'd once courted my mother, in the late fifites, before marrying Bea Korshak, Barbara's matron of honor.  He knew Dad's new bride better than any of us.  After settling into the next chaise lounge, Sidney retrieved a black Flair pen from his breast pocket and handed it to me.  "Keep this as a memento," he said amiably.  "It just saved you a lot of money and aggrivation."  Kirk and I traded quizzical glances.  "I don't get it," I said.  It was the pen, Sidney explained, that Dad and Barbara had just used to sign their prenuptial aggreement.  Just in time to seal the deal. [pg. 158]


REVIEW:  A lot of fans had high hopes for this memoir from Frank's second daughter, Tina.  The expectations were, if anyone could provide new insight into Sinatra's character, it would be one of his children, right?  The bubble popped in a big way with this dully-written, self-absorbed memoir, which seems more concerned with name-dropping and reiterating tired cliche's than with giving a thorough, nuanced portrait of the greatest entertainer and fascinating character of the twentieth century.  Tina quickly rips through Frank's early years and career, barely touching his time with Dorsey, his marriage to Nancy, his commercial ups and downs, and flings with torchy celebrities.  Instead, she quickly gets all that out of the way so she can concentrate on her real reason for writing this book: a barely-concealed attack on her mother-in-law, Barbara Sinatra.  She writes vitrolically of her suspicions, heated encounters and snubs from her new in-law, and disparages her influence on Sinatra from the moment she arrives in the narrative.  Her mother, Nancy, appears as the patron saint of ex-wives, lacking only wings and a halo to complete the celestial portrait the author grants her mother.  But not content to merely be a thinly-veiled offensive against Barbara, Tina also decides that this book is the ideal forum to list the vast catalogue of famous people she has met.  Barely a page goes by in which the readers aren't introduced to Dinah Shore, Dean Martin, Jimmy Durante, James Darren, Jack Benny, Joe E. Lewis, Mia Farrow, Jackie Gleason, etc., etc., ad nauseum.  And Tina's vapid descriptions of these personalities rarely rises above the level of "cool" or "exciting."  It quickly becomes apparent that Tina's only agenda with this book is the character assasination of any of Frank's wives who isn't her mother, and the painfully elongated hospital scenes of Frank's during his later years is shamefully used as a platform for Tina's writing-with-blinders-on approach.  A pathetic, green-eyed monster of a book, which should never have seen the light of day.

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