Selective spotlighting of showbiz legend Frank Sinatra in five hours may not include all the sunlight and shadows, but the result is a well-honed account backed with a first-class sound track and a gratifying portrayal by actor Philip Casnoff. Even with a sagging Part II, "Sinatra" is, like its subject, entertainment.

Selective spotlighting of showbiz legend Frank Sinatra in five hours may not include all the sunlight and shadows, but the result is a well-honed account backed with a first-class sound track and a gratifying portrayal by actor Philip Casnoff. Even with a sagging Part II, “Sinatra” is, like its subject, entertainment.

Seven years in the works, telefilm subs for a written autobio, which Sinatra felt wouldn’t be satisfactory without music. Singer-actor did not have script approval and he was not involved in the actual filmmaking, but he did give daughter/exec producer Tina Sinatra his blessing for the project.

Biographical allowances are made as scripter William Mastrosimone and director James Sadwith keep the subject in sympathetic focus. From the Hoboken lad piping “My Wonderful One” to the graying adult announcing “That’s Life,” the vidpic’s benign assessment fits customary showbiz vidbios.

His pursuit and hurtful treatment of first wife Nancy (strikingly played by Gina Gershon), his affairs, his romance and wedding to (in this account) a surprisingly compliant Ava Gardner (Marcia Gay Harden, a valiant try but striking no sparks) and his marriage to Mia Farrow (a fey Nina Siemaszko) roll through the two-parter with hints at darker hues.

The opus, not always pretty, reasonably covers his career, considering the forum and the timeslots. The Major Bowes start, Harry James days and the Chi walkout, the eventful hitch with Tommy Dorsey and the strained parting, his bobby-sox-besieged stand at the Paramount Theatre all point the way to his film and recording coups.

The career nosedive, the Oscar, the Kennedy fracas, his Vegas ventures, a now-dated, unamusing Rat Pack seg, and blurred versions of underworld connections pass swiftly, buoyed by Sinatra’s vocalizing in the background.

Temper explosions are explained away (he’s fighting bigotry, intrusion, disloyalty, nerves); his moods, if not explored, are at least monitored. WW II is bypassed with a Pearl Harbor announcement and mention of his busted eardrum keeping him out of the service.

CBS’ watchdogs OK’d some rough, big-screen style lingo, but “Sinatra” still plays as a TV movie: When he’s down about Gardner, she dramatically walks in while he’s chirping, and he’s saved from suicide, naturally, by a timely entry. Mastrosimone and Sadwith occasionally resort to the obvious to make a point.

Casnoff, a resourceful actor, catches not only nuances and angles but suggests deeper emotions. The actor’s lipsyncing is convincing; the singing is provided by recordings of Sinatra himself, Frank Sinatra Jr. and Tom Burlinson, an Australian who does the vocals for the early years (for which there aren’t recordings).

As Sinatra’s mother Dolly, Olympia Dukakis strikes home with a vigorous interp. Rod Steiger as a benevolent Sam Giancana, Jay Robinson as Major Bowes, Joe Santos as Frank’s dad Marty all turn in sterling performances.

Richard Rosenbloom’s production does what it’s supposed to do–it sings. If it’s not objective Sinatra, it moves as persuasively as its subject. Production designer Veronica Hadfield accomplishes wonders with period items and a variety of locales, and Reynaldo Villalobos’s camerawork is excellent.

Sinatra--Parts I & II

(Sun.(8), 8-11 p.m.; Tues.(10), 9-11 p.m., CBS-TV)

Production

Filmed in L.A. and Hoboken, N.J., by TSProds. in association with Warner Bros. TV. Exec producer, Tina Sinatra; producer, Richard Rosenbloom; co-producer , Stanley Neufeld; director, James Sadwith; writer, William Mastrosimone; story, Mastrosimone, Ben Goodman.

Crew

Camera, Reynaldo Villalobos; editors, Scott Vickery, Steve Potter (Part II only); art director, Richard Johnson; sound, Maury Harris; original music, Artie Butler; production designer, Veronica Hadfield.

Cast

Cast: Philip Casnoff, Olympia Dukakis, Joe Santos, Giona Gershon, Nina Siemaszko, Marcia Gay Harden, Rod Steiger, Joe Grifasi, David Raynr, Ralph Seymour, Andrew Bloch, Jeff Corey, Vincent Guastaferro, James F. Kelly, Matthew Posey, Jay Robinson, Thomas Ryan, Don Stark, Joris Stuyck, Robin Gammell, Danny Gans, Todd Waring, Carol Barbee, David Byrd, Adam Lavorgna, Annette Azcuy, Paul Collins, Joseph D'Angerio, James DiStefano, Maggie Egan, Jimm Giannini, Claire Kirk, John LaMotta, Robert Levine, Vera Lockwood, Brian Markinson, Jack Shearer, Tony Simotes, John Wesley, Bruce Gray, David Groh, Matt Landers, Shelly Lipkin, Oz Tartora, Marc Grady Adams, Pilar Allesandra, Anthony Barrile, Jay Bell, James Boyce, Don Carrara, Christopher Carroll, Dorothea Coelho, Lisa Collins, Victor DiMattia, Tony Gaetano, Leata Galloway, Joseph Gargiulo, Redmond Gleeson, Jack Jozefson, David A. Kimball, Floyd Levine, John Mahon, Beverly Mitchell, Robert Neches, Marilyn Pitzer, Jameson Rodgers, Justin Jon Ross, Wendy Schenker, Rosie Taravella, Sal Vecchio, Samantha Ward, Jack Betts, Brad Blaisdell, Andrew Buckley, Lou Genevrino, Fred Holliday, Joe Jones, Beverly Mitchell, Kathleen O'Grady, Corey Rand, Jenny Regli, Jameson Rodgers, Jeff Silverman, Patricia Supancic, Anthony Vatsula, Chris Weatherhead, Cameron Phillip Williams.
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