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


NOTE: We begin the 2010s with a couple of books which seriously consider Frank's talents as a singer, and yet another book on Frank's Hollywood years.  Barabra Sinatra takes a turn at writing an "insider" biography, and more garbage is shoveled onto Frank's stellar legacy.  But also, this decade marked Sinatra's 100th Birthday, and several very worthwhile titles made their appearance, including a charming children's picture book biography! 

Sinatra Singing
By Richard Grudens
Celebrity Profiles Publishing Company; 420 p.
Released May 15, 2010

Richard Grudens  
Sinatra's Main Event may have been his best ever.  His 70s voice was built of a towering strength of voice that tattooed his audiences memory bank deeply and significantly.  They would talk about it for years to come as I talk about it now.  Don't forget, this Sinatra singing event attracted over 20,000 ticket holders.  Besides, the second audience was listening around the world.

The song quality exceeded the recordings of many of the same songs recorded earlier.  This was 1974 with Frank Sinatra in top form.  The concert was held in the middle of a boxing ring...

...Sinatra loves Christmas, he loves birthdays, he's patriotic and he loves to laugh.  

He could have sung children's nursery rhymes and they would have loved him without "My Way" or even "Chicago."

~pg 307-308

REVIEW:
 What a "towering" disappointment Sinatra Singing turned out to be.  Filled with some of the clammiest, stilted prose I've ever encountered, author Richard Grudens (who's published a truckload of swing-era biographies over the years), somehow managed to get this clunker of a book past any proof-readers or fact-checkers and even managed to connive singer Jerry Vale into penning an introduction, writing over 400 pages of trite, misinformed, repetitive junk.  I haven't been this appalled by an author's writing since Ed Starkey's My Life, My Way which was a nadir of Sinatra biographies, but Gruden's Sinatra Singing is close to matching that infamous work.  Ostensibly a book that is supposed to dissect and examine Sinatra's singing style and influence, the book quickly dissolves into a superlative-filled hagiography, with Grudens attempting to one-up himself in finding new adjectives to lob Sinatra's way.  The author fattens up the overstuffed text with numerous sidebars, some of them only thinly tied to Sinatra, with several dozen one-to-two page written tributes/biographies of other artists, from the obvious (Don Costa) to the inexplicable (Bruce Springsteen?)  But it's the writing that dooms this book - trite, filled with typos and inaccuracies (Grudens claims that She Shot Me Down is Sinatra's final album - I guess he never heard of L.A. Is My Lady or the Duets albums.) and a cluttered, messy layout that looks inviting, but ends up adding to the incoherence of the whole.  The one recommendation for this book are the many first-person accounts of various artists who credit Frank in some degree for their own careers - these letters, written at Gruden's request, are heartfelt, sincere, and occasionally touching - while Grudens contributions are plastic, shallow, and clumsy.  What makes the book all the more tragic is that Grudens evidently has the inside sources with which to create an insightful book, but sadly lacks the basic compositional skills to weave a compelling narrative.


Sinatra: Hollywood His Way
By Timothy Knight
Running Press; 336 p.
Released October 12, 2010

"Nasty, rude, inconsiderate, uncooperative, and ungrateful," but also "quietly generous and considerate without even expecting thanks," wrote Los Angeles Mirror News reporter Kendis Rocklin of Frank Sinatra in a mid-1950s profile.  In other words, the mercurial star was perfect casting for the titular Pal Joey. Considerably softened from his origins in a series of New Yorker stories and the hit 1940 Broadway musical that made Sinatra's friend Gene Kelly a star, this Joey Evans is a devil and angel, a heel who is all heart, and a role Sinatra could wear like a well-tailored suit." - pg. 154

