In today’s Times, my review [£] of James Kaplan’s epic, no-stone-left-unturned biography:
Can you imagine Frank Sinatra as an ambassador? The idea seems laughable, yet in 1958 that doyen of American columnists, Walter Winchell, floated the idea that JFK, then still a presidential hopeful, might appoint America’s most famous Italian-American as his main man in Rome.
It came to nothing, of course, which is surely just as well. Sinatra was not the happiest of travellers. He always liked to have his favourite food on hand whenever he left America. And even if he christened his private plane “El Dago”, he was, it seems, none too enamoured with his ancestral land. Unable to speak Italian, he struggled to bond with the audiences there. The man who sang Come Fly With Me was much happier to stay at home and rule as emperor of Las Vegas.
Still, the story is a sign of the influence that “The Chairman of the Board” once wielded. Almost exactly a hundred years after his birth on December 12, 1915, the boy from Hoboken remains the embodiment of the American dream. Can any book do full justice to his multi-faceted career? Probably not. But James Kaplan’s sequel toFrank: The Making of a Legend — published five years ago — does an honourable job of balancing the tawdry with the inspirational. Unlike Kitty Kelley’s infamous if eminently readable 1986 biography, His Way – a minnow at a mere 630 pages – The Chairman paints a rounded portrait.