Sinatra (1992)

If you idolized Frank Sinatra when he was lanky heartthrob, adored him as a Rat Pack leader or even felt the glow of nostalgia in his latter confusing years, the 1992 “Sinatra” is the miniseries for you.  If you want the truth, I suppose you should go find Kitty Kelly or Ray Liotta.  This “Sinatra” was produced while Old Blue Eyes was still alive (by his daughter Tina, no less, the one with no career of her own other than carrying Dad’s torch, a step lower than Frank Jr. and Nancy, who don’t do much more), so it’s a very adoring, no, make that slavishly adoring, biopic.  There are some outbursts and some unsavory characters, but this Frank Sinatra gleams as innocently and brightly as he did as far back as the 1930s.

The soundtrack is by Sinatra himself, so like this movie or not, the music is terrific. 

Hoboken, NJ, 1925.  Ten-year-old Frankie is already something of a little hoodlum, stealing cigarettes and sheet music.  He gets his gall from his mother Dolly (Olympia Dukakis), helping the poor by arranging jobs and making sure the Mayor owes her favors.  The minute little Frankie walks into his parents’ bar, the denizens beg him to sing, “with feeling.”  “With feeling costs a nickel,” enterprising Frankie tells them before launching into “My Wonderful One.”  He sasses both Mom and Dad (Joe Santos), but they are helpless against his charm.  Frankie wants to a boxer.  “Just what the world needs, another punch-drunk palooka,” Dolly quips.  She wants him to carry a sign at a rally for the Mayor the next day, but he refuses to participate unless he can sing the national anthem.  “It’s not a love song, Rudy Valley, it’s the ‘Star Spangled Banner,'” Dolly tells him when she sees him mugging to young girls in the crowd. 

A few years pass and miniseries hunk Philip Casnoff joins us the older Sinatra.  He doesn’t look like Frank (he’s must more handsome), but he has the mannerisms down pretty well.  He informs his parents that he wants to be a singer, “to be someone,” but his father tells him if he doesn’t work, he can’t stay at home, live there or eat there.  So, off he goes to New York City and makes the rounds looking for an agent and work.

Frank brazenly goes backstage at a burlesque theater and asks if they need a singer.  You know ‘It Had To Be You?'” the manager asks.  He does, and stands center stage singing it (Casnoff lip syncs to Sinatra doing it) while the few men present crowd long for any scrap of female flesh that can be produced.  He sneaks home to his mother, who says, “get in here, you little son-of-a-bitch” just before a neighbor rushes in with the news that Marty has been taken to the hospital.  Father and son kind of reconcile, at least if Frankie will “come home and get a real job.” 

“Hey, I’m Frank, you’re Nancy,” Frank says when he strides across the street to meet Nancy (Gina Gershon) and get an impromptu manicure since he sees her doing hers.  He gives her a few bars of “Ain’t She Sweet” on his ukulele and then meets her on the beach with her large family the next day.  Frank accepts a job with Nancy’s father as a plasterer.  Her father is also salt-of-the-earth, so when one of the female family members says, “he’s dreamy,” Papa says, “he’s a dreamer.”  Nonetheless, he is eager to teach Frank to appreciate opera and it affords Frank the chance to take singing lessons from Mr. Quinlin (Jeff Corey).  His peppy version of “Stormy Weather,” doesn’t impress the teacher because “you don’t understand the words.”  Frank is not deterred.  He wants to learn anything he can be taught.  The combination of starting from scratch with Mr. Quinlin and listening to opera with Nancy’s father does the trick in a handy montage.  Eventually, he has to quit the plastering job because he can’t manage the schedule of work and singing lessons.  “No work, no Nancy,” her pop tells Frank. 

When has that ever stopped two youngsters in heat?  Witless lover dialogue pretty much sets it up: “I don’t wanna lose you,” says he.  “I don’t wanna lose you,” says she.  It’s Nancy, with one line of dialogue, who convinces Frank to go for it again.  So, he auditions with “Stormy Weather,” this time for Major Bowes (Jay Robinson), who puts him in a group, not exactly what Frank had in mind, but he does make Frank the lead singer.  Major Bowes anoints them “The Hoboken Four” and gives them “Shine” to sing.  And with that, Frank gets to tour the country with the Major Bowes Amateur Hour, once again using flirtation as a hallmark of his performance style.  The girls go for it in a big way, much to the annoyance of the other three group members.  So, the scrappy lad ditches Major Bowes and returns to Hoboken and Nancy’s waiting arms.

