Alex Gibney doesn’t pull punches. His reputation as our country’s leading documentarian rests upon that notion, so it’s unlikely that Sinatra: All or Nothing at All (HBO, 4.5 and 4.6), a two-part, four-hour doc about Frank Sinatra, will take a softball approach. Meaning, I presume, that Gibney won’t brush aside Frank’s wise-guy connections or the thing with Jack Kennedy (Peter Lawford once reportedly commented that Sinatra “was Jack’s pimp”) or the mob wanting Sinatra to get the Kennedy administration to go easy. Well, the trailer alludes to this stuff but how deeply will Gibney get into it?
The only thing that scares me is a claim on the website that the doc is “told in [Sinatra’s] own words from hours of archived interviews, along with commentary from those closest to him.” So all the quotes except Sinatra’s are from people who had won his favor or friendship and were otherwise invested in the legend?
The doc will cover the first 60 years of Sinatra’s life, or 1915 to ’85.
I attended a Sinatra concert in Long Beach in ’84. It’s really true about the personalized way he delivered a song. You felt he was making an extra effort so that the audience would feel it as fully as he did. He didn’t “perform” the lyrics as much as convey them like a guy with nothing to hide or a distraught friend telling you about a recent break-up or loss of a job. But he did so with a certain deft theatrical flair, leaning forward at times and using arm and hand gestures and generally letting his feelings come through (much more so than he did in most of his films). I remember sitting there and muttering to myself, “Wow, he really does get all intimate and personal.”
“All Or Nothing At All” was one of Sinatra’s biggest hit records. Written by Arthur Altman and Jack Lawrence and recorded by Sinatra in 1939, it was re-issued by Columbia Records in 1943 during a musicians’ strike around that time.