Liz Smith: He Did It His Way

“I’VE WANTED to make a movie about Frank Sinatra for years. I love his music. And his life was so majestic and full of richness on every level.”

That was Oliver Stone, talking to an admirer, who had approached the director to compliment him on his ongoing Showtime series, “Untold History,” and his amazing book that spawned the series, “The Untold History of the United States.”

How did the subject of Sinatra arise? Well, Oliver just happened to be dining at the fabled La Dolce Vita restaurant in Beverly Hills. (Where Frank himself always ordered the chicken piccata and eggplant parmigiana.) It was New Year’s Eve, and Oliver, though with family and friends, didn’t mind chatting with a knowledgeable fan.

The restaurant was playing Sinatra recordings, and Stone suddenly exclaimed, “Man, those are such great songs!” This led to the fan asking why Stone, who has made so many films about real-life persons, has never tackled Sinatra? Oliver gave the above quote, and added: “I’d like to show him at his prime, during the late 1950’s and early 60’s.” (Sinatra was then at the peak of his popularity, artistry and, according to many who crossed him, the peak of his arrogance.)

Ava Gardner was famously the obsessive love of Sinatra’s life — most people never believe he really got the exotic, erotic North Carolina goddess out of his blood, even after his tranquil marriage to Barbara Marx. But Stone didn’t mention Ava, in his wishful thinking about a Frank film. The director and/or producer of “Salvador” … “JFK” … “Nixon” … “The People Vs. Larry Flynt” … Alexander,” etc. said, he wanted to explore the relationship between Frank and Marilyn Monroe. Why? “Because it showed a paternal side to Sinatra that few people ever saw or knew about.” And Oliver is correct!

Everything I know about Frank’s relationship with Marilyn ran counter to the way he treated most of his women. Marilyn’s power to encourage people to “save” her, or think they could, overwhelmed even Frank. (At one point, toward the end of Marilyn’s life, he even contemplated marrying her, but was advised against it; what, it was cynically suggested, would happen to Frank’s career if Marilyn committed suicide while they were married? After her death, he was devastated.)

I’ve always wondered why director Stone never did a movie on Monroe? She is the queen of all conspiracy theories, which reportedly include every agency and power in the U.S. — from the White House to the CIA and FBI, to the Mafia. Red meat for Oliver Stone! Unless he is one of those people who believes the tragic star did indeed die by her own hand, deliberately or accidentally. Also — women don’t seem to interest Stone much as subjects. It’s a rare Stone film that features a vital female character. (Angelina Jolie as Olympias in “Alexander” is an exception.)

In any case, an Oliver Stone movie about the greatest male singer ever — in my humble opinion — would be sensational. I hope it happens; that it wasn’t just casual New Year’s Eve talk, between the pasta and meat courses.

EVEN THOUGH Ben Affleck is a favorite here, I had to laugh at the recent speculation that he would run for public office. Please people, he is an actor. One who has led a rich, ripe juicy life. Now he appears to be happily domesticated in his marriage to Jennifer Garner, dad to three young children. He certainly was not going to risk his past youthful indiscretions and peccadilloes being used as ammunition by an opponent.

Ben’s a smart, concerned guy and can probably do more for his causes, as an actor/director/producer than he ever could becoming a politician. The latter, in any case, is a profession that deals more in fantasy, deal-making, ass-kissing and back-stabbing than the moviemaking industry at its worst. Talk about jumping from the frying pan into the fire!

WAS also sadly amused by Sean Penn’s remarks in Esquire magazine, in which he claimed all his relationships were essentially false, and that he feels he has never truly been loved. In fact, he has been the victim of “fraud.”

Sean seemed to be talking mostly about his 16-year marriage to Robin Wright, with whom he has two children. He apparently believes Robin — and others? — were not truly “invested” in the relationship — and in loving him.

I admire Sean as an actor and for his humanitarian efforts. But come on; he takes not one shred of responsibility for the end of his marriages? (Let’s not forget he was wed to Madonna for four years. It’s no stroll in the park to be involved with Madonna, but I guess he conveniently forgets the very ugly end to that relationship — an event that neither he or Madonna ever spoke of publicly, but they didn’t need to, everybody in Hollywood knew the story of that terrible Thanksgiving weekend.)

Also, what a thing to say about the mother of his children! It is my impression that Robin Wright did her best and gave as much as she could. Sean insists this lack of love from others has not made him bitter. Could have fooled me.

Robin Wright is now seeing the talented, quite nice and much younger actor Ben Foster. Good luck to her. And to Sean too. Just climb down off the cross, Sean, and you’ll be fine.

This column originally appeared on NYSocialDiary.com on 1/4/13

4 comments so far.

  1. avatar JERILYN says:

    A movie about Frank SINATRA’S relationship with Marilyn Monroe would be intriguing, however, I thought Martin Scorsese was interested in doing a Sinatra movie? As long as SINATRA’S children are alive they would probably try to block any movie that did not have their approval. Unlike Dame Elizabeth’s children who could not have been HAPPY with “Liz and Dick” because her real fans were disgusted, the Sinatra family would attempt to stop any movie that they did not like. IN MY OPINION. Again Liz Smith is so right Frank Sinatra was the greatest male singer ever as Barbra Streisand is the greatest female singer ever still entertaining fans at 70 with class and style.

  2. avatar Rho says:

    Sinatra is the best of all time.  Nobody can ever be like him.

  3. avatar central coast cabin home says:

    Grow up dear Sean. One who claims to have never been loved? Then how have you ever loved yourself let alone anyone else? Start at home brother then spread the wealth. Fear not….

  4. avatar jadez says:

    cant find a single line that i disagree with.