Sinatra in Palm Springs was truly an unexpected treat. I was not raised listening to Frank Sinatra so I really didn’t know much about him or his life. My 10-year-old daughter, a vocalist, has undertaken some of his songs in her repertoire so I thought it would be good exposure for her to learn more about him as an artist and person. And because I had some Palm Springs experiences as an adolescent I was intrigued from the geographical angle. My daughter was thrilled to see and hear him sing a snippet of “Fly Me To The Moon.” It’s currently playing a limited engagement showing in Coronado, the only venue in San Diego to screen the film.
In this documentary, the many people interviewed consistently depicted Sinatra as a man who was kind and generous. An authentic, genuine caring human being. There is story upon story of his generosity in helping the ordinary people who came upon hard times. He is said to have read the Desert Sun newspaper every morning and if there was a story of someone who needed help, he would pick up the phone and have his people “take care of it.” Whether that be a busboy’s medical bills or replacing a single mother’s mobile home that had been destroyed by fire overnight. His philanthropy also supported the synagogue and the Catholic church. What was important to Sinatra was that he could help, and so he did. Whether a maître d’ or friends of his wife Barbara, the story was always the same. Frank Sinatra was Mr. Palm Springs and he was known for his kindness and compassion to humanity. In 1986, Barbara and Frank founded the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center in Rancho Mirage, dedicated to ensuring every child’s right to a normal, healthy and secure childhood. To date, the center has helped over 22,000 children.
The film also shed light on Palm Springs being a safe refuge for mobsters of the time where “business” didn’t take place, but relaxation and fun did. While most of the restaurants referred to have since closed, some remain and are filled with memories of this era. If only walls could talk the stories they would tell. The film features enlightening interviews with Barbara Sinatra, who passed last year, Mel Haber, Tom Dreesen, Nelda Linsk, Bruce Fessier, Trini Lopez, Michael Fletcher and many others who knew Frank well.
In 1954 Sinatra settled 10 miles outside of Palm Springs in Rancho Mirage, where he built a compound with rooms named after his songs. It was the same year that his second wife, Ava Gardner, filed for a divorce and he made a big comeback in Hollywood winning an Oscar for From Here to Eternity. There are clips from that film and many other movie and television performances bringing to life Sinatra during his time in the desert towns. The footage brought back memories for me even though I wasn’t even alive during the early years he was there.
Frank Sinatra will always be synonymous with Palm Springs and it’s the place he called home. This documentary is a well-done, touching tribute to a legend, fitting for someone wanting to learn more about Sinatra or to re-live memories of that time period of Palm Springs. The theater had viewers ranging in age from my 10 year old daughter to likely over 80 as I admired the couple holding hands next to me. So sweet in their later years, even if she did nod off a couple of times. You could see in the gentleman’s eyes, glued to the screen, that this was a time he remembered well.
Movie times: click here
Director: Leo Zahn
Running Time: 1 hour 32 minutes
Rating: No Rating