Dino Crocetti emerged from the hardscrabble existence in Steubenville, Ohio to become one of the biggest stars in the second half of the 20th century. With a new moniker of Dean Martin, a legendary partnership with Jerry Lewis, and a fixture status in the famed Rat Pack, the kid from Steubenville became a show business icon.
Martin’s teaming with Lewis lasted 10 years, from 1946 to 1956. Versions vary regarding the events leading to the partnership that birthed at the 500 Club in Atlantic City. A succession of movies followed in addition to television appearances, giving post-World War II audiences a release through laughter.
After the split, Martin became a solo performer on stage, perfecting a boozy, charming, easygoing manner. His movie career no longer depended on the hijinks of Lewis’s elastic expressions, childlike characters, and comedic timing. Martin made three movies with the Rat Pack, the informal group of entertainers led by Frank Sinatra. Ocean’s 11, Robin and the 7 Hoods, and Sergeants 3. Revolving around a New Year’s Eve heist of five Las Vegas casinos, Ocean’s 11 gave Sinatra, Martin, Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop, and Sammy Davis, Jr. the opportunity to perform at night after shooting the movie during the day. It was a perfect match for the Sands, which appears in the final credits as the cast walks by a marquee with the five Rat Pack names prominently displayed. Martin’s body of movie work includes Airport, The Silencers, Some Came Running, The Sons of Katie Elder, Marriage on the Rocks, and Rio Bravo.
In his comprehensive biography of Martin, Dino: Living High in the Dirty Business of Dreams, Nick Tosches details the impact of the Rat Pack during the three-week production schedule. “The newspapers had been full of the upcoming Paris summit conference being planned by Eisenhower, Khrushchev, and De Gaulle [sic],” wrote Tosches. “Well, Sinatra declared, they would have their own summit conference of cool. Newspapers across the country began publicizing it as the Rat Pack Summit. By the night they opened, every hotel room in Las Vegas was booked for the duration. [Sands General Manager Jack] Entratter was more than happy to go along with their setup: At least one of them would perform every night; sometimes two or three or four of them, sometimes all five.”
Martin became a television superstar with NBC’s The Dean Martin Show, which aired from 1965 to 1974. With musical performances combined with comedy sketches in which Martin could barely stay in character to the delight of audiences, the crooner’s variety show boasted the biggest names in show business as guest stars, including George Gobel, Bob Hope, Ella Fitzgerald, Bob Newhart, Jonathan Winters, Rich Little, Julie London, Soupy Sales, Mickey Rooney, Chita Rivera, Danny Thomas, Leslie Uggams, Barbara Eden, Buddy Ebsen, Raquel Welch, Ann-Margret, Peter Falk, Glenn Ford, Jack Benny, Steve Lawrence, Rip Taylor, Howard Cosell, Meredith MacRae, Eva Gabor, Barbara Feldon, Flip Wilson, Orson Welles, and Lorne Greene.
On Christmas Day 1995, Dean Martin passed away, having conquered the music, television, movie, and concert industries. His two signature songs, That’s Amore and Everybody Loves Somebody became the sonic icons by which audiences identified the kid from Steubenville. The famed Las Vegas strip dimmed lights in his honor.
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