To most of us, he’s “The Voice,” an extraordinarily gifted singer whose astounding success transcended show business and made him one of the legends of the 20th century.
But to those close to him, he’s simply Francis Albert Sinatra, a New Jersey kid who made good.
That side of Frank Sinatra the man is revealed in the two-part, four-hour HBO documentary series “Sinatra: All or Nothing at All,” airing Sunday and Monday (April 5 and 6).
The film takes an intimate look at Sinatra’s life, career and music through archived interviews with the legendary entertainer and commentary from those closest to him, weaving images from his life with rarely seen footage of his retirement concert in 1971 in Los Angeles. It also features never-before-seen footage from home movies and concert performances.
The documentary was made in cooperation with the Sinatra family, who supplied much of the rare footage that made the final cut.
“Him as a New Jersey character was very interesting to me,” Alex Gibney, the film’s director, told a recent gathering of reporters in Pasadena, Calif. “One of the things that we got from the family were a lot of recollections from him about his own life, particularly his own life as a young man and the striving that he had.
“And I think we’ve become familiar with the mature Sinatra, the Rat Pack Sinatra; but seeing his insecurity as a young man and the striving that he had and the way his mother, who was a very forceful woman, you know, was determined to make him succeed, that kind of Gatsby-like rise, that was something that was really interesting to me that I hadn’t considered initially. And a lot of that comes out of Frank himself talking about it.”
Gibney was also fascinated by the footage of the 1971 concert, which he says was unlike other concert films of that era.
“It’s not filmed like a traditional special would be done, you know, very high gloss and glitzy,” he says. “It’s shot in ’71 with 16mm cameras. And as a result, there’s a kind of — not amateur exactly, but a sort of intimate quality that was very much … a part of that moment in time with the new, very light, cinema verité cameras that were coming into usage. And so it has a different kind of quality than you’re used to seeing with Frank Sinatra. It feels much more … personal and real.”