This section will list the
films which have shown up in unauthorized releases. Usually
these documentaries are cobbled together from public domain film clips,
utilizing several reels from Sinatra's television programs of the
1950's or early films which have lost their copyright
control. I'll try to list duplicate titles here (since often
the same program gets recycled under different names) and also try and
point out anything of interest for collectors. Tread
carefully here - most of these items have been put togeher haphazardly,
and with little care for the subject.
Sinatra: His Life & Times
Entertainment, 480 min.
Released October 15, 1997
features on five DVD's - nearly eight hours of entertainment.
biographies of people close to Frank Sinatra, from Tommy Dorsey to Ava
trivia questions, with answers.
This disaster - which is only
available on VHS
through Amazon (I picked up the DVD version on eBay), is typical of the type of
wasteland excess that Madacy Entertainment commonly shovels onto the
marketplace. What appears to be a lengthy documentary of
Frank Sinatra is in reality a hashed-together mess of odds and ends,
strung together with nothing resembling coherence. The first
program, "The Early Years" is a typical example, with the narrator
(sounding like a young, enthusiastic Casey Casem) spouting off
generalities about Sinatra's birth and early career, and then switching
suddenly to a spoken narrative by Frank himself, talking about his
traumatic, nearly fatal birth - and while the gruesome narration is
spinning out, trailers from Frank's early musicals are
playing! So we have chorus girls and Gene Kelly yukking it up
in the foreground while Frank discusses the incompetent doctor scarring
him for life and the midwife placing him under a cold stream of water
to get the infant Sinatra breathing! It's so surreal, I'm
expecting Pink Floyd music to be blaring from the speakers.
But that's not all - the film suddenly drops the narration, and
switches to a September 27, 1959 Bing Crosby television special
featuring Frank, Louis Armstrong, and Peggy Lee, and commences to show
several disjoinited clips from the show, many of which don't feature
Frank at all. The second program is even worse: "The Radio
Years" is nothing but scratchy radio appearances by
Frank playing over a disjointed photo montage - for 40 minutes! The
second DVD, "The Hollywood Years" is similar, with lots of film
trailers (in very poor quality) joining a lengthy television featurette
on the 1968 film The
Detective, as well as a complete filmed
perforamance of "Boys and Girls Like You And Me" (from Take
Me Out To The Ballgame) sans dialogue.
"The Television Era" has the annoying quality of the narrator
obliterating a complete performance by Sinatra on The Bob Hope Show,
and then presents the entire cheesy Welcome
Home Elvis show from Frank's self-titled 1960
program. The entire set runs like this, with the odd
television appearance, Rat Pack performance, or jarring photo montage
carried along by a narrator who obviously has no idea what he's gotten
himself into. Its a real hodge-podge of material, all of it
in dodgy sound and picture; a junk-heap of
clips which most fans will find tries their patience.
Gold Collector's Edition
Triton Media, 300 min.
the 5 hour televised miniseries: "They Were Very Good Years"
exclusive interviews with Sammy Davis Jr., Stells
Stevens, Ernest Borgnine, Juliet Prowse, Shecky Green, Phyllis
McGuire, Francis Gershwin, Gene Kelley, Al Martino, Joey Bishop, Peter
Lawford, Craig Huxley, Jacqueline Bisset, Raquel Welch
Band Karoke of "Witchcraft" & "Come Fly with me"
Discography & Filmography
of the worst documentaries I've ever seen, They
Were Very Good Years is to documentary films what Ed Wood
(the creator of such anti-films as Plan
9 From Outer Space) was to independent
cinema. Grossly edited together, painfully narrated by
someone who sounds like Walter Cronkite with a bad cold, showing no
regard for historical timelines, and written without any style or
intelligence, this five-part miniseries is a hacked-together disaster,
and has unfortunately shown up in many guises over the years, in five,
three and this two-disc edition. Each segment is supposed to
focus on a single era of Frank's life: "The Bobby Sox Years," "The
Hollywood Years," "Hollywood, The Second Time Around," "The Swinging
Years," and "The Vintage Years." Fine and good, except the
film clips veer around from era to era, the narration swings perilously
between world/social/and political events without ever tying them to
Frank; and vague generalities abound. The narrative
obliviously pulls in people like Axel Stordahl, briefly mentioning his
importance in Frank's sound, and then quickly recounts that he "worked
with Sinatra on an album shortly before his death."
