HOBOKEN, NJ - Frank Sinatra was renowned for giving "All Or Nothing At All." The iconic singer, as temperamental as he was talented, is the focus of Alex Gibney's two-part documentary—profiling Sinatra's meteoric rise and tumultuous, roller coaster career from beginning to end.
Of course that beginning was in Hoboken, where Sinatra: All Or Nothing At All spends a good bit of time highlighting Frank's early days. Segments of the documentary were filmed in the Mile Square City —with a few scenes shot at Moran’s (501 Garden Street), as members of the Sinatra family used to frequent the establishment that once occupied that corner.
First released in 2015 on HBO, months before the centennial of Sinatra's birth at 415 Monroe Street, the documentary received rave reviews from lifelong fans and neophytes alike—offering a comprehensive look at the complex character who grew from the son of Italian immigrants on the backstreets of Hoboken into the "Chairman of the Board."
As for the song “All Or Nothing At All,” it was arguably Frank’s first big hit. Initially recorded in 1939, it was re-issued by Columbia Records in 1943.
“That was the song, a few days after Harry James and myself recorded it, that gave us our walking papers out of the old Victor Hugo Cafe (a major entertainment venue of the 1930s) on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood," said Sinatra, in a 1944 interview. "The manager came up and waved his hands for us to stop. He said Harry’s trumpet playing was too loud for the joint and my singing was just plain lousy and fired Harry, me and the entire band on the spot. He said the two of us couldn’t draw flies as an attraction, and I guess he was right—the room was as empty as a barn. It’s a funny thing about that song. The recording we made of it 5 years ago is now one of the top spots among the best sellers. But it’s the same old recording. It’s also the song I auditioned with for Tommy Dorsey, who signed me on the strength of it. And now it’s my first big record.”
Frank went on to achieve the pinnacle of fame and success in music and film, becoming one of the most legendary performers in American History. Although he had a complicated relationship with his hometown of Hoboken, Sinatra's star still shines brightly in the Mile Square City over two decades after his passing in 1998.
To learn more about Frank, catch Sinatra: All Or Nothing At All—now available on Netflix. Then check out the Hoboken Historical Museum (1301 Hudson Street) for their extensive exhibit on Hoboken's Favorite Son.
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