on 4 December 2010
Bought this for my dad who's been a Sinatra fan all his life. He told me this book was out, but said there would probably not be anything in it he hadn't already read. I went and got it for him anyway and he never put it down until he had finished it. Said it was the best Sinatra book he had read, lots of new stuff in there and well written. If my Dad would recommend this, it must be good!!
on 17 February 2011
There have been any number of biographies of Sinatra, but this one, for me, is the most complete one of all. Mr Kaplan covers all aspects of his life from his birth. We learn about his childhood, his complex relationship with his mother, his beginnings as a singer and his gradual rise to fame, the adulation of his (bobby sox) fans, his loss of popularity followed by adulation once more, only this time both as singer and actor. Mr Kaplan makes many references to Sinatra's connection to the mob. Many names of well known gangsters come up, and this too makes fascinating reading. Then there are the numerous women in his life starting with first wife Nancy who seems to have been a sweet and loving wife, who did all she could to hold on to her husband - but to no avail. Relationships with Lana Turner and Lauren Bacall and Marilyn Maxwell etc, and the marriage to Ava Gardner, seemingly the love of his life. What was of particular interest to me however, was the way that the author covered virtually all of Sinatra's recordings giving details of each recording and of the many different backings that he had. from the dance bands of Harry James and Tommy Dorsey followed by the wonderful arrangements of MDs Axel Stordahl and Nelson Riddle, wonderful stuff for those interested in this genre. Finally, I must point out that my title 'A Definitive Biography' is a tad misleading, because this story ends in 1954 with (a) the winning of the Best Actor Oscar for 'From Here To Eternity', and (b) the final breakup of his marriage to Ava Gardner. I hope that Mr Kaplan decides to write another instalment completing the tale of this great artist.
on 10 March 2011
There's been a lot written about Frank Sinatra over the years - and there'll be a whole lot more in the years to come no doubt. How many true superstars were there in the 20th Century? Today we live in an age when we give the adjective "Great" to all too many Tom, Jude, and Julia's - transient "stars" who twinkle a little but who will surely be forgotten when "Hello" magazine finally loses interest and moves on. But nobody loses interest in Frank Sinatra and nobody ever did. When he plumbed the depths in the early 1950s (he hardly had a record release between 1950 and 1954) he was still a source of fascination for the gossip writers of Hollywood and New York City. He was a tall poppy who had not been trimmed but completely uprooted. But the roots weren't dead - quite - and if his fall from grace was exceptional his comeback was more so. And so he became, with Presley and Streisand and Garland and Brando and a very few others a Superstar recognised only by his Surname - and one of the most famous people in the world. James Kaplan in "Frank - The Making of a Legend" tells Sinatra's story from his birth through his meteoric rise, decline, fall and rebirth - the latter marked by the beginning of the link with Nelson Riddle and the winning of an Oscar for "From here to Eternity" in 1954. The definition of a Star has to be that they are bigger even than their exceptional talent - that they have a quality that is hard to define, but you know it when you see it. Frank fits the bill.
James Kaplan's book is long, detailed, helpfully chronological - and unputdownable. His research is impeccable and he does not make one claim or statement without giving the source. He applies as rigorous academic standards as if he was in the History Department of Oxford or Yale and writing a biography of Washington or Bismarck! Sinatra was driven nearly mad, and to a suicide attempt, by the hold that the terrifying Ava Gardner had on him. This passion is almost Shakespearean - Frank loved her not wisely but far, far too much. She lusted after him and loved him in her way but she was so skittish and unruly that marriage with a romantic and emotional Italian was never going to work. The Gardner/Sinatra story is one of the central themes of the book and rightly so. Sinatra was a driven man - he wanted it all and he wanted it now. He'd buy a house even if he didn't have the money to do so - it happened more than once in the darker years. If he wanted a woman (and he wanted them all the time) he'd just go for it and he nearly always succeeded. From a constant flow of Teeny Boppers in his early years to Lana Turner and the rest when he moved on - and, of course, to Ava; the most beautiful girl in the world. Then with the women came the wine - or the Jack Daniels and the Martinis and the rest. That Frank lived to be 82 must be in part attributable to his physicians but mainly to his liver. I don't think he'd have given up the wine or the women just to live a few years more anyway! And then there was the song. Not his own song, he never wrote a note of a melody or a word of a lyric - but the great American Songbook - Frank was its master interpreter. Kaplan tells one or two song stories in considerable detail and describes how Frank worked with the arrangers and the conductors and the musicians to make a song work in his unique style. He was soon more than a crooner, more than a pretty voice. He was the man that surely any song-writing team wanted - and if that team had delivered a potential classic then Frank would see it, and know how to make it so. Kaplan's description of the work with Nelson Riddle on the Johnny Mercer/Rube Bloom "Day in Day Out" takes three pages and we see how this was a seminal event right at the beginning of the Sinatra/Riddle partnership. Fascinating!
Frank Sinatra, later in his career, had a show "The Man and his Music". Whether in that show or elsewhere he ever truly revealed "The man" I doubt. There were too many myths and too many events over which the older Sinatra would wish to draw a very thick veil! Kaplan doesn't duck presenting these events but this is not in any way a demolition job on its subject. The paradox of Sinatra was the mixture of genius and dysfunctionality and Kaplan details both sides on the man. Frank was a womaniser on a prodigious scale not just with the girls that threw themselves at him, - of which there were hundreds - but also with his fellow artists, like Turner, and with the tarts that gathered in the places he visited for his early rat pack type male frolics - especially Las Vegas. He drank heavily, he was occasionally violent and he had a pretty poor taste in some of his friends - including the hoods and hoodlums who got him into trouble from time to time. Through all this there was Sinatra the consummate artist who at his best was unquestionably the greatest male popular singer of the Twentieth - and even at his worst, with poor material and less than imaginative direction, he was pretty good. And there were some recording turkeys and some poor shows - notably in the dark years when he struggled to get any bookings at all.