Huh? Which album? Why are we discussing his death
in the first segment of the documentary? Tossed in without
any regard to authenticity or actual events, the film shows clips of
Frank's short film The House I Live In,
before World War II ever happens, or Frank has even become famous - yet
there he is on film, singing and acting as if he's a big star, and the
documentary is still supposedly focused on his childhood!
Jumps like this are common throughout, with clips from his 1950s films
rubbing shoulders with shots of him with Tommy Dorsey, and the Narrator
droning on and on, without ever seeming to realize that he's just
jumped decades in time without ever wondering if any of this is making
sense; and if he makes a mistake or a flub (and there are several) they
are left in. This excruciatingly confusing and
amateur work should be avoided at all costs, and in whatever guise it
takes. Even the interview segments look to be swiped from
vintage 1970's television shows. The only recommendation I
can give for this mind-numbing disaster is that there are some rare
film clips included: a live show with Frank, Bing, and Bob Hope
performing for some troops; some rare cartoons which show the effect
which Frank has on women (and chickens!) and numerous clips from his
movies. But nothing here is shown in full, it's all just bits
and pieces, as if it were edited together by a pack of hyenas fighting
over the video tape. A pitifully amateurish production.
Sinatra [Hollywood Hall Of Fame - Suddenly]
Brentwood Home Video, 105 min.
Released February 22, 1999
Hall of Fame video biography - from Frank's earliest
film and music performances through his long reign as one of the
all-time greatest stars of screen and music.
- full presentation of this excellent film-noir starring Frank Sinatra
as a crazed hit-man with a mission to assasinate the President
of the United States.
quiz on the life and works of Frank Sinatra
The title of this video might lead one
that it's some sort of official program which was produced for the
fictional 'Hollywood Hall of Fame' - of course there is no such
organization, and this budget DVD is nothing more than another hack job
of Sinatra film trailers and television clips strung together, albeit
with some sense of order, and a narrator who adds a bit of panache with
his rich British accent and authoritative tones.
What's disappointing about this 30-minute long overview of Sinatra's
film career is that although the narration gives a good, if
incomplete, overview of the highlights of Frank's filmography,
beginning with Anchors
Aweigh and ending with The
Detective, the clips which are used are of
horrible quality, easily the worst I've seen on a cheapie DVD release -
the color clips from the musicals are often shown in single tint, or
worse, in black and white, with even the best clips blurry or clipped
around the edges, with lots of video artifacts and
jumping in the film trailers. Anyone could've walked
down to their local rental shop and found better footage than what's
found here. Added to the package is the public domaign film Suddenly,
which is shown in the original 1:75:1 letterbox format. The
final aspect to this package is a nine-question trivia game which uses
clips from the Hall of Fame documentary included,
and is generally worthless. So, you have an OK documentary,
with horrible quality film stock, the very good Suddenly
in widescreen format and a less-than-pristine print, and a
short, pointless trivia contest. Not worth getting too
Sinatra Memorial: Dec.
12, 1915-May 14, 1998
Video, 90 min.
Released January 5, 2001
by Tony Bennett, Wayne Newton, Tom Selleck, Sidney Poitier, Debbie
Reynolds, Joey Bishop, Roseanne, Tommy Sands, Shecky Green, Phyllis
McGuire, Quincy Jones & Betty Garrett.
from his films and farewell performances.
materials: "The House I Live In" (1945) and a 1950s era Edward R.
Murrow interview with Frank Sinatra from his home.
Passport Video, which is responsible
for all of
the dreck on this page, has apparently made a full-time job out of
re-selling the same film clips of Sinatra, using interviews from the
same celebrities, over and over. They even use the same song
for their closing credits! (The completely lame "Frank's Song" sung by
Sinatra-wannabe Steve Blackwood). This particular video,
called a "memorial" to cash in on Frank's death, rips off TV footage of
interviews with stars who attended Sinatra's funeral, and ties it
together with old interview clips which they've already rehashed on the
five-part documentary "They Were Very Good Years." Here,
they've extended some of the interview clips, some of which have to
deal with Sinatra's passing, but many simply talk about his films and
career - which works fine in a retrospective way, if the films or
events they discussed were in fact the highlights of Sinatra's life;
but most times, they're not. Betty Garrett talks about
co-starring with Frank for the first time in Take
Me Out To The Ballgame, Tommy Sands seems to be
bemoaning his career slide more than disucssing Sinatra, and Joey
Bishop is shown in an extended interview segment shortly after Frank's
death. There are some nice remembrances of Sinatra's many
charitable acts, which lists several specific instances of Frank's
generous gifts and aid, but other moments on this video just baffle,
with lame, sound-bite moments from such 'stars' as Roseanne Barr and
Wayne Newton, all of whom are just grabbing the spotlight for a chance
to invoke Sinatra's name. The memorial portion of this video
only runs about 45 minutes, leaving the rest of the time to be taken up
by two shorts: The House I Live In - the
oscar-winning 1945 short film starring Frank Sinatra and dealing a
heavy-handed message about tolerance, and a 10-minute long interview
with Frank Sinatra in his new Bel-Air home by Edward R. Murrow, where
Frank discusses his career and shows off his house in a disarmingly
candid interview. A mishmash of moments, some good, most
simply off the track - a 'memorial' that should have been much better.