REVIEW:  
Sinatra: Hollywood His Way by author Timothy Knight is a handsome, well-laid-out film-by-film examination of Sinatra's decidedly spotty film career from Higher and Higher to The First Deadly Sin, as well as a short appendix at his "other" film work, including cameos and shorts.  While this coffee-table sized book is an easy read, and filled with color and black and white photos from each film discussed, it's also a bit shallow - giving each film about four-to-five pages, but most of the space taken up by graphics, rather than in-depth information.  There's usually a bit of an introduction to each film, followed by a brief, albeit thorough plot summary, a paragraph or two of the author's review, and perhaps a bit of popular opinion and box-office success mentioned in closing.  It's all very brisk and breezy, but size and heft of this book feels like too much gilding of the lily - the presentation is lusher and more expensive than it needs to be.  There's a smattering of trivia included - gossipy behind-the-scenes info and catty newspaper articles sprinkled throughout, which adds to the easy, conversational tone.  It's a good, solid look at the whole of Frank's film career, and if it wasn't so awkwardly oversized and overstuffed, I might recommend it more freely - but there are other, better examinations of Sinatra's film oeuvre out there - and I suspect this one will be joining the overstock shelves at budget prices soon.

Frank: The Voice
By James Kaplan
Doubleday; 688 p.
Released November 2, 2010

Richard Grudens

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION:

Bestselling author James Kaplan redefines Frank Sinatra in a triumphant new biography that includes many rarely seen photographs.

Sinatra endowed the songs he sang with the explosive conflict of his own personality. He also made the very act of listening to pop music a more personal experience than it had ever been. In Frank: The Voice, Kaplan reveals how he did it, bringing deeper insight than ever before to the complex psyche and tur­bulent life behind that incomparable vocal instrument. We relive the years 1915 to 1954 in glistening detail, experiencing as if for the first time Sinatra’s journey from the streets of Hoboken, his fall from the apex of celebrity, and his Oscar-winning return in From Here to Eternity. Here at last is the biographer who makes the reader feel what it was really like to be Frank Sinatra—as man, as musician, as tortured genius.  To read excerpts, click here.


REVIEW:  Although not as sour and mean-spirited as Kitty Kelly's infamous biography, James Kaplan's higher-minded, but still trash-slogging biography of Frank Sinatra manages to bring Kaplan's unique voice to his subject, but ultimately proves to be a depressingly familiar read. Although heavily annotated, this first in a two-part planned set on Frank's life takes much of it's material from previously published accounts, including Nancy and Tina's biographies of their father, former employees, newspaper and magazine articles and interviews, and close associates.  While all of this thoroughly-documented source material lends an air of respectability, Kaplan still fails to bring to light Sinatra's force of personality - the material dances all around him, and the occasional "revelation" (such as an embarrassing reveal that Frank's underwear had to be specially tailored to accommodate his oversized ...prowess) merely add to the sheen of distasteful reveals which overpower Kaplan's attempts to analyze (and psychoanalyze) Frank's appeal.  Despite Frank's life-long air of confidence and brashness, Kaplan concludes that Frank was, at heart, insecure; a premise which he labors mightily to establish, without success.  And since its basic premise about Frank is flawed, the entire book becomes an exercise in the reader's patience.  It doesn't help that the author's prose is so mannered - Kaplan's fingerprints are all over the text, and his voice is intrusive - a bit like hearing a self-proclaimed expert ramble on and on at a dinner party.  After the disappointment of this book, I'm beginning to think that a decent biography of Frank Sinatra is nothing more than a pipe dream.

Lady Blue Eyes: My Life With Frank Sinatra
By Barbara Sinatra
Crown Archetype; 400 p.
Released March 1, 2011

From her own humble beginnings in a small town in Missouri to her time as a fashion model and her marriage to Zeppo Marx, Barbara Sinatra reveals a life lived with passion, conviction, and grace.  A founder of the Miss Universe pageant and a onetime Vegas showgirl, she raised her only son almost single-handedly in often dire circumstances until, after five years of tempestuous courtship, she and Frank committed to each other wholeheartedly.  In stories that leap off the page, she takes us behind the scenes of her iconic husband’s legendary career and paints an intimate portrait of a man who was variously generous, jealous, witty, and wicked. 

To read online excerpts, click here.

