email at

Friday, May 20, 2005

Frank Sinatra and the Godfather

there's a new book about frank... by anthony summers and robbyn swan: "sinatra- the life"... they're on NPR's dianne rehm show this morning promoting it... its listed on amazon here

i've always found the character of the singer- al martino- in the godfather movie interesting.... always having heard the rumours that he was based around frank sinatra.. you know the guy.. the guy who shows up and cried in front of the godfather cause he wants a part in a new movie and the producer won't give him.. the godfather slaps him and makes fun of him "boo hoo hoo" and tells him to behave like a man... then the godfather goes on to tell his consegliere tom hayden to make the movie producer an offer he can't know what happens- i got two words for you: horse's head

whats interesting is that according to summers/swan it really is true that:
1. sinatra got out of his contract with tommy dorsey when the mafia pressured dorsey to let him go (confirmed by dorsey in two separate interviews) {in the movie michael tells his girlfriend played by diane keaton the story about how his father had gotten martino out of a bad contract by making an offer they couldn't refuse- the first idea diane gets about the type of family michael is from])
2. sinatra got his comeback role in from here to eternity (maggio) when the mafia told the producer harry cohn that frank had to have the part.. they didn't "make him an offer he couldn't refuse" but rather a west coast mafia guy- johnny rosseli or rosseti walked in to his friend harry cohn's office brandishing a gun and said "thats just the way its got to be"..according to robbyn/summers this is confirmed by harry cohn's wife namely that it was not ava gardner that got him the part for which he would win the oscar and reignite his career..

what robbyn/swan make clear however is that it should not be surprising that sinatra had ties with the mafia as at that point an time in entertainment there were big bonds between the mafia and the venues where these entertainers sang.. basically if you wanted to work you were bound to have some ties.. however, they at the same time make clear that sinatra had close close ties..closer than norm.. laundered money for the mafia etc..

the links between the mafia and the music business was explored by william knoedelseder in Stiffed: A true story of MCA, the music business and the mafia.. by the way i think i hear the author speak in college and it was scary listening to him... you almost just wanted NEEDED NOT to believe it was true.. the book is here at amazon

but back to frank sinatra

sinatra's family came from the same town (same street!) in sicily, italy as the founder of the american mafia lucky lucciano!

so two of the pivotal events in sinatra's career apparently involved the mob and are fairly accurately depicted in the godfather..

now, some people don't approve of this type of look at a person's history (there's an idea around that once someone dies we should only have nice things to say about them) but i don't see anything wrong with it... i can appreciate sinatra the singer- the greatest popular american singer ever- and separate him from the man.. by the way if you want to read the best account of sinatra the singer its by will friedewald and its called "sinatra: the song is you"... curiously enough will friedewalk has reviewed the book by robbyn/swan and panned it and compalained that he feels violated by how much they took and borrowed from his own book.... i think that just speaks to how good his book is as a look at sinatra the singer...but the robbyn/swan book takes a look at aspects of his life unrelated to his singing..

No comments:

Blog Archive