He finds out that Dolly has been arrested for being an “abortionist.”  She defends her actions because it’s the Great Depression and she’s helping people who already have too many mouths to feed.  “Most people don’t make $75 a month and if they did, they wouldn’t quit,” she yells at him, outraged that he would give up his $75 A WEEK job!  Nancy chooses to believe Frank when he says he quit the job because he was “afraid he might lose” her, but this is while they are in bed necking to King Edward VIII’s abdication speech.  Nancy wants to elope, but Frank insists they have a real wedding, with her gown “covering the floor like the first falling snow.”  Oh, my stars, where the hell did he dig up that groaner? 

When Frank gets a job in the middle of nowhere singing with just a piano between the band’s sets, he’s told by the bandleader that his name is “too I-talian.”  When he’s introduced that night, Dolly loudly grumbles, “who the hell is Frankie Trent?”  Frank has to wheel on the piano player (who is blind and told to “shut your eyes, you’re scarin’ the customers”) while singing “Pennies From Heaven” for tips. 

For a tiny bit of “Francis Albert Sinatra, No Saint Was He,” the movie tosses in a groupie who refuses to take no for an answer and they have sex in the car.  This takes up all of three seconds and is done through fogged-up windows.  However, the girl ends up pregnant and Frank is arrested on a morals charge.  His explanation to fiancee Nancy is that the girl is married and “there is a whole string of guys.”  But, Nancy is angry, especially since she has already given up her virginity to him!  He swears fidelity to Nancy so many times that he says, “if I swear anymore, God will strike me dead.”  “Good, you deserve it,” she replies, but of course she’ll forgive him.  And marry him, in a big white dress, just as promised. 

Harry James (Matthew Posey) comes to hear Frank sing one night and offers him a job touring with his orchestra on the spot, if he changes his name to Frankie Satin.  “I like Sinatra,” Frank says and it sticks.  He tours and even records.  Just as Harry announces they have a gig in Chicago for the holidays, Frank finds Nancy puking in the toilet.  He doesn’t want pregnant Nancy going on the road with him, predictably.  It’s late 1939, the news is that “The Reds Invade Finland,” but Frank wants to jump from the James band to that of Tommy Dorsey (Bob Gunton).  Dorsey gives him a terrific offer (though 42% of it goes to Dorsey “for life”), too good an offer to refuse.  “If Harry lets you out,” Dorsey cautions.  James does and with no rancor, just a hug for Frank.  A quarter of the way through the movie and more than that of Frank’s life and Frank has been an angel, making no enemies and only officially sleeping with one woman besides beloved Nancy.

Things are not immediately smooth with Dorsey and company.  Buddy Rich (Tommy Simotes) rides him for being late (on the drums, of course).  Dorsey wants him to sing the previous singer’s song, and Frank won’t.  Cocky as all get out, he declines the use of a lyric sheet for “I’ll Never Smile Again” because he knows the words, and of course sings it perfectly the first time out.  Even Mama Dolly sways to the gentle version on the radio and Nancy gazes into space hearing it. 

“We have a problem,” a hotel manager says,  “we don’t serve Coloreds here,” referring to Sy Oliver (John Wesley).  This is the first time the famous Sinatra temper flares up in this movie.  “Give him the key or I’m gonna wreck this barn.  I said give him the key!” Frank brays, pulling the hotel manager by the tie.  And this was before all that Chairman of the Board crap. 

