The Cinematic Legacy of Frank Sinatra by David Wills
|The Cinematic Legacy of Frank Sinatra by David Wills|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A picture book that only deserves to be bigger, in honour of a man who to all intents and purposes just could not have been.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 160||Date: January 2016|
|Publisher: Amberley Publishing|
Oh, the modern celebrity – they don't make them like they used to. Anodyne, uniform in (lack of) thought and body shape, and far, far too prominent in the lives of too many for too little. If they're ever expected to multi-task it will entail them being much acclaimed for doing one day job to a mediocre standard, as well as reading out someone's voice-over for a BBC3/Channel 4/Channel 5 clip show – oh, and if someone deems them really talented they get to mime to someone else's record, in a lip dub smash or whatever the heck they're calling it. Followed by panto. It is a shameful reflection on us, and on the real celebrities we used to have, such as Frank Sinatra. By the time he was starting in film he was well-known for a character and singing talent that was making him a star already, even if, as this book proves, he had more or less the looks of a young Lee Evans. By the time he was finished he'd acted straight, comic, romantic, criminal, sung his heart out, danced – even learnt the drums for one role. He had Golden Globes, an Oscar – and he directed one film as well as produced several others. In an age when the world is up in arms at the passing of anyone remotely famous, what tribute can we give to a great such as he was?
Well, as small as it is, this is a suitable start. If you're expecting a coffee-table book, this is more of a placemat, but it's a very valid and well-composed look back at his films. I didn't know much beyond a few key roles and collaborations – I couldn't have named the two children that aren't Nancy (more of which later) – but this taught me just enough as a taster lesson; Ol' Blue Eyes 101. True fans will immediately see this book is perhaps far too reverential, and uncritical – a slump in artistic fortunes is mentioned in the introduction, but not much else gets in the way of the inexorable and unknockable fame. There is no mention of scandal, of any of his wives, of changes in fortune artistically – this is solely in honour of his cinema output.
I think, too, the visuals are a little too much on the respectful side. Many a colleague reports that Frank would never sit still, doing just one or two takes on a set-up or two then haring off elsewhere rather than wait for the director or producer to let him leave set, but there's no time here for the casual Frank, the candid side of Hollywood. Still, the artworks featured here are damned good, and just what you'd expect – lobby stills, officially licenced publicity photos (and in a few instances the contact sheets for the same that might have some unseen images on them), cinema posters – some of them foreign. Album sleeves, sheet music books – no source is left unplundered. Alongside them are relevant quotes, from reviews of the time, or his fellow screen stars. It's very easy on the eye, vibrantly presented, and quite suitable.
And to me the balance of it all seems right. Yes, there are a couple of films that seem to get ignored, and no general consensus of opinion on any of them will be reformed from these pages. There's a lot for The Man With the Golden Arm, several pages (of course) for From Here to Eternity, but again the casual cinema fan will like as not have their eyes opened regarding some other films, notably Suddenly, which cast Sinatra as an assassin, and which caused him no end of grief several years later when JFK was murdered. We get an exclusive three-page essay by his son about its making, if not the full story of how it got pulled from US network TV for years.
The other children – Nancy and Tina – provide suitable comments of their own about looking back at his films, and when they first saw daddy on the big screen. These too seem exclusive, and however rare the images are these should also be suitable draws for the fan to the book. It all ends up as very pleasant – light reading, inasmuch as there is not much to read, but a suitably honourable tribute to a man to whom honour seemed paramount. With a no-BS attitude to hanging around on set, he took to watching Montgomery Clift to learn from him; he was keen on breaking down religion/colour/class barriers in his works. However much you know or knew about all this I think this book is well worth a look. It'll certainly teach you to have the suitable disdain for the modern alternative.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
Frank Sinatra: An Extraordinary Life by Spencer Leigh was one of the better biographies published in 2015 for his centenary year. If it's the imagery of Hollywood that brings you here, we would like to share Hollywood Frame by Frame: Behind the Scenes: Cinema's Unseen Contact Sheets by Karina Longworth with you.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Cinematic Legacy of Frank Sinatra by David Wills at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Cinematic Legacy of Frank Sinatra by David Wills at Amazon.com.
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