Thursday, July 24, 2008
Ocean's 11, starring the Rat Pack, was released in 1960. It was directed by Lewis Milestone (his credits include All Quiet on the Western Front in 1930 and The Halls of Montezuma in 1950). While not the first film to star any members of the Rat Pack together (Sinatra and Martin had done Some Came Running in 1958), this is the film that defined the Rat Pack. It is most certainly one of the coolest flicks of the swingin' 60's. The film highlighted what made the Rat Pack so cool and hip. It would help set the mood for an entire era.
Frank Sinatra played Danny Ocean. He's a bit of a cad, who enjoys living life dangerously. His marriage to Beatrice (Angie Dickinson) has been wrecked due to his attitude and lifestyle. With the backing of Spyros Acebos (Akim Tamiroff), Danny masterminds a heist to rob five Las Vegas casinos on New Year's Eve. The casinos are the Sahara, the Flamingo, the Sands, the Desert Inn, and the Riviera. He recruits his buddies from the 82nd Airborne Division to help him in this plot. These guys had all served together during World War II. The first part of the movie is spent rounding up all the old buddies. Dean Martin plays Sam Harmon, a nightclub entertainer who seems reluctant to join in on the caper. Peter Lawford is Jimmy Foster, a guy who is tired of living off the wealth of his multi-time married mother. Sammy Davis Jr. is Josh Howard, a demolitions expert turned garbage collector. Joey Bishop is Mushy O'Conners. I'll be honest that I could never quite figure out what he was up to. He seemed like the assistant to Spyros Acebos. The other friends all had specialities from their military service that can be put to good use in the heist. They agree to join in because they really could use the money. The heist is planned out like a military operation.
The men are split up between the casinos. Explosive charges are planted on an electrical transmission tower that controls the power for Las Vegas. The backup electrical systems are rewired so they will open the cashier cages instead of powering the emergency lighting systems. The lights go out in Vegas at the stroke of midnight as people are celebrating the ringing in of New Year's. The men deployed in the different casinos rush into the cashier cages and collect all the money. There are millions and millions of dollars there. The loot is put into garbage bins. Josh, driving a garbage truck, goes around the city and picks up the bags.
The plan seems to go off with a hitch. Of course, we know that can't be the case. Crime usually never pays in the movies. One of the men has a heart attack and dies out on the Vegas Strip. The casinos also make a deal with Duke Santos (played by Cesar Romero, who deliciously chews up the scenery). Santos is a reformed ganster, who is engaged to Jimmy's mother. He has his suspicions of who might be behind the crime. He knows that Jimmy and his pallies are really in Vegas, when they supposedly were going to be away somewhere else. I won't spoil the rest of the movie for those who haven't seen it.
Shirley MacLaine, as well as several other stars, had a cameo in the movie. She had a pretty hilarious scene with Dean Martin. While Shirley received a car as a gift for her cameo, she said that she did the part so she could spend time with the Rat Pack. Much of the film was done in the late hours of the night and the early morning because the the Rat Packers were performing at the Sands at night. When the guys are walking down the street at the end of the film, you can see that the Rat Pack is billed on the sign at the Sands. Sammy was forced to stay at a "colored only" hotel during their time in Vegas. That was only changed after Sinatra demanded that the casino bosses allow Sammy to stay with his pallies.
Ocean's 11 is one of the iconic films of the 1960's. It's the definitive representative of what made Las Vegas, Sin City itself, the playground of the Rat Pack and others with class and style. Some complain that there's not much of a plot or action in this movie. I don't think this movie was trying to be rocket science. It was a fun ride for a bunch of pallies to take. The Rat Packers were all essentially playing themselves. The movie was a great excuse for them to hang out and have a good time. All the witty banter that goes back and forth between these cool cats is worth seeing. This film perfectly sums up what it is we all love about this swingin' era. If you haven't seen it, I hope you will check it out. Any fans of this flick here? Let me know what you think.