Confident as ever, Frank has a wow of a conversation with Dorsey late one night.  “So, what’s your signature song gonna be?” Tommy asks.  “I don’t want a song, I want a sound.  You see, TD, if I can do with my voice what you can do with a trombone, I can knock the whole gang right off the charts.”  How the hell is Dorsey supposed to follow that?  “Breath control” is all he can say.  Frank’s mixture of undying self-esteem and talent seems to push through any roughness.  When Frank launches into “I’ll Never Know,” the scene is pretty, but the recording used is of very poor quality, and obviously Frank couldn’t re-record it.  Strange to include that scene, which doesn’t further the movie at all. 

Frank asks Dorsey for time off to be at the birth of his first child.  “When an entertainer is at the birth of his children, it means he’s not working.  You are!” Dorsey thunders.  Frank offers Dorsey the godfather role to his kid, but Dorsey can sling the crap just as well as Frank.  He tells him the band is going to be in a movie and that “Billboard is going to name you Top Band Vocalist.”  That one hits Frank and he forgets about the kid.  Instead, he asks Dorsey for not more money, not better billing (which Dorsey was willing to give), but “more strings.”  By the next tour stop, not only are there an acre of violinists supporting Frank, but even a harp!

The only person not bowing at the altar of Sinatra is Buddy Rich, but since he keeps referring to Frank as a “grease ball,” he loses all credibility as a person.  And that, my friends, is how you write a movie about people still alive and keep them happy (Rich had died in 1987, so no one needed to walk on eggshells for his sake).  In fact, when the two get into a physical altercation that Frank starts over Rich’s inability to keep to Frank’s tempo, Dorsey takes Frank’s side, but only quickly because Nancy is on the phone, complaining that he’s never around to talk to her.  Since poor Gina Gershon is directly to be as annoying as possible in this scene, Frank still seems like a hero, even though he’s clearly not walking on the straight-and-narrow. 

In Hollywood, filming a totally insignificant song in a totally insignificant role in a totally insignificant movie, Frank says “I can’t sing to a camera,” so the director puts a girl in a chair near the band so Frank can focus his attention on her.  In the scene and in bed, where he becomes a tiger.  But, wait, folks!  He doesn’t actually do anything but mack on the girl, all clothing on, when his mother calls with the news that he has a daughter.  Again, that’s how we keep Francis Albert Sinatra and family happy but still remain somewhat faithful to the past.  “I’m a father!” Frank says to the girl.  “I don’t know what to say,” she replies.  “How about goodbye?”  How very family man-esque of him, no?

The rest of the world is still revolving.  Frank gets home to Hoboken to celebrate with Nancy and his family, Dorsey in tow.  Dolly nags about Frank’s billing and Marty has asthmatic attacks while rummaging through old photo albums.  And the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor.  Patriotism was good for the Big Band Era.

Frank’s career is taking off just when Nancy needs him at home.  “You have no right to stop me,” he yells.  “I don’t want to stop you.  I want you to be the greatest singer there is.  I just don’t want to lose you,” she whines, to an assurance that he will never leave her.  Frank quits Dorsey, though with a year’s notice, especially since Dorsey owns over 40% of him.  Oh, wait, the latter might not be true anymore, especially since Frank now has a fleet of lawyers, producers and big companies behind him.  “You know, not everyone thinks you are as talented as you do.  Personally? I hope you fall flat on your face,” Dorsey says in frustration.

Initially, the owner of the Paramount Theatre doesn’t think Frank can fill it.  “You’ve got a small voice,” he’s told.  “The girls will fill the Paramount,” one of his minions says.  Indeed they do.  Lines of them fight to get in.  Frank is on the bill with Benny Goodman (David Kimball), performing what is easily the most complex and important Big Bang contribution.  “And now, Frank Sinatra,” Goodman announces to screams of delight from the crowd and the legend of the bobbysoxers  is born (though the rendition of “Where or When?” is another tinny version that could have been cleaned up for the soundtrack).  Casnoff nails the Sinatra presence, the light-as-air performance style and especially the connection with the harpie fans.  Even Nancy is impressed. 

Everyone Frank knows is on the payroll.  Nancy goes over the bills and signs autographs for him while Frank tends to the parts he enjoys.  He’s loving life in Hollywood, where MGM is putting him under contract.  Nancy wants him home, since she’s pregnant again, but life on the East Coast is pretty much done.  He misses the birth of his second child, despite promises he would be there.  “You are 0 for 2,” Dolly tells him when she picks up phone, saying it “had a guilty ring.”  Pretending to be asleep, Nancy cries.  He can’t get to Nancy because he first has to meet President Roosevelt. 