Rat Pack: The Story Behind the Original Movie Ocean's 11
Delta Entertainment, 70 min.
Released Feburary 6, 2003
story on how the Rat Pack began, featuring capsule biographies of Frank
Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop.
rare performances of the Rat Pack shown in archival clips.
with Joey Bishop and Henry Silva.
footage includes trailers for three other Rat Pack films: Robin
and the 7 Hoods, Sergeants 3, and 4
includes a 10-minute Rat Pack performance from Miami Florida.
Passport International video, which
numerous horrors capitalizing on Sinatra's name, made a mistake and
actually produced this OK concise video, chronicling the making of the
film Ocean's 11. Although the packaging leads you to believe
the main feature is 70 minutes long, in actuality the program runs a
scant 40 minutes, with the bonus features taking up the remaining
time. The documentary is suprisingly cogent, taking in as it
does, not only the film, but giving brief, but informative biographies
of all the main Rat Packers, leading off with Joey Bishop (who is shown
in several taped interview segments from the late 1980s), and
continuing with bios of Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, Sammy Davis Jr.,
and of course Frank Sinatra. The film does a good job of
introducing the novice viewer to their seperate strengths and the paths
that led them to the formation of a regular performing
troupe. Tied in with narration is a fairly lengthy
examination of the building of the modern Las Vegas, the organized
crime connections which make the town blossom, and their influence in
bringing high-class talent to their hotels and casinos to draw the
crowds. There is even a gruesome shot of Bugsy Siegel, who
built the fabulously expensive Flamingo resort and was subsequently
shot to death by East Coast mafia as a result of his
overspending. Peppered throughout the narrative are shots of
the Rat Pack performing on stage, and much of their patter is captured
here in all its glory, with several instances of Frank's singing and
Sammy's incredible impersonations captured live. The narrator
even goes out of his way to point out specific instances of Sammy's
troubles with racism, from his being rejected by several casinos, to
his romance and eventual marriage to Swedish actress May
Britt. The film also touches on Frank's association with the
Kennedy's and the Rat Pack's eventual dissolution and deaths.
Amid all this, the film also ties in the concept and creation of the
11, but due to everything else that's discussed,
not much depth is given. The bonus clips are interesting,
with extended previews of other Rat Pack films, and a 10-minute
performance by Sammy Davis and Peter Lawford with frequent
interruptions by the dry, deadpan Joey Bishop and Frank
Sinatra. Don't buy this looking for depth, but as an
introduction to the Rat Pack, it's well done.
Singing At His Best
Video, 55 min.
Released March 25, 2003
Got The World On A String
Got My Love To Keep Me Warm
Me To The Moon
Night When We Were Young
Never Smile Again
Look At Me Now
Old Black Magic
Had To Be You
Be A Lady
One of the better videos which
Passport has put
together, this compilation gathers mostly full performances taken from
TV appearances, with some true rarities making their debut.
The sound and picture are certainly not pristine quality, but that's to
be expected from TV sources from this era (which spans from 1943 to
1959). The video begins with "I've Got The World On
A String" which is actually three different performances
edited together into a rather confusing chop-job; it made me groan,
thinking that perhaps the entire video would be like this, but no - the
next song "Stardust" is an early "Lucky Strike" Hit
Parade performance, with a very young Frank singing
the entire song with orchestra and chorus. Other clips of
note include "Ol' Man River", taken from the film Till
The Clouds Roll By which is in fluxuating
color - it's interesting to see Frank's white suit change from pink to
blue, but is an otherwise lush performance.
