In this DVD collection culled from Sinatra TV specials and laced with commentary by Sinatra's family (kid's Frank Jr., Tina and the boots-were-made-for-walking-a-licious Nancy), 18 performances are presented--all delightful, all moving and dare I say, all brilliant. And with newly re-mastered sound and enhanced picture, some filmed or early taped duets are markedly improved. I now can refer to this DVD over every taped bit of film I dubbed while trying to capture Sinatra in all his on-camera charm.
And on-camera is a wonderful way to experience Sinatra. Sure, he's terrific on record, but the man who won an Academy Award for From Here to Eternity and impressed in films like The Man with the Golden Arm, The Manchurian Candidate and one of my favorites, Pal Joey is captivating on screen. His ease and charisma bleeds through the screen with such intensity, you'll catch yourself smiling from his obvious and rascally love for entertaining. His vocal talent is impeccable, but also perfectly sloppy when the time is right and his improv banter between croons is funny and warm. No matter how many purists want to tell you he's simply easy listening, don't listen. Sinatra is jazz. In the best sense and all the way.
All the performances are memorable but of the 18, I'll note the one's that stuck out most for me. The great Peggy Lee and Sinatra's rendition of "Nice Work If You Can Get It" begins very laid back and builds into a sexy, velvet number. Sinatra actually seems turned on my Lee (who wouldn't be?) as they gently banter and sing. The opposite of this is Frank and Ethel Merman doing "You're the Top" with bombastic glee. Full of humor and in a rumpled suit (he even looks a bit drunk) Sinatra and Merman sing with such good sport, that Merman laughs after Frank exclaims: "Somebody's hollerin'."
There's the crooners: Sinatra, Dean Martin and Bing Crosby--sitting first on a scaffold (then lumbering to the ground) and singing "Together Wherever We Go" like the three street-fighting tenors. Later, Frank will sing with Dean again, only a medley and with cigarettes and highballs (perfect). And adding to the Rat Pack, there's Frank with Sammy Davis Jr. humorously taking, "Me and My Shadow" to another dimension. Another terrific duet has Sinatra teamed with the rambunctious Louis Prima and Keely Smith. Frank mixes up they're usual routine (Keely standing bored and bemused) as he continually hogs the mike, keeping Keely from singing.
But one of the greatest moments combines royalty--The Chairman and The King (that would be Elvis Presley). In a TV Special welcoming young Elvis back from his famed army service, Sinatra and Presley swap two of their hits, in unison. Frank sings "Love Me Tender" all punchy, Frank style, enunciating the "LOVE me tender, LOVE me true!" while Elvis dreamily smoothes through "Witchcraft" to a legion of screaming girls. It's a beautiful moment where Elvis is painfully gorgeous and Frank's met his separate equal. But Frank gets the best line. When Frank begins shrugging his shoulders to the music and the hip gyrating Elvis attempts to do the same, Frank comments: "We work in the same ways only in different areas."