And then it hits.  A cliche moment that always has to happen in any miniseries about a real person.  Frank and Nancy are arguing about giving Dolly money over and over and Nancy turns to Frank to say (you can say it along with her), “I don’t know who you are anymore.” Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.  Luckily, the conversation doesn’t go any further than that, but even just the one sentence is one cliche too many.  He’s having way more fun with his fans and his entourage.  Looking at Philip croon “I Fall in Love Too Fast,” he actually looks like Sinatra.  Until an egg is thrown at him by an angry boy, “on the night my father comes to see me!” bellows Frank. 

With fame comes the underside of fame: the boy with the egg, the morals charge popping up out of legal death, the press twisting his words, the fact that he’s not in the war and the hellish schedule that has him drinking heavily.  He yells at his entourage a lot, but also treats like them like family.  Worries are suddenly chucked out when Marilyn Maxwell (Carol Barbee) arrives backstage to spend some personal time with Frank. 

The family moves to Hollywood so Frank can take on his first real role, but he has demands.  The studio is willing to throw the biggest names in songwriting his way, but he wants Jules Styne (then just about to start a Broadway career) and Sammy Cahn.  “They don’t start Monday morning, neither do I,” he insists.  The conversation ends abruptly when Frank sees Ava Gardner (Marcia Gay Harden) walk by.  She’s crying over her latest dust-up with Artie Shaw, but he makes her laugh. 

Nancy learns how to drive a car, but a fancy car isn’t to her liking.  “There’s no room for the groceries,” she whines.  Her mother says, “the way he eats, you could fit them in here” and opens the glove compartment to find a jewelry box containing a heart bracelet.  Let’s assume it’s not for her.  Frank’s roving attention hits Nancy square in the face during a New Year’s party they host (with Sammy Davis and Bogie, among others), when Nancy sees Marilyn wearing the bracelet from the car!  As the countdown reaches it’s zenith, Nancy orders Marilyn “out of my house.” 

The next morning, Nancy lays into Frank.  “It’s nothing,” he assures her, regarding Marilyn.  “It’s not nothing to me,” she says.  He replies with another star biopic cliche that better writers could have found a way around: “It’s just there’s so much pressure.  It doesn’t let up for a second.  Sometimes I feel like climbing the walls.”  That one appears in every male-with-a-wandering-penis movie about a star.  The rest of the conversation follows familiar track, including the expected, “maybe we should go away together, just the two of us,” but Frank pricks a hole in that one.  How about nights together?  The next film is to be filmed in NYC, so that won’t work either. 

As a reporter gets a soundbite out of Frank about Communism that will no doubt come back to haunt him, he gets in a car with pal Peter Lawford, he meets Gene Tierney, snuggled up with JFK.  Loyal agent George Evans (Joe Grifasi) tries to get Frank to play nice with the press (instead of slugging them), to not get his mug on the front page with a dame who isn’t his wife and to even stop drinking because it’s ruining his voice.  “Go away for a few days…no women!”  So, Frank takes a few days off in Havana, where he’s photographed with Lucky Luciano, among other notorious mobsters.  Frank doesn’t see the harm in knowing Luciano.  “I drive the getaway car,” he jokes, and then adds to George, “you said no women.  You didn’t say anything about mobsters.”  George begs him to stop his trip down “this self-destructive path.” 

We met Sammy Davis Jr. (David Raynr) again for a split second because Frank decides to knock out right-wing columnist Lee Mortimer, which lands him in jail.  LB Mayer calls him and tells him to apologize.  Never one to admit his mistakes, Frank gets rip-roaring drunk and dresses as a priest to meet his pals at Romanoff.  This is the perfect place for a tirade.  Bogie tells him to get some sleep so he can work.  “Work.  This isn’t work.  They dress me funny and I sing.  If they gave me ‘Hamlet,’ they would make me sing,” he rails.  Frank is ruining his career and he wants his marriage to be over, though Nancy is pregnant again.  But mainly, his problem is “I lost it.  I lost the feeling.” 

