The Rat Pack, Booze, Broads and the Coolest Turkey in Film History; HEART-THROB GEORGE PAYS HOMAGE TO HIS IDOL SINATRA'S FREEWHEELING, FUN-LOVING CLAN IN OCEAN'S 11 REMAKE

Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland), February 3, 2002 | Go to article overview

The Rat Pack, Booze, Broads and the Coolest Turkey in Film History; HEART-THROB GEORGE PAYS HOMAGE TO HIS IDOL SINATRA'S FREEWHEELING, FUN-LOVING CLAN IN OCEAN'S 11 REMAKE


Byline: SIOBHAN SYNNOT

ON the Hollywood cool meter, they don't rate much higher than George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts. The boys top the list of movie heart-throbs, while Julia banks $20million a film and has an Oscar in her bathroom.

But they know they aren't hip enough to challenge the legends of the Rat Pack - Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jnr, Joey Bishop, Peter Lawford and Henry Silva.

"We're never going to be as cool as those guys," says Clooney, who stars as Danny Ocean in the remake of the Rat Pack's Ocean's 11 alongside Matt Damon, Andy Garcia and Don Cheadle.

But, as Clooney confesses, it wouldn't be difficult to make a movie that's better than the original - the coolest turkey in movie history.

George says he's a huge fan of the Rat Pack. He owns CDs of their legendary Las Vegas performances.

"I idolised them when I was younger - just loved them," he says. He has watched Ocean's 11 hundreds of times , but admits: "I get the tape, figuring it's the coolest guys in the world - Frank, Sammy, Dean - pop it in. Five minutes and it's 'Whoa, get this off.' Ocean's 11 isn't a good movie at all."

Next month, George and his pals pay tribute to the Rat Pack when a remake of the 1960 caper flick is released.

Though their heyday was 40 years ago, Ol' Blue Eyes and his boozy buddies are the epitome of cool.

Shot on location in Las Vegas when the Rat Pack was appearing nightly to sell-out audiences at the Sands Hotel, Ocean's 11 is a "morning after" movie where the big question was not if Sinatra and his pals could pull off the heist, but if they could get through it with a straight face.

It's worth watching to see the Rat Pack at the peak of their powers. There's Dean Martin, never more than three feet away from the drinks trolley. Who can resist Sammy crooning Ee-O-leven, or Dean singing Ain't That A Kick In The Head?

This was a group love letter - to the Pack, from the Pack, celebrating their idea of freewheeling fun.

It was filmed whenever the actors could make it to the set. All director Lewis Milestone could do was point the camera at the camaraderie and cool of his five feckless stars.

They played hard and boozed big time. A Rat wasn't a Rat without a drink in one hand and a cigarette or broad in the other.

In spare moments, they were beginning to dabble in politics, trying to help Peter Lawford's brother-in-law, John F. Kennedy get elected as US President.

Lawford was an Englishman with a little acting talent but enough charm to snag JFK's sister, Pat Kennedy.

Frank thought bright young Democrat Kennedy could be going places, so he stayed close to the man he called "the brother-in-Lawford", even forgiving him when he took Ava Gardner out for dinner shortly after she became the ex-Mrs Frank Sinatra.

Lawford bought the rights to Ocean's 11 from its author - a petrol pump attendant - with $10,000 of Pat Kennedy's money. He and Sinatra formed a company with Dean Martin to produce the picture.

When Milestone suggested casting Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis alongside Dean and Frank, Sinatra refused. He wanted his drinking buddies.

He roped in friends for cameo roles, including gangster star George Raft, and Shirley Maclaine flew in from Los Angeles where she and Jack Lemmon were filming The Apartment. In one day, she knocked off her appearance as a drunk floozy. The Rat Pack gave her a car for her trouble.

Some Like It Hot's writer-director, Billy Wilder, helped pen some scenes. Other famous writers also took a shot, but Sinatra kept binning each draft.

When they started filming in January 1959, it was anyone's guess what was happening. Unbelievably, the picture got an Oscar nomination for best screenplay.

Sinatra didn't want to make a serious movie. He told Sammy Davis Jnr: "We're not setting out to make Hamlet or Gone with the Wind.

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