REVIEW:  Yes, it's taken me a long time to review this book but anyone who frequents this site knows that I'm not a fan of Sinatra biographies, even ones by those who have close family ties.  Usually, there's too much of an axe to grind with someone, or a self-serving agenda that throws more light onto the bruised psyche of the author than the subject.  And Lady Blue Eyes, by Frank's last wife Barbara Sinatra is sadly no exception.  Her writing reveals Mrs. Sinatra as an manipulative socialite who's unapologetic about her affairs, the bearer of an iron fist in velvet gloves, and she posesses an utter disregard of Frank's natural children in favor of her own.  She lightly glosses over the many family controversies, always putting herself in a favorable light, while ignoring the glaring accusations made by Tina and Nancy Sinatra; she revels in dropping names of famous people and places; and gleefully spends paragraphs in minute examinations of expensive gifts that she is given, and comes across as nothing more than a grasping, vain ladder-climber who is a master at crafting an icy facade for the world to see.  The Frank Sinatra she presents is a flat portrait - he comes across as cold, powerful, unaffectionate, and driven, with moments of generosity flaring briefly out, and his slow decline in old age is brushed over in maudlin strokes.  Make no mistake, this is an autobiography of Barbara, and whether she intended it or not, the author doesn't come across all that well.  Shallow, star-struck fans will eat this up, but there's precious little Frank here, and lots of empty vacuum filling up the spaces.


Frank Sinatra, The Boudoir Singer: All the Gossip Unfit to Print from the Glory Days of Ol' Blue Eyes
By Darwin Porter and Danforth Prince
Blood Moon Productions; 408 p.
Released March 6, 2011
ZERO STARS

"Every time I sing a song, I'm actually making love on stage. Call me 'The Boudoir Singer,' or so claimed Frank Sinatra. The crooner's career spanned more than half a century, earning him millions of fans. His boudoir conquests involved some of the most stunning women of the 20th century. But exactly who was this mercurial, enigmatic man? Darwin Porter, America's leading chronicler of Golden Age Hollywood, turns over more than a few boulders in Sinatra's secret garden, especially for those who thought they'd heard it all. For the compilation of this compendium of show-biz scandal, Darwin Porter, former bureau chief and entertainment columnist for The Miami Herald, drew upon a treaure trove of celebrity contacts he accumulated over the decades.

To read online excerpts,
click here.

REVIEW:  For an book that claims to be "unapologetic" and "unauthorized", I still feel after browsing through it that an strong apology is required, and perhaps some harsh legal action by the Sinatra family is in order as well.  Blood Moon Productions, the publisher of this series, has as it's motto: "Applying the tabloid standards of today to the scandals of Hollywood's Golden Age", which tells you not only how rapacious this book is, but also their non-existent moral standard.  Salacious books about Frank Sinatra have been in the literary waters since 1961, with the hilariously off-kilter Hollywood's Loveable Rogue - Frankie: The Life and Loves of Frank Sinatra by Don Dwiggins.  But how far society has fallen in the last fifty years.  Now, instead of humorous prose, we have pornographic garbage.  I can't even supply a quote from the book, since every page is intent on sleazy, undocumented episodes that aims for the lowest common denominator.  Fowl language, graphic sexual scenes, and endless phallic fascination is the sum total of this book, and the authors, Darwin Porter and Danforth Prince, should be appalled of wasting so much energy and time on producing this worthless book.  Nothing here is verified; there's no sources listed for their claims, but there's sure a lot of famous people being quoted - the book is nothing but attributed quotes, all without an ounce of evidence.  A sad and pathetic book.


Sinatra and Me: The Very Good Years
By Tony Consiglio (as told to Franz Douskey)
Tantor Media; 326 p.
Released November 9, 2012

DESCRIPTION:

Not many people were allowed inside Frank Sinatra's inner circle. But Tony Consiglio was a boyhood friend of Sinatra's who remained his friend and confidant for over sixty years. One reason Sinatra valued Tony s friendship is that he could be trusted: Sinatra nicknamed him "the Clam" because Tony never spoke to reporters or biographers about the singer. From the early days when Sinatra was trying to establish himself as a singer to the mid-1960s, Tony worked with Sinatra and was there to share in the highs and lows of Sinatra's life and career.