Even the fans have disappeared.  Columbia wants to let him go and he’s not even upset.  “I’m only 33…is it all over at 33?”  “It’s a big pendulum, you’ll come back,” he’s assured.  He does perk up when he sees Ava Gardner in the hotel lobby.  She grabs his arm and takes him to see Billie Holliday (Leata Galloway) perform.  That’s the spark they need to start their intense affair, one that became Hollywood legend in no time.  They are physical wild animals together.  Ava is far more practical (and experienced), so when Frank wants to see her again, she purrs, “it was just a brief moment, Francis.  Let’s not make history out of it.”  No one has ever refuse Frank before!  That makes him even more obsessed, phoning in Christmas with his family and not able to concentrate on his new film. 

Though Ava was not married when she met Frank, he was, but somehow, the movie makes her the villain.  She yells at him and then kisses him passionately.  She toys with him horribly.  “It’s not enough for you to have a guy, you gotta mess with his head too?” Frank says, grabbing her.  That sets Ava off, demanding that he never touch her like that again.  “It’s never gonna work between us,” she says.

As for Nancy, she knows the gossip, and Frank decides it’s time to move out.  “Come home, Frank.  You belong here,” she assures him.  “Then why don’t I feel it?”  With that, Nancy is forced to agree.  As much as they try, Frank and Ava can’t stay apart.  When he’s singing at a fancy club, Ava, appearing from the mist, walks slowly down the center aisle, drops her fur to reveal a gorgeous outfit.  “Every chick in here wants to be you and every cat in here wants to be me,” he tells her as they walk very slowly to their table in order to show off.  Frank can’t keep calm when a photographer snaps a picture of him with Ava, ripping out the film and pushing the guy. 

The affair with Ava, volatile as it is, exacts a heavy toll on Frank (of course it does, since this is a rough episode in Frank’s life that cannot be ignored, no matter how many children were involved in the making of this film).  His faithful George has a heart attack and dies trying to get him out of one scrape or another.  MGM drops his contract.  “Ah, what the hell?  They never gave me a decent role anyway,” he says, trying to sound okay, but clearly devastated.  He wants Ava by his side, but she has her own career to think about and can’t afford to be with him as he heads to London for a singing gig. 

However, as he’s singing, sounding particularly broken-hearted, Ava actually does show up so Frank can see her in the wings.  Naturally, a song is picked that has lyrics matching the exact moment the end of the first portion requires. 

What of Nancy?  She remains supportive, begging him to “take a rest” when he complains that he is dreading performing.  “It doesn’t mean anything to me anymore, nothing does,” the complaining crooner says, actually speaking of Ava.  “Why do you want to hold onto me if I don’t want to be here?” he coldly asks her.  She believes he will tire of Ava and come back to her. 

Things hit rock bottom when Frank gets on stage and cannot sing, spitting blood into his handkerchief.  Unfortunately, it’s at the Copa in Hollywood, so everyone knows instantly what’s going on.  The news reporting it says, “that’s the old Frank here’s the new Frank, Frankie Lane…” and that radio gets switched off immediately.  He’s supposed to be on complete vocal rest, but when he sees a picture of Ava in the paper with another man, he gets the first plane to Spain where she’s filming a movie.  Her handsome co-star speaks no English, so Frank gets even nastier.  “This is my woman, mi senorita, so adios!” he tells the poor guy.  As always, being with Ava brings out the worst in both, but once they get the arguing done, then it’s happiness and loving, at least until the next argument.  “You’re kinda cute when you can’t speak,” Ava says as Frank presents her with an expensive necklace. 

On a rainy romantic day, sweetness in bed turns into a brawl because Ava says he’s not “trying hard enough” to divorce Nancy and he can’t have both women.  “This is torture, Frank.  It’s wrecking my career.  I can’t do this anymore,” she says.  “Two minutes ago, we were happy.  What happened?”  “I was being a sap.  I want you to go home and get a divorce,” Ava demands and stalks out. 

