Filmmaker Alex Gibney: 'Sinatra Grew Up With America' (From the Archives)


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Ol' Blue Eyes. The Chairman of the Board. Frank Sinatra has been called a lot of things—not all of them flattering—but there's no denying his stature as a true American icon.

Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney turns his lens on the singer for the film, which came out in 2015, in time for the singer's 100th birthday. Sinatra: All Or Nothing At All chronicles the unlikely rise of the kid from Hoboken, through his peerless celebrity years, and centers around Sinatra's 1971 "Retirement Concert" in Los Angeles. (Sinatra would make his "return" to performing a scant two years later.) Gibney tells Soundcheck host John Schaefer that the film uses loads of rare interview audio to make Frank "the undependable but very charming narrator of his own story."

And what a story. The four hour film captures the man's many contradictions, from the mob-fraternizing playboy who was friendly with the Kennedys, to his progressive ideas about race relations.

"I was interested in this character who came from a rough and tumble place, and actually stood for a lot of pretty important things," says Gibney.

Through it all, it's the songs—and their sometimes sweeping, sometimes understated performances—that best tell the story of Frank Sinatra.

"In the great moments of his career—the Capitol years are really my favorite—he is embodying those songs, he is a character who’s grown up with America, with all its contradictions. So to me he’s a tremendously important historical figure."

Sinatra: All or Nothing At All (2015), is available on Amazon Prime.

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