The meeting between Carlos Gardel and Frank Sinatra was brought to life in When Frank Met Carlitos

Disney+ film explores a mythical 1934 encounter between young Sinatra and tango legend Gardel, bridging cultures through music.
  1. “When Frank Met Carlitos” illuminates a fictional meeting between Sinatra and Gardel, weaving cultural tales through music on Disney+.
  2. Actors Oscar Lajad and Pablo Turturiello masterfully embody their iconic roles, navigating language barriers to connect through song.
  3. The film blends historical nostalgia with modern appeal, potentially reigniting tango’s allure for younger global audiences.

The recent Disney+ film When Frank Met Carlitos explores the urban legend of a fateful encounter between two titans of 20th-century music—the Argentine tango sensation Carlos Gardel and 19-year-old Frank Sinatra before he became “Ol’ Blue Eyes.”

This mythical meeting supposedly took place in 1934 at NBC’s studios in New York City, when Gardel was at the apex of his fame, and the young Sinatra was striving to launch his career as a crooner. While no concrete evidence exists that this meeting transpired, the premise has long captured the imaginations of fans worldwide.

When Frank Met Carlitos originated as a theatrical production conceived in 2019 but was adapted into a feature film during the COVID-19 pandemic. With safety protocols in place, the streaming platform provided the ideal opportunity to bring this ambitious vision to life on screen. Argentinian director Karina Insausti and production company Curioso Entertainment drove the process of transforming the stage musical into a cinematic experience.

There are two voices and one story: discover the musical encounter everyone was waiting for on the platform (Disney+).
There are two voices and one story: discover the musical encounter everyone was waiting for on the platform (Disney+).

The film visualizes tango trailblazer Gardel, fresh off his European success, welcoming a starstruck Sinatra into his NBC dressing room. Sinatra is escorted by his supportive fiancée, Nancy Barbato, played by newcomer Antonella Misenti. Dapper in a fedora, Gardel is on the cusp of embarking on his fateful last tour of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Mexico, and Colombia. One year later, his meteoric rise would be cut tragically short when he perished in a 1935 plane crash at age 44.

Oscar Lajad, who previously depicted Gardel on stage, burrowed deep to embody the singer’s inflections, gestures, and stylings. “I had to sound like Gardel, I couldn’t do something very different from what people know,” Lajad described. Meanwhile, Uruguayan actor Pablo Turturiello underwent intense vocal training with an accent coach and speech pathologist to recreate Sinatra’s iconic gravelly croon.

Turturiello also scrutinized films and recordings to perfect a 1930s New York accent. “Acting, which is my passion, and in English—that conjunction was already a gift,” Turturiello said.

Oscar Lajad as Carlos Gardel, a tribute to the tango icon, and Pablo Turturiello as a young Frank Sinatra, full of dreams and longings (Disney+).
Oscar Lajad as Carlos Gardel, a tribute to the tango icon, and Pablo Turturiello as a young Frank Sinatra, full of dreams and longings (Disney+).

Bridging the Cross-Cultural Divide Through Song

A major source of humor and creative friction in When Frank Met Carlitos arises from the language barrier separating Spanish-speaking Gardel and English-speaking Sinatra. “It was crazy because I speak Spanish but had to pretend not to understand Oscar,” recalled Turturiello. Nonetheless, the unlikely duo manages to forge a bond through their shared musical passions. Sinatra brings Gardel’s tangos like “Volver” and “El Día Que Me Quieras” to life in English, with Turturiello noting, “They don’t understand each other, but they can sing together.”

Lajad added, “We had different challenges. Pablo had to tackle the voice and English, while I was limited by needing to emulate Gardel precisely.” Against the odds, Gardel and Sinatra find common ground via their love of music and performance. Turturiello described, “My friends laughed a lot seeing this relationship where they don’t understand each other but can sing together.”

Official Disney+ trailer

Sparking New Interest in Tango for Younger Generations

Beyond reimagining this whimsical crossover encounter, Lajad expressed his hope that the film could help ignite enthusiasm for tango among millennial and Gen Z audiences. “I’m so happy generations can discover this valuable music,” Lajad passionately stated. While Gardel is idolized in his native Argentina, Lajad dreams of spreading tango fever worldwide.

The film showcases many of Gardel’s most timeless and heart-wrenching tangos, including the brooding “Soledad” and the bittersweet ode to the past “Volver.” Lajad describes how performing “Volver” evoked deep emotions during the shoot, transporting him back through time. Other musical highlights include “El Día Que Me Quieras” renditions and the sultry signature tune “Por Una Cabeza.”

Honoring the Past While Engaging Modern Audiences

Lajad and Turturiello hope to adapt When Frank Met Carlitos back into a stage production where they would reprise their starring roles. By reviving the Golden Age musical format through reimagining this fictional crossover encounter between historical artists, the film pays tribute to legends like Gardel and Sinatra while remaining accessible to contemporary crowds.

Turturiello summarized the experience as awakening the idea that anything is possible. This sentimental musical could pave the way for more big-screen musicals focused on Argentine culture. When Frank Met Carlitos proves that classic art forms can be reinvigorated to captivate new generations if the source material is treated with care.