Back to the Paramount, the site of Frank’s biggest success, he goes, but the joint is empty and after that, bookings are few and nothing exciting.  Things are so bad that when he goes to light a cigarette at the stove and the pilot does not light, he can kill himself.  So, he turns the gas all the way up.  Luckily, he’s caught in time (obviously).  Did this ever really happen?  It’s tough to believe that someone like Frank Sinatra ever thought of suicide, but easier to accept the fact that it makes for a pungent dramatic twist.  “It’s torture when we’re together and worse when we’re not,” Ava tells him as a way to cheer him up (?).  With Ava in the audience at a New Jersey concert, he can sing perfectly. 

It’s at this concert that Frank meets Sam Giancana (Rod Steiger), and though Ava is worried that he’s in the mafia, Frank says he owes his career to men like that.  Even more unlikely in this room is columnist Earl Wilson, and it takes all of Ava’s charm to get him to agree not to print a story about seeing her there. 

Except Earl Wilson prints an article calling Frank and Ava Romeo and Juliet, which Nancy carps makes her “a villain for trying to keep my family together.”  For the 53rd time, Frank begs for a divorce, but this time, it works.  When word gets out, a reporter asks Frank, “what are your wedding gifts to each other, boxing gloves?”  Ava takes it all in stride, but when another reporter asks if it will be a “white wedding” Frank pushes him to the ground and breaks his camera.  Ava, naturally, does not wear white.  Set to “They Can’t Take that Away From Me,” Frank and Ava have a montage of great moments, even if one of them is a jealous spat ending in a kiss. 

Ava is off to Africa to shoot “Mogambo” with Clark Gable and Frank doesn’t trust her, so he goes along.  He’s obsessed with “From Here to Eternity” and knows the role of Maggio could revitalize his career.  The heat is unbearable, but Ava thinks she might be pregnant, which is not good news for her because this role is too important for her.  Frank gets good news, a telegram in Africa (uh huh) saying Columbia Pictures has agreed to test him for “From Here to Eternity” and though Ava isn’t at all thrilled, he asks her for money to get back to the US. 

The screen test is powerful, with Frank giving a tour-de-force, but bad news comes when Frank is told that Ava collapsed in Africa and was rushed to a hospital in London.  When he gets there, she’s actually in a hotel room dressed for dinner.  “I was pregnant and now I’m not.  I don’t want to talk about it,” she tells him.  The loss of the baby is left a little vague, but if you bet on abortion, I think you have the safer bed.  He thinks having a baby would be good for the marriage.  “Did having a baby bring you and Nancy closer together?” she asks dryly?  Ouch.  Ava is off to a New Year’s Eve party, and Frank roars, “walk out of that door and you walk out of my life!”  However, the incessant pattern of good versus bad comes back AGAIN and Frank gets a call that he’s won the part of Maggio.  Unable to accept his success, Ava leaves while he’s still on the phone.

As we all know, Frank wins a Best Supporting Actor Oscar (at the expense of a horse, if “The Godfather” is accurate) and his career is back, bigger than ever.  He does movies and records, in that ring-a-ding-ding period of his life where he could do no wrong.  Yet another montage takes care of the passage of time. 

Frank misses another family event, but this time he has a good reason, Sammy has been in a car accident.  We’ve seen Sammy twice, and only for half a second each time, but now he has a full dramatic scene, where he wonders how he’ll dance with only one eye.  “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to live,” Sammy says as Frank trade vulgarities like teenagers.  Frank takes him into the steam room in Vegas where the entire Rat Pack is gathered wearing eye patches like Sammy.  Even JFK is there.  Dino (Danny Gans) joins them and the three do pretty much the Rat Pack schtick, racism and all.  When Frank introduces girlfriend Juliet Prowse from the stage, Mama Dolly quips, “what’s he got at his front door, a turnstile?”