Click Here to read excerpts.

REVIEW:  Books such as Sinatra and Me: The Very Good Years are difficult for me to review subjectively, which is why I've taken so long to get around to writing this.  Tony Consiglio (known by Sinatra and his associates as "The Clam") apparently gave these stories in a series of interviews to Franz Douskey, with the understanding that they were NOT to be published until after Consiglio's death, but there's really nothing in here that's terribly inflammatory, or even revelatory; Sinatra behind the scenes was very much as he was in person - garrulous, generous, private, passionate, and occasionally jealous and quick to anger.  What's most revealing about this book is not what is told about Frank Sinatra, but rather the sad and, to me, incomprehensible life choice of Tony Consiglio, who early on, decided to hitch his wagon to Frank's and submerge his own life beneath that of his famous friend.  And they WERE friends, from boyhood, according to the author, but in reality it reads more like indentured servitude - with little reward.  The vapid recital of famous people Tony was able to rub shoulders with; the women he desired, but Frank took for his own pleasure; the numbing minutia that Consiglio had to attend to just so Frank wouldn't fly into a rage, and the endless toadying which the author submitted to over the course of nearly his entire life.  He put off marriage, family, education, and any number of personal accomplishments and improvements just so he could be Frank's personal valet/butler/confidant.  The entire book struck me as a testament to a life that could have been, but wasn't.  But putting that aside - the narrative is choppy and disjointed, with episodes occasionally years out of sync with each other - it's literally as if you're in the room with an old man listening to him ramble and shuffle from one topic to the other with no connecting thread.  A difficult read for me, and one that left a melancholy taste in my mouth.



Frank Sinatra: A Life Worth Reading
By Higher Read
CreateSpace Independent Publishing; 168 p.
Released April 16, 2014


DESCRIPTION:

Frank Sinatra, also known as The Voice, Ol’ Blue Eyes, Leader of the Pack, and by countless other titles, was a man of many faces. Part mobster, part philanthropist, part political activist, and part civil rights leader, Frank participated in powerful institutions and movements that shaped America’s history.  Emerging from a poor immigrant neighborhood, Frank sang the country through massive changes and came to be the voice of urban America. Frank Sinatra: A Life Worth Reading brings you all the successes, falls, and scandals that made Leader of the Pack a controversial public figure. An entertaining biography with special “in Brief” sections on the people and events that surrounded and shaped Frank’s life, this book will give you the whole picture.
To read online excerpts, click here.

REVIEW:  Anonymously authored, and independently published, this brief biography on the life of Frank Sinatra isn't exactly positioning itself to be the book of choice for people looking for an authoritative source on Frank's life.  Seemingly concerned more with his many marriages and romantic conquests, as well as possible mafia connections, the "authors" at Higher Read seem to have simply referenced every other work on Frank Sinatra, and then stitched together their own narrative without bothering themselves with adding anything new to the mix.  How anyone could claim that their biography is "a life worth reading" but not supply any documentary evidence as to where they got their information, or any sources at all, is damning.  There are much better, (and better documented) biographies out there - and this one, for all its self-proclaimed even-handedness in portraying Frank's ups and downs, is worth passing by.


Frank Sinatra: An Extraordinary Life
By Spencer Leigh
McNidder & Grace 371 p.
Released September 25, 2015

REVIEW PENDING

BOOK DESCRIPTION:
Frank Sinatra: An Extraordinary Life is a definitive account of Frank Sinatra’s life and career. With unique material and exclusive interviews with fellow musicians, promoters and friends, the acclaimed author Spencer Leigh has written a compelling biography of one of the world’s biggest stars. With remarkable stories about Sinatra on every page, and an exceptional cast of characters, readers will wonder how Sinatra ever found time to make records. If this book were a work of fiction, most people would think it far-fetched.


