Rat Pack

The Rat Pack is the nickname given to a group of popular entertainers most active between the mid-1950s and mid-1960s. Its most famous line-up featured Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop, who appeared together in films and on stage in the early-1960s.[1] Despite its reputation as a masculine group, the Rat Pack did have female participants, such as movie icons Shirley MacLaine, Lauren Bacall, and Judy Garland.

The fifties Rat Pack

The name "Rat Pack" was first used to refer to a group of friends in Hollywood first informally organized around Humphrey Bogart, a group that included the young Frank Sinatra. The term "Rat Pack" was supposedly assigned to the original Bogart group by "Den Mother" Lauren Bacall, after seeing them return from a night in Las Vegas, she being the youngest of them all and seeing them to be tired and worn out said words to the effect of "You look like a goddamn rat pack", referring to the tired and haggard appearance of the other members of the group. According to another explanation, the term, "Rat Pack" was not Bacall's idea at all. It had started with Humphrey Bogart, Bacall's husband and frequent film co-star and a pal of Sinatra's, who named a group of his drinking buddies the Holmby Hills Rat Pack, after the location of one of Judy Garland and her husband Sid Luft's houses (a frequent hangout). Yet another explanation has it that the name referred to the way that an established pack of rats will belligerently reject an outsider who tries to join them.

According to Judy Garland's daughter, Lorna Luft, the "Rat Pack" title came as a result of a certain gossip columnist (probably Hedda Hopper) who wanted to be invited to the groups parties. The group didn't want their private parties exposed in the writer's next column so the columnist was never invited. Later, she wrote "and that rat pack in Holmby Hills" which Judy found incredibly funny. Garland had stick pins made for the group in the shape of rats with rubies for eyes. Thus, the "Rat Pack" was born.

According to Stephen Bogart, members of the Holmby Hills Rat Pack were Sinatra (pack master), Garland (first vice-president), Bacall (den mother), Luft (cage master), Bogart (rat in charge of public relations), Swifty Lazar (recording secretary and treasurer), Nathaniel Benchley (historian), David Niven, Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, George Cukor, Michael Romanoff and Jimmy Van Heusen. According to this explanation, confirmed in David Niven's autobiography The Moon's a Balloon, the Rat Pack originally contained David Niven and did not contain either Sammy Davis or Dean Martin.

The sixties Rat Pack

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Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., and Frank Sinatra
The 1960s version of the group included Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Joey Bishop, Peter Lawford (brother-in-law of John F. Kennedy), and for a brief stint, Norman Fell. Angie Dickinson, Juliet Prowse, and Shirley MacLaine were often referred to as the "Rat Pack Mascots", a title which reportedly made these ladies feel like "one of the boys". The post-Bogart version of the group was reportedly never called that name by any of its members — they called it the Summit or the Clan. "The Rat Pack" was a term used by journalists and outsiders, although it remains the lasting name for the group.

As a result of Lawford's relation to Kennedy and Sinatra's connections to the Mafia, and the role the group played in campaigning for Kennedy and the Democrats, the Rat Pack had not only influence in entertainment and social circles but some influence politically as well. Sinatra expected that he would be part of Kennedy's circle after the election but was excluded, which in turn led to Peter Lawford's exclusion from the group after 1962. Lawford's role in Robin and the Seven Hoods was given to Bing Crosby and spiced up with several songs. (It wasn't the first time Sinatra had treated a Rat Packer that way; Davis's role in Never So Few was given to Steve McQueen when Sinatra and Davis had a temporary falling-out.)

The Rat Pack often performed in Las Vegas, Nevada, and were instrumental in the rise of Las Vegas as a popular entertainment destination. They played an important role in the desegregation of Las Vegas hotels and casinos in the early 1960s. Sinatra and the others would refuse to play in or patronize those establishments that would not give full service to African American entertainers including Davis. Once Rat Pack appearances became popular and the subject of media attention, the Las Vegas properties were forced to abandon segregation-based policies.

Sinatra and friends had no idea this band of five would make entertainment history. The group was remarkable for its upbeat entertainment style and smooth musical and comedy routines, many of which were ad-libbed. Davis said when Sinatra called the initial gathering of the Rat Pack, U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, French President Charles de Gaulle, and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev were planning a Paris Summit Conference. Not to be outdone, Sinatra observed, "We'll have our own little Summit meeting." The Vegas Summit did not draw diplomats, but it did draw high rollers, VIPs, celebrities, and entertainment buffs, who responded by the thousands.