"It Had To Be You" again baffles in it's presentation: it begins as a
television performance with Frank stepping onto the stage to screams
from the audience, but then the video cuts away to several shots of Ava
Gardner and clips from Frank's films while the music plays underneath -
it's baffling. Several tracks are taken from the
mid-to-late 50's when it appears he's somewhat grizzled and unshaven;
it gives the saloon songs like "Talk To Me" an added dimension of
world-weariness that actually helps sell the song. And on
three of the numbers, all taken from the same show, Frank actually
sports a pencil-thin mustache! The dramatic
back-lighting helps the mood of "That Old Black Magic", and
Frank teams up with the Count Basie Orchstra for a
rip-snorting cover of "Luck Be A Lady." Frank also gets to
sit down with an enthusiastic children's
chorus for "High Hopes" (and seems to be enjoying himself tremendously)
- while the final number, "Angel Eyes" captures Frank's magnificent
performance of this show-stopper, when he steps out of the
spotlight and sings "...excuse me while
I disappear..." Each song is prefaced by a short
note about the composers of the songs, which helps the flow from track
to track. The video ends with the perennial Passport
signature, "Frank's Song" over the closing credits (give it a rest
guys!) but this video is interesting and with enough fine performances
to merit a recommendation.
Sinatra: They Were Very
Passport Video, 270 min.
Released July 22, 2003
part documentary "They Were Very Good Years"
video: "Frank Sinatra Memorial"
The exact same documentary as the Gold
DVD set above, with the added inclusion of the Frank Sinatra
Memorial program, filling out the final DVD in this
three-disc set. Passport Video has simply repackaged this
incredibly inept and uneven documentary in a cardboard slipcase, but
otherwise kept the same potpourri blend of spliced together
footage, a narrator who isn't paid enough to correct his mistakes, and
a chronological flow that is the equivalent of a
rockslide, bouncing from here to there without rhyme or
reason. There are some nice moments and rare videos thrown
into this mix, which might make it interesting to the hard-core
collector, and the interviews with Juliet Prowse, Ann MIller, Joey
bishop and Ernest Borgnine, among others are nice for viewing once, but
since the bulk of material is re-used over and over again, that most
viewers will be experiencing deja-vu by the time the final reel is
shown. This hack job is so amateurish and takes such
a shotgun approach to presenting Frank's life that it's not recommended
for casual viewers.
Frank Sinatra: Singing With
Passport Video, 47 min.
Released September 7, 2004
include: 1. Together (Bing Crosby/Dean
2. Can't We Be Friends? (Ella Fitzgerald)
3. Birth Of The Blues (Louis Armstrong)
4. Good Old Songs [Medley] (Bing Crosby/Dean Martin)
5. You're The Top (Ethel Merman)
6. Love Song Medley (Bing Crosby/Rosemary Cloony)
7. Harold Arlen Medley (Lena Horne)
8. Jimmy Durante Medley (Dean Martin/Bing Crosby/Mitzi Gaynor/Jimmy
9. Birth Of The Blues (Dean Martin/Sammy Davis Jr./Johnny Carson)
This cheap rip-off of the better
Classic Duets DVD
takes eight film clips from Frank's 1950s television show, duplicating
five tracks from that release, while adding three extended medleys from
same, as well as the final number, which has been cribbed from the St.
Louis show featured in its completeness on the Live
and Swingin'CD. It's hard to count the
ways in which this DVD misleads the consumer: the cover, which shows
several scenes from Frank's early film roles (none of which are
featured in this program); the fact that the back cover claims that the
clips are in black and white AND color (all the clips are in black and
white); the running time - which is thirteen minutes shorter than the
sixty minutes listed; the final track, which shows as "Frank's Tune"
with Steve Blackwood, which is nothing more than a Sinatra wannabe
singing over the closing credits! Of course, you know you
have to beware when the front cover so prominently dispays the
disclaimer: "This DVD is neither endorsed nor authorized by the estate
of Frank Sinatra" - it's practically a clarion call that this is a
cheap rip off. But there you are. For collectors,
the three medleys on here may be enough to purchase this item, although
to see Frank, Dean, and Bing clown their way through a medley of 'old
songs' (including "Old Man River" "Old Devil Moon" and "My Old Kentucky
Home") isn't exactly revelatory - but the trio of Bing, Frank and
Rosemary is a knockout - with the two men sparring musically over the
coy Clooney, and singing bits and pieces of two dozen songs, while
throwing good natured jabs at each other - it's a real treat,
especially Clooney who's a real pro, even picking up when Frank flubs a
song entrance. The final medley, which is a tribute to Jimmy
Durante, is more slap dash, with lots of Schnozz imitations being
thrown around, Mitzi Gaynor joining in at the end, and Mr. Durante
stealing the spotlight at the end with a surprise appearance.
