September 9, 2019  (Web Review)

Sinatra in Palm Springs: The Place He Called Home

(2018) 92 min. DVD: $16.99, Blu-ray: $22.99. Shout! Factory (avail. from most distributors). SDH captioned.

Reviewer rating: 2.5/4

With its melodramatic score and abundance of aerial footage, filmmaker Leo Zahn’s Frank Sinatra profile plays like an especially informative episode of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. And even if it isn’t nearly as essential as Alex Gibney’s Sinatra: All or Nothing at All (VL-3/16), there is plenty of arcana here for fans of entertainment history. Journalists, socialites, restaurant owners, and other associates recall the five decades Sinatra spent in the titular Southern California desert community. At a time when he was seeking both more privacy and a small-town vibe, composer Jimmy Van Heusen introduced Sinatra to Palm Springs (Sinatra liked to refer to Van Heusen by his real name—Chester Babcock). For actors on contract, the studios were only a three- to four-hour drive away, although Sinatra had a Lear jet, so commuting wasn’t much of an issue. Sinatra married actress Ava Gardner a few years after he arrived in 1947 (their ranch-style home Twin Palms is featured in the 1950 Joan Crawford film The Damned Don’t Cry). Little mention is made of his short-lived marriage to Mia Farrow in the 1960s, other than a story about her ill-fated pooch. In 1976, Sinatra married Barbara Marx, Zeppo Marx’s ex-wife, and the couple would remain together until his death, enjoying a social life that revolved around dinners and charity events. Friends, including singer Trini López and standup comedian Tom Dreesen, testify to Sinatra’s generosity, and Desert Sun reporter Bruce Fessler notes that Sinatra often donated anonymously whenever he read about a local in need. As his health started to fail in the ‘90s, Sinatra and Barbara returned to Beverly Hills, but Zahn makes a convincing case that Palm Springs owned his heart. Extras include deleted scenes. A strong optional purchase. Aud: P. (K. Fennessy)