REVIEW


Sinatra 100
By Charles Pignone
Thames & Hudson; 288 p.
Released October 6, 2015


On the centennial of his birth, Sinatra 100―with the participation of his three children―is an intimate and dramatic visual portrait of Frank Sinatra, revealing many of the previously unseen moments in a remarkable life. Of course, Sinatra’s legacy speaks for itself. An entertainer of mesmerizing talent, charisma, and style, he is one of the best-selling recording artists of all time, and Academy Award-winning actor, and a cultural icon.

From inciting bobby-soxer riots and achieving teen idol status in the 1940s to the incredible recording career, the film career, the Rat Pack and Las Vegas, Sinatra 100 has the unseen photographs (and the iconic ones) as well as a rare trove of memorabilia and ephemera―over half of it never before published. With a majority of the text based on unpublished personal interviews and conversations with Frank Sinatra and his friends, family, and colleagues, Sinatra 100 unparalleled in its scope and depth. It’s the ultimate Sinatra gift, both for the fans who think they’ve seen it all and those just discovering this inimitable artist. 400+ illustrations in color and black-and-white

REVIEW:  A little admission here - I've never been much of a "picture" book guy - I admire art and photographs, but asking me to shell out forty bucks for an oversize glossy book of photographs of a celebrity - even one I love and admire as much as Frank Sinatra - is asking a lot.  But - if you're going to do something like this - and Frank's 100th birthday is as good a reason as any - this is the way to do it.  HUGE, oversized, and glossy, stuffed with high quality picture after picture of Frank in stunning detail, documenting his life and career in glorious color or noir-ish black-and-white photos, Charles Pignone (along with short quotes and mini-essays by Nancy Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra Jr. and Tina Sinatra, among others), this book is a feast for the eyes, especially if you're heavily invested in Frank as an icon.  Reminiscent of Life Magazine's evocative, lush photographic essays, Pignone has scoured sources from throughout Frank's life and come up with what is perhaps the definitive visual account of Frank Sinatra.  The book is dived into three segments: The Voice (1915-1952), Chairman of the Board (1953-1972) and Ol’ Blue Eyes (1973-1998), and besides opening statements from each of three children, text is minimal.  The quality of this book cannot be overstated - the paper and binding are heavy, and for similar coffee-table-style books, you might expect to pay $100-150 dollars - so to have this tome be crafted with such love and quality, and yet be so affordable, is a miracle in itself.


Frankie Liked To Sing
Words by John Seven, Pictures by Jana Christy
Harry N. Abrams; 32 p.
Released October 13, 2015

Frankie Liked to Sing celebrates the life of Frank Sinatra, whose iconic voice changed popular music forever and influenced generations of listeners all over the world. From his early days in Hoboken, New Jersey, to making it big in New York City, Sinatra was determined to follow his dream of being a singer and moving people with his voice. And now, one hundred years after his birth, his legacy lives on with this spirited and loving tribute.

REVIEW: 
I'm sorry, but it just doesn't get more freaking adorable than this.  For all the hoopla which Frank's 100th Birthday brought about, and all the glossy, high-concept biographies which appeared on bookshelves, this little gem of a picture book is really the ONLY release that captured the true heart of what it means to love the music of Frank Sinatra.  Tina's short quote on the cover pretty much sums up my own feelings - "Frankie liked to sing are the truest words ever written about my dad."  In simple, easy prose, author John Seven perfectly captures a young Frank Sinatra, who grew up listening to the radio, and his heroes, Bing Crosby.  The author continually, gently points out that this made Frank different from the other boys in the neighborhood, but that his blossoming love of singing and performing also made him special - and that others could see that his talent for singing and music would take him far from his humble roots.  Illustrator Jana Christy's pictures capture a soft, dreamy, watercolor world which matches the rose-colored look at Frank's childhood, stripping away the gritty reality of being an Italian growing up in New York, and weaving it all into the equally real power of the American Dream.  I'm not saying that you'll learn anything new from this small children's book, or even that it will convert any young fans; but as a lens for looking at who Frank was, and what his legacy means, I far prefer this child-like view, than the more cynical tomes which followed.


