Sinatra: The Artist and the Man

Overview

"I am a symmetrical man, almost to a fault," Frank Sinatra once said. It is a peculiar statement, because Sinatra is precisely asymmetrical. How to reconcile the enchanting crooner and the explosive bully? What to make of the smooth tones of his voice and the rough edges of his persona? To find the true correspondence between the public and the private Sinatra, the artist and the man, is no easy task. John Lahr, drama critic for The New Yorker and one of the finest writers on the performing arts working today, ...
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Overview

"I am a symmetrical man, almost to a fault," Frank Sinatra once said. It is a peculiar statement, because Sinatra is precisely asymmetrical. How to reconcile the enchanting crooner and the explosive bully? What to make of the smooth tones of his voice and the rough edges of his persona? To find the true correspondence between the public and the private Sinatra, the artist and the man, is no easy task. John Lahr, drama critic for The New Yorker and one of the finest writers on the performing arts working today, has done just this in Sinatra: The Artist and the Man

Lahr traces the trajectory of the "solitary latchkey kid" from Hoboken, New Jersey, into the stratosphere of fame. Sinatra kept company with presidents and mobsters; he kept up the front of a happy family life for as long as he could and then took up with the most desired women in the world--Ava Gardner, Lauren Bacall, Anita Ekberg, Marilyn Monroe, and many, many more. He led a life of manic gregariousness, yet spoke to the romance and loneliness of the "wee small hours of the morning." He desperately needed to exist within the gaze of the audience but at the same time would express aloofness toward his fans, saying he was happiest "when I'm onstage all by myself with an orchestra and nobody to bug me."

Sinatra: The Artist and the Man also examines the miracle of Sinatra's return--much of what is marvelous about Sinatra today is that we know who he is at all, so far did he fall in the late forties. Sinatra came back with a vengeance as Angelo Maggio in From Here to Eternity, a heartfelt and brilliantly comic performance that won him an Academy Award. At the same time, he reclaimed control of the recording studio and, with the help of an ingenious arranger named Nelson Riddle, perfected the swinging sound of his mature years. Sinatra then proceeded to build a media empire that has been the standard by which all other stars have measured their success. The artist and the man: Sinatra epitomized control and he raged uncontrollably, destroying friendships, love affairs, and a plate-glass window or two; he won fans around the world across three generations, created an unparalleled body of recorded work, and almost single-handedly invented the postwar American swagger and "the image," Lahr writes, "of perfect individualism."

Sinatra's life and art happen to be extremely well documented in photographs--from Weegee's hilarious pictures of bobby-soxer hysteria at New York's Paramount Theatre to William Read Woodfield's definitive and rare "Chairman of the Board" images. Sinatra: The Artist and the Man collects one hundred of the best photographs ever taken of Sinatra (some never before published)--representing his film work, the special intensity of his recording sessions, and the many swinging nights of this complex and fascinating man.

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Editorial Reviews

Loos
For true fans, the 100 black-and-white photographs are the book's biggest asset. Particularly in the behind-the-scenes photographs by Bob Willoughby and William Read Woodfield, these dramatic images give us a glimpse of the aura that attracted Presidents and bobby-soxers alike....The book's freshest contribution comes with his ability to articulate grand themes with a nice turn of phrase. -- Ted Loos, New York Times Book Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375501449
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 12/8/1997
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 160
  • Product dimensions: 9.13 (w) x 10.26 (h) x 0.87 (d)

Meet the Author

John Lahr is the author of fifteen books. Among them are his bestselling biographies of his father, Bert Lahr (Notes on a Cowardly Lion), and the playwright Joe Orton (Prick Up Your Ears, which was made into a feature film). His Dame Edna Everage and the Rise of Western Civilization: Backstage with Barry Humphries was awarded the British 1992 Roger Machell Prize for the best book on the performing arts. Lahr has twice won the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award for excellence in writing about music. He has also twice won the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism, first in 1969, when he was drama critic for The Village Voice and Evergreen Review, and most recently in 1995 for his work at The New Yorker. His stage adaptations have been performed at London's Royal National Theatre, in the West End, at the Royal Exchange in Manchester, and at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. His short film (directed by John Hancock) Sticky My Fingers, Fleet My Feet was nominated for an Academy Award. He lives in London.
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