Well, speaking of JFK, he’s running for President and Papa Joe comes a-callin’ on Frank to enlist his friend Sam Giancana’s help in securing the election.  “What’s in it for you?  They gonna make you Ambassador to Italy or somethin’?” Sam wonders, but agrees to help.  Frank loves being pals with the Kennedys, but practical Bobby Kennedy wants Sammy Davis removed from campaigning because he’s black and about to marry white Mai Britt.  Bobby has some god-awful reasoning to convince Frank to make Sammy back down, but he doesn’t have to worry, because Sammy knows what’s going on and even postpones his wedding.

Frank goes to visit “Chicky Baby” JFK in his new digs at the White House.  Jack is excited for an upcoming visit to Los Angeles where he will stay with Frank, busy making “improvements” so the whole staff can fit.  “I’ll see you in the spring,” Jack says to Frank on his way out.  It’s Peter Lawford who is sent to break the news to Frank that the Presidential visit is not happening.  “You got no loyalty, you got no guts,” Frank yells at Peter for taking sides with the Kennedys against him. 

And the mob isn’t any happier.  With Bobby Kennedy cracking down on the mafia, Sam Giancana and his friends are in trouble and Frank is their link, though Frank is persona non grata at The White House pretty quickly.  Sam wants payment on the favor of delivering West Virginia in the election, but Frank says he’s the one who asked for the favor, not the Kennedys.  It’s getting very complicated.  Frank has to shed friends just to look proper, but he packs them off with goodies like his music publishing company. 

During his European tour, Frank gets to spend time with Ava in Spain, where she now lives.  Why Spain?  “They got people, real people,” she says.  He asks her to marry him again.  “What could you possibly miss about me?” she asks and bolts.  From here, it’s the “One For My Baby” mini-montage where Frank watches JFK’s funeral procession and cries. 

On the set in 1965, Frank meets Mia Farrow (Nina Siemaszko).  Frank offers an autograph and she jokes, “no, who are you?”  Cue “You Make Me Feel So Young” as Frank and Mia begin their oddball romance.  Poor young Mia isn’t thrilled with Frank’s house, as it’s filled with pictures of Ava, and Frank never really cottons to Mia’s vibe, which is anything but Old Hollywood.  She meditates and reads (take that Ava) and wears love beads.  They marry with Frank looking like he’s getting hitched to Rosemary’s baby itself.  Oh, and she has bad taste in music.  “It’s not music, it’s crap,” Frank bellows as he grumbles about the state of music.  Mia does have one good comeback when he complains about bad lyrics, going through the do-be-do-be-dos of “Strangers in the Night.”  They have the again inevitable conversation about her advancing career, she wants a baby (“my kids grew up thinking the telephone was their father”) and he doesn’t, and finally Mia puts her finger on it.  “Hey, I’m not Ava!”

In other words, the marriage is doomed from the start.  Rather than rehashing conversations Frank has had with either Nancy or Ava (mostly Ava), we breeze through the whole kooky romance at top speed.  None of those glamorous sable-and-satin-drenched arguments like Frank and Ava, just stilted phone conversations and bing-bang-boom, it’s over.  One supposes that the Sinatra children were not at all fond of Stepmother Mia, because the rush job is very obvious. 

By the time Frank divorces Mia, he’s graying and getting heavy.  But, the nurses at the hospital where Marty is dying still think he’s pretty foxy.  Frank confides in his father that “I’m thinking of leaving the business…I’m tired, tired of being in the spotlight.  The music business changes so fast, I can’t keep up with the next guy anymore.  Maybe I should stop trying,” he tells the man who never expected him to make it.  He retires, just as he promised his father before Marty expired.

Less than two years later, in 1974, retirement is over.  “That’s Life.”  We’re now into the tux and toupee years.  But, he sells out Madison Square Garden and they still throw roses to the stage.  No underwear, for granny panties aren’t particularly aerodynamic.  At the end of the song, Frank blows a kiss to the audience and the move ends.

Frank Sinatra never seemed so squeaky clean, but you know what?  That’s not such a bad thing.  Despite the temper and such, he was one of the greatest entertainers of the 20th Century and he did lead a colorful life.  It may not have been the Technicolor one on display here, but it was a great ride.

Comments?  Questions?  Laughs?  Feel free to email me at hpmaraka@gmail.com so we can chat. 

Categories: Historical Miniseries

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