Frank & Ava: In Love and War
By John Brady
Thomas  Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press; 304 p.
Released October 13, 2015

REVIEW PENDING

BOOK DESCRIPTION:
"If I had to go back in Hollywood history and name two people who were most desperately and passionately in love with each other, I would say Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner were It."―Liz Smith.

The love story of this couple has never been fully explored or explained―until now. Frank & Ava delves deeply into the lives of these two iconic stars and their turbulent lifelong relationship. More than anything else, this is the story of a romance lived out under battlefield conditions.


REVIEW: 


Sinatra: The Photographs
By Andrew Howick
Harry N. Abrams; 244 p.
Released October 27, 2015


Few male stars in any medium carried a visual punch like Frank Sinatra. Photographs capture not only his ineffable sense of style, but also his aura of vulnerability, intensity, sexuality, and charm. Sinatra: The Photographs focuses on the decades after the war, when he towered over the American entertainment landscape. These were the years of the Rat Pack and Las Vegas, socializing with Jack Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe, and making music with Nelson Riddle, Count Basie, and Quincy Jones. Featured is the best work by a group of photographers who helped shape the public image of Sinatra: Ted Allan, Bob Willoughby, Ed Thrasher, Sid Avery, and Bernie Abramson. Photographs by these men form the nucleus of the images gathered in this book, which are accompanied by illuminating commentary on Sinatra by the people who knew him best.

REVIEW:  Suffering in comparison only to the Sinatra 100 book reviewed above, Andrew Howick's Sinatra: The Photographs' equally-weighty, and equally impressive coffee-table-style book has fewer photographs, and more emphasis on text than Pignone's slighty more deluxe photo book, but is to be admired and viewed for its own strengths, which are considerable.  Whereas Pignone's book took a wider-ranging approach in its photographic essay, Howick focuses more on Frank's iconic, post WWII years, when he was struggling to redefine himself in the wake of post-adolescent Bobby Sox hysteria, and emerge as a completely new kind of man - the swaggering, lady-crushing swinger that sashayed with the likes of the Kennedys and Marilyn Monroe, while swigging martinis, and night-clubbing to his heart's content.  This is Sinatra as 20th Century Male, sporting sleek ties, sharp fedoras, and a rougher, more devil-may care attitude in the wake of his post-Ava flameout.  As such, the photographs, taken by such experts as Ed Thrasher, Sid Avery, Bob Willoughby, and Bernie Abramson, went a long way in recasting Sinatra's image in the public eye - as much as Sinatra's music changed, so did his style - and these glossy photos, mostly in black and white, fit Frank perfectly within the dry, noirish style of the 1950s.  A worthy accompianment to your Sinatra bookshelf.


Sinatra: The Chairman
By James Kaplan
Doubleday; 992 p.
Released October 27, 2015


In 2010's Frank: The Voice, James Kaplan, in rich, distinctive, compulsively readable prose, told the story of Frank Sinatra's meteoric rise to fame, subsequent failures, and reinvention as a star of live performance and screen. The story of "Ol' Blue Eyes" continues with Sinatra: The Chairman, picking up the day after Frank claimed his Academy Award in 1954 and had reestablished himself as the top recording artist in music. Frank's life post-Oscar was incredibly dense: in between recording albums and singles, he often shot four or five movies a year; did TV show and nightclub appearances; started his own label, Reprise; and juggled his considerable commercial ventures (movie production, the restaurant business, even prizefighter management) alongside his famous and sometimes notorious social activities and commitments.