The sound and video quality are about what you'd expect for these
archaic pieces - the sound buzzes on the high end, and the picture
quality is just OK, with the Merman sequence fairing the worst, with
poor source quality.
In Concert Series: Frank Sinatra
[DVD]; 62 min.,
Released July 25, 2006
Got The World
On A String (Arlen / Koehler)
2. Stardust (Carmichael)
3. I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm (Berlin)
4. Ol' Man River (Kern / Hammerstein)
5. Fly Me To The Moon (Howard)
6. I'll Never Smile Again (Lowe)
7. Hello Young Lovers (Rodgers / Hammerstein)
8. That Old Black Magic (Arlen /Mercer)
9. Luck Be A Lady (Loesser)
10. Angel Eyes (Dennis /Brent)
I suppose it
would be too much to ask these fly-by-night video production companies
to stop slinging out the same product over and over again in different
packaging, huh? Or to use deceptive marketing in the titles
of their product? Poor suckers who see this DVD in their
local dollar bins might think that this is a live concert by
Frank, when it's actually a series of clips cut and pasted (sometimes
with baffling results) from various television and film appearances
which have fallen into the public domain. Passport Video, who
has an extremely spotty record of this sort of thing, once again
recycles the same low-quality footage which they put out before (in the
more complete Singing
At His Best package, reviewed above), but instead
of the generous seventeen cuts on the previous DVD, here, it's
pared down to ten, and saddled with the 30-minute long "Hollywood
Biography" which has shown up before on the Hollywood
Hall of Fame DVD (also reviewed above).
Both segments are OK, but there's simply no reason to spend your
hard-earned cash on something this slipshod and cynical until new
and/or better quality footage is obtained, but since this is just the
same ol', same ol' - there's not much here to get excited about.
Sinatra: The Magic Of The Music [The Music Masters] (DVD+CD)
Ltd. WHEUS 3057 [DVD]; 55 min (DVD); 42 min (CD),
Released May 15, 2007
DVD Program: 1.
Were Young 3.
Black Magic 4.
The Wind 6.
Witchcraft/Love Me Tender 7.
Marvelous For Words 8.
You're Smiling 9.
Makes Me Feel So Young 10.
Your Face Before Me 11.
Somebody Else 12.
1. I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm
2. I Get A Kick Out Of You
3. Luck Be A Lady
4. Night And Day
5. Come Fly With Me
6. It Was A Very Good Year
7. Ol' Man River
8. On The Sunny Side of the Street
9. As Time Goes By
10. I'll Never Smile Again
11. It Had To Be You
12. My Kind of Town
13. I'm In The Mood For Love
14. Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out To Dry
being another quasi-legitimate release, this DVD/CD combo distributed
by Braun Media is one of the better values out there, with some rare
(and not so rare) video clips from various television appearances, tied
together by some thankfully adept narration which manages to stick to
the facts and not wander around like a lost orphan. Yes, we
the usual expected clips from public-domain releases like the Elvis/Sinatra
team-up and "Ol' Man River" from the film musical Till The Clouds Roll By,
but the narration does a fine job of tying it all together with lucid,
if dry prose. Probably most annoying is the inclusion of text
captions which run under the video clip being played, and the clips
themselves don't often match the historical time-period being
discussed. Still, it's nice to see a Columbia-era Sinatra
an early cover of "Witchcraft" rather than the more familiar later
versions. Another fun clip is a short, improptu duet with
Crosby of "People Will Say We're In Love" with Bing taking the high
harmony part at the end (and joking friends shouting "Air raid!" and
plugging their ears). Also featured are clips from "The House
Live In" and a fuzzy clip of Frank performing "Gone With The Wind" and
a duet with daughter Nancy on "Love Makes Me Feel So Young" (a
re-written version of "You Make Me Feel So Young"); and Frank and Dean
Martin's appearance on Judy Garland's own show. The quality
the clips vary, but are all watchable, and it's all in all an OK
package for those looking for a nice introductory film about Frank.
The accompanying CD the same random sampling of clips from
various sources and stages of Frank's career, with no notation of their
origin. This package isn't widely available, but can be found
various on-line stores.