The biggest surprise, at the time and even in retrospect, was Frank Sinatra's extraordinary talent as a movie actor. Remember this man had no training in the theatre, he never went to drama school, he never learned his craft from the bottom up. He starred in the first movies he appeared in because they were musical vehicles to exploit his fame as a singer. But when he appeared as Private Angelo Maggio in "From Here to Eternity" he proved what had been apparent to a few for a while - he could act. Kaplan describes Frank's hustling for the role at a time when his stock was at rock bottom and how he buckled down on the set where on previous movies he had been petulant and unreliable. He also tells how Sinatra learned on the job from Montgomery Clift - and how Clift helped him to get the best out of a role that was made for him. The Oscar that Frank won for this film was the turning point and his career bounced back almost immediately. Kaplan finishes the book at this point in time a period which also saw the beginning of the partnership with Nelson Riddle at Capitol Records. The rest of the story will be told in the second and final volume of this comprehensive, detailed and engagingly written biography. Something to look forward to.
I've read several books about Sinatra over the years but none have been as comprehensive, nor as interesting, nor as fast-paced as Kaplan's Frank: The Voice (also titled: Frank: The Making Of A Legend).
Throughout the book's 800-page length, Kaplan chronicles Sinatra -- the man and his music -- in such a style that I felt that I was right alongside Frank as he experienced all the "ups and downs" in his life (of which there were many) from the time of his birth through his comeback in 1954 when he won the Academy Award for his role in From Here To Eternity. Readers of Frank; The Voice will be with Sinatra from the time of his traumatic, deforming birth, through his childhood in Hoboken, NJ being raised by a ultra-dominating mother and a weak father, through his being the heartthrob of young women during the bobby-sox years, through his first marriage to Nancy with whom he has three children, through his many, many infidelities -- including his affair with -- and ultimate marriage to and divorce from -- Ava Gardner, through his almost total collapse of his singing and acting career, which resulted in a few suicide attempts, and than, finally, to his spectacular comeback after winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Maggio in From Here To Eternity.
To Kaplan's credit, while he leaves no stone unturned in chronicling Sinatra's multi-layered personal and professional life through this period, he does it in a very honest and straightforward style, without ever being salacious. The only aspect of Sinatra's life that I felt Kaplan could have described in more detail pertains to Sinatra's associations with known underworld figures This is not to say that Kaplan doesn't describe the impact these figures had in Frank's personal life nor his career. He does but just with not as much detail as I've read about in other books about Sinatra.
Perhaps Kaplan gets more into this aspect in his recently released book called Sinatra: The Chairman, which chronicles Sinatra's life during the period from 1954 up until his death. Whether or not this aspect is covered, I am very much looking forward to reading Kaplan's follow-up book so that I can go along with Frank during the second half of his fascinating life.
on 18 January 2011
I purchased this book for my 78 year old Brother, who is a Frank Sinatra Fan. He has bought, over the years, lots of books on him. When I gave him the book for Christmas he absolutely loved it. He phoned me a couple of days later saying he hadnt put the book down and it told him lots about Frank which he didnt know. I got it at a real bargain price from Amazon so he was happy and I was as well as it has £25.00 inside the cover. My bother said if you are a Fan of Frank this is the book you must read.
on 30 September 2012
An excellent and perceptive book. Highly recommended for all Sinatra fans and people interested in the big band era. Not to be missed.
on 22 June 2015
I really enjoyed this well written biography. I actually enjoyed the fact that this only covered the first half of Franks life as it told it fully and didn't try to cram everything into one book. I, like the other reviewers, hope that the author takes on the second half, however if not he can be assured this was a fantastic read. Highly recommend.
on 12 September 2011
I too got this as a Christmas gift, but as I think I have every book ever written of Frank Sinatra, I put it to one side untill recently. I knew it only went up to his winning the Academy Award for "Eternity" and thought I knew all about his earlier years, so what more could I learn? How wrong I was. I'm still reading it, but this is by far the best book ever written about Sinatra and I'm going to feel real sad when I finish it. I feel this is the first book ever to cast the "real Frank Sinatra", and what a complex person he was! But the Mr Kaplan really makes you understand him, aloss understand everyone in his life,and the depth of his writing makes you want him to write TWO further sequels. There is enough material for him to do this. Please Mr Kaplan do it! After all I'm 78 and would really hate to miss them.
on 11 January 2014
I have read a couple of biographies of the great Frank Sinatra, and I think this one is the best so far. It goes into detail about his often conflicting emotions and is written with a great deal of sympathy, even while acknowledging the fact that Sinatra was a flawed genius. Kaplan uses previously published bios not just of Frank, to illustrate his points. He obviously loves the man and that shines through. It is a fascinating insight into Frank Sinatra's complex personality and a good summary of the events that went into the Making of a Legend.
on 22 January 2011
Got this book for christmas,have read other books before about Sinatra, this was one of the best. Although it only went up to the point of were Sinatra split with Ava i could not put it down. The writing gripped you from the first pages, and told the truth warts and all. I would love the author to now produce the rest of the story if so i would be the first in line to buy it.