REVIEW:  I approached this book with a bit of weariness - I had slogged through Kaplan's previous behemoth The Voice, and left it with a queasy taste in my mouth - not just due to the numbingly over-documented sources which Kaplan delights in, but in the overall tone and focus which he took, which attempted to psychoanalyze Frank and compartmentalize his life and work into a single, sloppy narrative.  I wish I could say that this book rectifies or improves upon his previous work, but instead, Kaplan delves deeper into his single-minded approach, bringing all the same faults to The Chairman that he did with The Voice, and amplifying them with an even more dogged, sour approach.  For all his academic sourcing (which takes up a hefty chunk of this 900-plus page book), this book still feels like an exercise in "substantive" rumor-mongering, if there could be such a thing.  The endless "he said" and "she said" reporting, wholesale borrowing from other "official" sources (such as George Jacobs pathetic Mr. S), and others, actually undercuts the narrative; he spends a great deal of time reporting the horrific actions of Sinatra behind the scenes, and an equal amount of time lauding his artistic integrity - and the two narratives simply don't match up.  Additionally, the author spends most of the book dancing around Frank - reporting on his friends, his lovers, his wives, his business associates, while avoiding Frank and his own statements to a distracting degree.  It felt, as I was reading it, that the author was trying to paint a portrait of Sinatra, but only concentrating on the backdrop - while only sketching in the main subject.  I don't suppose my review of this book will sway any other readers - as of this writing, it's pulled in numerous accolades and positive reviews for its "thoroughness" and "documentation" - but in reading it, it failed to do the one thing I expect from an excellent biography - it didn't illuminate the man.  Frank remains as enigmatic and unapproachable afterwards as he was before.


Sinatra's Century: One Hundred Notes on the Man and His World
By David Lehman
Harper; 288 p.
Released October 27, 2015


In celebration of his one hundredth birthday, an enchanting look back at the life and times of the greatest entertainer in American history, Frank Sinatra
Sinatra's Century is an irresistible collection of one hundred short reflections on the man, his music, and his larger-than-life story by a lifetime fan who also happens to be one of the most prominent voices in contemporary American poetry. David Lehman uses each of these short pieces to look back on a single facet of the entertainer's story—from his childhood in Hoboken to his emergence as "The Voice" in the 1940s to the wild professional and romantic fluctuations that followed.
Lehman offers new insights and revisits familiar stories—Sinatra's dramatic love affairs with some of the most beautiful stars in Hollywood, including Lauren Bacall, Marilyn Monroe, and Ava Gardner; his fall from grace in the late 1940s and resurrection during the "Capitol Years" of the 1950s; his bonds with the rest of the Rat Pack; and his long tenure as the Chairman of the Board, the indomitable elder statesman of popular music inspiring generations of artists, from Bobby Darin to Bono to Bob Dylan.
Filled with vibrant photos from all stages of his career, the book includes lists of favorite performances; engaging insights on what made Sinatra both the model of American machismo and the epitome of romance; and clear-eyed assessments of the foibles that impacted his life and work. Warm and enlightening, Sinatra's Century is a full-throated appreciation of Sinatra for the twenty-first-century fan.

REVIEW:  In anticipating Sinatra's 100th birthday celebrations, I was expecting more books like this one - innocuous, simple throw-aways, which, while enjoyable on their own merits, are neither terribly illuminating or essential.  As it turns out, Lehman's book was the only one in the plethora of "official" releases which I found, and, although it doesn't aspire to the kind of coffee-book-table quality or rigorous academia of its contemporaries, it exhibits the kind of affection and love from an admirer which some of the other, more weighty books lack.  Basically a collection of short essays and reminiscences on Sinatra, and the effect that he had on the world, Lehman manages to successfully convey the positive power Frank had on his fans; the joy his music brought, the electricity his concerts provided, the magnetic quality of his personality and celebrity, and how his life influenced so many other artists and others in ways that are immeasurable.  Dotted with black-and-white photographs, many of them rare and humorous, Lehman manages to capture a Sinatra that authors like James Kaplan seem oblivious to - the human, flesh-and-blood man who inspired and uplifted so many people.  Sinatra's Century is perhaps the purest book to come out of Sinatra's 100th birthday year, and for that reason alone, I recommend it above the others.