Often, when one of the members was scheduled to give a performance, the rest of the Pack would show up for an impromptu show, causing much excitement amongst audiences resulting in return visits. They sold out almost all of their appearances, and people would come pouring into Las Vegas, sometimes sleeping in cars and hotel lobbies when they could not find rooms, just to be part of the Rat Pack's entertainment experience. The marquees of the hotels at which they were performing as individuals might read "DEAN MARTIN - MAYBE FRANK - MAYBE SAMMY."

Although the Rat Pack members remained close (with the exception of Peter Lawford), the Rat Pack began to fade in popularity with the rise of the 1960s counterculture, which sent their form of sophisticated "Establishment" entertainment into decline. While its individual members remained hugely popular with the public, the Rat Pack, as such, had ceased to exist by the end of the 1960s.

Dean and Sammy appeared together in the movie Cannonball Run and later were joined by Frank in the movie Cannonball Run II. This would be the last time that Frank, Dean and Sammy would appear in a movie together.

Peter Lawford passed away on December 24, 1984 of cardiac arrest complicated by kidney and liver failure, at the age of 61. Sammy Davis Jr. passed away on May 16, 1990, of complications from throat cancer. Dean Martin passed away at home on Christmas morning 1995. Frank Sinatra passed away on on May 14, 1998. Joey Bishop was the last surviving of the Rat Pack members until he passed away on October 17, 2007.

Revival

Enlarge picture
Early 1980s album cover
In 1987 Sinatra, Davis and Martin embarked on a World Tour, entitled 'Together Again'. At press conferences Sinatra rejected the use of the term 'Rat Pack'. The tour was fraught with difficulties as Martin's son had died in a plane crash earlier that year, and he left the tour after only three shows and was replaced by Liza Minnelli.

The Rat Pack was a 1998 TV movie about the group. The movie featured Ray Liotta as Frank Sinatra, Joe Mantegna as Dean Martin, Don Cheadle as Sammy Davis, Jr., Bobby Slayton as Joey Bishop and Angus Macfadyen as Peter Lawford. In a smaller role was William Petersen as President John F. Kennedy.

The production of the film was part of a "Rat Pack Revival." Currently, Rat Pack movies, recordings and filmed performances are again very popular. This reinvigorated popularity led to a memorable remake of Ocean's Eleven starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Andy Garcia, Julia Roberts, Bernie Mac, and Carl Reiner, and a sequel, Ocean's Twelve, with the same cast. Ocean's Thirteen, a second sequel, features the original cast (except Roberts) as well as Ellen Barkin and Al Pacino.

Legacy

Interest in the "Sin City" era of Las Vegas has spawned a number of Rat Pack "tribute" acts, which feature celebrity impersonators performing on stage with musical accompaniment. One such show, "The Rat Pack Is Back: The Tribute to Frank, Sammy, Joey and Dean", performs nightly at the Greek Isles Hotel & Casino Star Theatre in Las Vegas.

Concerning the group's reputation for womanizing and heavy drinking, Joey Bishop stated in a 1998 interview: "I never saw Frank, Dean, Sammy or Peter drunk during performances. That was only a gag. And do you believe these guys had to chase broads? They had to chase 'em away."[2]

Rat Pack films

Dean and Sammy also had roles in The Cannonball Run (film) and Frank joined them in Cannonball Run II

Shirley MacLaine also had a major supporting role and Frank Sinatra a cameo in the 1956 Oscar-winning film Around the World in Eighty Days. MacLaine played a Hindu princess who is rescued by and falls in love with David Niven, and Sinatra had a non-speaking, non-singing role as a piano player in a saloon, whose identity is concealed from the viewer until he turns his face toward the camera.

Live concert albums

  • 2001 The Rat Pack Live at the Sands
  • 2003 A Night on the Town With the Rat Pack
  • 2003 The Ultimate Rat Pack Collection: Live & Swingin’
  • 2004 The Rat Pack on Stage: Las Vegas/St. Louis

See also

References

Bibliography

  • Levy, S. (1998). Rat Pack Confidential. London: Fourth Estate. ISBN 1-84115-001-0. 
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Francis Albert Sinatra (December 12, 1915 – May 14, 1998) was an Italian American jazz-oriented popular singer and Academy Award-winning actor.

Beginning his musical career in the swing era with Harry James and Tommy Dorsey, Sinatra became a solo artist with great
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Dean Martin (born Dino Paul Crocetti, June 7, 1917 – December 25, 1995) was an Italian American singer, film actor, and comedian. He was one of the most famous music artists in the 1950s and 1960s.
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Sammy Davis, Jr.

