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This review relates to the mini-series made in 1992, chronicling the life of Frank Sinatra. The Executive Producer of the series was none other than Tina Sinatra, Frank’s youngest child. The story starts when Frank is 10, and is singing in bars to entertain the customers, and it finishes in 1974.

Frank is played by Philip Casnoff, a Broadway and tv/film actor. It must have been formidable to take on such a role (Casnoff met Sinatra on set), but Casnoff did a fine job. He looked enough like Ol’ Blue Eyes, to be believable, and rather than trying to do a straightforward imitation, it seemed more as though he was trying to capture the essence of Sinatra. He was excellent in the role, and was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance.

Other stand-out cast members were Gina Gershon as Frank’s long-suffering first wife Nancy (Tina’s mother), and Olympia Dukakis as Dolly, Frank’s formidable mother. Marcia Gay Harden also does a great job as Frank’s second wife, Ava Gardner.

Considering that Tina Sinatra was at the helm, this series is a surprisingly warts-and-all look at Sinatra’s life. It captures the pain suffered by Nancy at her husband’s distance and specifically his penchant for other women, and also portrayed the tempestuous relationship between Frank and Ava.

However, I would say that this is best enjoyed if you already have some knowledge of Sinatra’s life. This is because while the series lays out the early days of his career, and how he built his way to the top, the later years are covered much quicker (his marriage to Mia Farrow is shown from first meeting to divorce in a total of about 10 minutes). There is also little shown of his friendship with Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr, although the series does show the breakdown of the friendship between Frank and Peter Lawford, after John F Kennedy – for whom Frank had campaigned vigorously – rejected an offer to stay at Frank’s house, for which Peter, who was married to JFK’s sister, got the blame.

Needless to say, the music is excellent, and the atmosphere and excitement that this exciting new singer caused, is well shown.

Overall, I would strongly recommend this series to any fans of Sinatra, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching it.

Year of release: 1992

Director: James Steven Sadwith

Producers: Tina Sinatra, Stanley Neufeld, Richard M. Rosenbloom

Writers: William Mastrosimone, Abby Mann

Main cast: Philip Casnoff, Gina Gershon, Marcia Gay Harden, Olympia Dukakis, Bob Gunton

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Cher is outstanding in this film, as Loretta, a widowed Italian woman in 1980s New York. Her boyfriend Johnny (Danny Aiello) proposes to her, and Loretta agrees to marry him, although she admits that she doesn’t love him (and he doesn’t really seem to love her either). Just after they agree to marry, he flies to Sicily to visit his dying mother, but before he goes, he asks Loretta to contact his estranged brother Ronny (Nicolas Cage) and invite him to their wedding. Loretta does so, and discovers that Ronny is extremely bitter because he blames Johnny (somewhat unfairly) for the accident which caused Ronnie to lose his hand. But much to the surprise of both Loretta and Ronny, they start to fall in love with each other…

It’s a long time (20 years +) since I’ve seen this film, so I felt as though I was watching it for the first time, and truly I adored it! It has a perfect mixture of romance, comedy and drama, but more importantly it has a LOT of heart. As well as the relationship between Loretta and Ronny, the film concentrates on the relationship between Loretta’s parents, Rose and Cosmo (Olympia Dukakis and Vincent Gardenia).

The dialogue snaps and fizzes, and the chemistry between the actors – who are all excellent – is great. Cher proves (as if there was ever any doubt) that she acts as well as she sings, and Dukakis and Gardenia lend excellent support, as does Feodor Chaliapin as Loretta’s grandfather. Nicolas Cage – who I often find quite irritating as an actor – is also on fine form here, reminding people that when he wants to, he really can act. Despite the 18 year age gap between Cage and Cher, they actually look great together on screen.

The final scene is also an absolute joy and finishes the film off perfectly. And as if it weren’t perfect already, there are five ultra-cute dogs which appear throughout the film.

This is just a lovely feel-good film, and I’ll definitely be watching it again!

Year of release: 1987

Director: Norman Jewison

Writer: John Patrick Shanley

Main cast: Cher, Nicolas Cage, Olympia Dukakis, Vincent Gardenia, Feodor Chaliapin

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