Sinatra
Compiled by Amanda Erlinger and Robin Morgan
Antique Collector's Club; 400 p.
Released November 1, 2015


The official luxury book to commemorate the Frank Sinatra centenary, limited to just 1000 copies, in a deluxe clam-shell box, accompanied by a previously unpublished photograph, taken and authenticated by Nancy Sinatra Sr. Each book contains a numbered certificate of authenticity, signed by Sinatra's children - Nancy Sinatra, Frank Sinatra Jnr., and Tina Sinatra

REVIEW:  Look - I understand that the Sinatra family wanted to do something really special for his 100th Birthday, but is a FIFTEEN HUNDRED DOLLAR special edition book really the best way to endear yourself to fans?  Limited to 1,000 copies, this instant collector's item is four-hundred pages of glossy, photo-filled tome is geared towards one buyer only - the one who doesn't mind throwing money away for something which you can't, in the end, take with you.  Filled with short, gushing essays by the likes of Martin Scorsese and George Clooney, and filled with both personal and professional shots of Frank from all eras of his life, yeah, there's exclusive stuff - but it's just pictures.  And words.  On paper.  In a box.  It reminds me of a few years back when author J.K. Rowling published a limited-edition copy of "The Tales of Beedle The Bard" specially geared towards benefiting one of her favorite charities.  After the initial hand-crafted book sold at auction for tens of thousands of dollars, Amazon.com convinced Rowling to commission several duplicates, proceeds of which would also benefit the same charity, but costing far less to the consumer.  I purchased one of them, knowing that the money would be used for a good cause, and it would be a cool memento.  And now, it sits on my shelf and gathers dust.  That's all this book will do, no matter how much it costs - and to my knowledge, not a penny of the price is going anywhere except into the Sinatra's own bank accounts.  Cynical?  Yeah, but the Sinatras have never been shy about using Frank's name to line their own pocketbooks, and this book, exclusive and limited as it is, tells only to clearly that Sinatra's heirs don't have the personal touch their father did.


The Cinematic Legacy of Frank Sinatra
By David Wills
St. Martin's Press; 304 p.
Released January 5, 2016


In a film career spanning more than five decades, Frank Sinatra proved to be a roulette wheel of constantly spinning talent, the likes of which Hollywood has rarely seen. Film history is filled with stars created by the studio system. Occasionally, however, a performer emerged who, against all preconceived odds of what a star should be or look like, knocked down the walls of convention by becoming nothing other than what they already were. Frank Sinatra was the embodiment of this fundamental truth. The legacy of his work stands apart from many of his contemporaries, who essentially based their performances on an extension of a core character type. Sinatra, however, was able to take his signature persona and translate it successfully into many film genres-first as the comedic song-and-dance man, then as the dramatic actor and romantic lead, and finally as the tough guy and action hero. Sinatra also respectfully challenged contemporary ideals of acting technique.

REVIEW:
  Perhaps the last of the "official" 100th Anniversary books to hit the marketplace, and a little late at that, this latest look at Sinatra's film legacy is undoubtedly the most handsome of the small group which fit into this niche.  Stuffed with glossy photos, containing loads of short quotes that weave in and out of the narrative, which waxes more philosophical than most books about Frank's film work.  Author David Wills takes a unique approach, where he shines a light on Frank ability to move chameleon-like through several different genres, and, unlike many other talented actors, managed to be convincing in each of them.  It's an enlightened approach to how to view Sinatra's second-to-his-music career in film, and a compelling one as well; who else in Hollywood moved so effortlessly through musical comedy, war films, hard-hitting drama, and hard-boiled detective films?  Not to mention the westerns, epics, and frothy romances which Frank, who notoriously didn't enjoy doing more than one take while filming, managed to alternately convey innocence, pathos, gritty world-weariness, and beguiling charm?  The contributing essays, featuring all of Frank's children, are smarmy, and generally unenlightening, but serve to give an added gloss of authority to the book, which, while not being the last word on Frank's cinematic legacy, nevertheless, manages easily to be the most easy on the eyes, and might even convert those who don't consider Frank's film work to be on par with his other endeavors.  Recommended.

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