Sammy Davis, Jr. in Honolulu, March 7, 1989
Birth name Samuel George Davis, Jr.
Born November 8 1925(1925--)
New York City, New York
Died
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Peter Lawford

Peter Lawford in Royal Wedding (1951).
Birth name Peter Sydney Lawford
Born September 7 1923(1923--)
London, England, UK
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1965 1966 1967 1968 1969

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Shirley MacLaine

Shirley MacLaine at the 2005 Toronto Film Festival being interviewed by Access Hollywood, photo by Tony Shek
Birth name Shirley MacLean Beaty
Born March 24 1934 (1934--)
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Lauren Bacall

Birth name Betty Joan Perske
Born September 16 1924 (1924--) (age 83)
New York City, New York, United States

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Judy Garland

from the trailer for A Star Is Born
Birth name Frances Ethel Gumm
Born May 10 1922(1922--)
Grand Rapids, Minnesota, U.S.
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Hollywood is a district in Los Angeles, California, situated west-northwest of Downtown Los Angeles. Due to its fame and cultural identity as the historical center of movie studios and movie stars, the word "Hollywood" is often used as a metonym for the Cinema of the United States.
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Humphrey Bogart

Photographed in 1946 by Yousuf Karsh
Birth name Humphrey DeForest Bogart
Born November 25 1899(1899--)
New York City, New York, U.S.
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Lauren Bacall

Birth name Betty Joan Perske
Born September 16 1924 (1924--) (age 83)
New York City, New York, United States

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The City of Las Vegas, Nevada

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Location of Las Vegas in Clark County, Nevada
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Judy Garland

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Birth name Frances Ethel Gumm
Born May 10 1922(1922--)
Grand Rapids, Minnesota, U.S.
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Sidney Luft

Birth name Michael Sidney Luft
Born November 2, 1915
New York City, New York
Died September 15, 2005
Santa Monica, California

Spouse(s) Lynn Bari (1943-1950)
Judy Garland (1952-1965)

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Irving Paul "Swifty" Lazar (March 28, 1907 – December 30, 1993) was a legendary agent and deal-maker for Hollywood movie stars and authors. Born Samuel Lazar in Brooklyn, New York, he graduated from the Brooklyn Law School of St. Lawrence University in 1931.
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Nathaniel Benchley (November 13, 1915 – December 14, 1981) was an American author.

Born in Newton, Massachusetts to a literary family, he was the son of Gertrude Darling and Robert Benchley (1889-1945), the noted American writer, humorist, critic, actor, and, with
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David Niven

from the trailer for The Toast of New Orleans (1950)
Birth name James David Graham Niven
Born March 1 1910(1910--)
London, England
Died
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Katharine Hepburn

from the trailer for The Philadelphia Story (1940)
Birth name Katharine Houghton Hepburn
Born November 8 1906(1906--)
Hartford, Connecticut, U.S.
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Spencer Tracy

Spencer Tracy in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Birth name Spencer Bonaventure Tracy
Born March 5 1900(1900--)
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Died
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George Cukor

Birth name George Dewey Cukor
Born July 7 1899(1899--)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Died January 24 1983 (aged 85)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
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Jimmy Van Heusen (January 26, 1913 - February 7, 1990), was an American composer. Writing songs for films and television, he won four Academy Awards for Best Original Song, and an Emmy.
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David Niven

from the trailer for The Toast of New Orleans (1950)
Birth name James David Graham Niven
Born March 1 1910(1910--)
London, England
Died
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Francis Albert Sinatra (December 12, 1915 – May 14, 1998) was an Italian American jazz-oriented popular singer and Academy Award-winning actor.

Beginning his musical career in the swing era with Harry James and Tommy Dorsey, Sinatra became a solo artist with great
..... Click the link for more information.
Dean Martin (born Dino Paul Crocetti, June 7, 1917 – December 25, 1995) was an Italian American singer, film actor, and comedian. He was one of the most famous music artists in the 1950s and 1960s.
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Sammy Davis, Jr.

Sammy Davis, Jr. in Honolulu, March 7, 1989
Birth name Samuel George Davis, Jr.
Born November 8 1925(1925--)
New York City, New York
Died
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Peter Lawford

Peter Lawford in Royal Wedding (1951).
Birth name Peter Sydney Lawford
Born September 7 1923(1923--)
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