films, stars

King of Cool: A Personal Review

It’s November 19th, 2021. 8:00-ish pm.

Dean Martin begins to croon his signature tune, “Everybody Loves Somebody” – a cappella at first, then joined by a rousing orchestra, indicating a good time in store. I’ve looked forward to this moment for weeks. Yet I’m not paying attention.

Not ten minutes before, I’d hit Publish on what was at the time my magnum opus – the longest, most research-intensive piece I’d ever written up to that point – a tribute to the star who stole my heart over the course of a single summer: the King of Cool himself, Mr. Dean Martin. When I learned that a brand-new documentary about him was coming to Turner Classic Movies, I giddily made note of the airdate (Saturday, November 19th, 8:00pm), then was struck by a stroke of genius: now was the time to compile what I’d learned so far in my efforts to explore his dramatic work / uncover what made this human enigma tick. I could offer my perspective and give this landmark event a promotional shoutout at the same time. Yes. It was going to be perfect. And I was sure it would be no problem to produce such a masterpiece in plenty of time before the big premiere.

But as the project slowly expanded in scope and the days quickly flew by, my self-imposed deadline crept closer and closer to showtime: a week before, a day before, an hour before. Still, I kept doggedly plugging away. It became unreasonably important for me to share my findings and conclusions ahead of the film, free of any influence. My determination cranked up to an unhealthy level. I chose to forgo the yummy Italian dinner I’d planned to compliment the occasion, kicked into a higher gear, and sighed with satisfaction as I put this work of guaranteed perfection out into the world with only minutes to spare.

However, as I surveyed my handiwork, I realized – to my horror – that I’d neglected to include the film clips I’d referenced and for which I’d made space. Not only that, but a multitude of tiny typos began to appear before my eyes. I sprang into frantic action – correcting these unacceptable errors as quickly as possible and criticizing myself as I went along. This was my state of mind as I attempted to watch Dean Martin: King of Cool. (For cool, you see, I am not.)

Deana Martin, in King of Cool

King of Cool, directed and produced by the critically-acclaimed team of Tom Donahue and Ilan Arboleda at the request of Dean’s daughter Deana (with Leonardo DiCaprio credited among the executive producers! I guess cool knows cool…), is itself a time capsule of American pop culture – involving a diverse array of personalities from button-downed comedian extraordinaire Bob Newhart and nonagenarian bombshell Angie Dickinson to Alec Baldwin, RZA, and a host of others in between. Interviews with actors and academics, family and friends, writers, musicians, and more are woven together in an attempt to answer two burning questions: What exactly makes a person cool? And what was Dean’s “Rosebud” (his driving force a la Citizen Kane)? All sorts of voices weigh in on the conversation, including those long past (Jeanne Martin, Jerry Lewis, even Dean himself) and those recently lost (Peter Bogdanivich, Florence Henderson, Regis Philbin and more make what would prove to be one of their final on-camera appearances).

Director Tom Donahue with the late Regis Philbin – who, despite all his impressive credentials, was introduced simply as a “Superfan”.

At one point in the film, the ever-energetic TV legend places his and Dean’s cardboard cutouts next to each other, then steps back to study the sight. After a thoughtful pause, he suggests hopefully, “We look a little bit alike?” After another, he decides, “Not even close.”

I miss him.

Amazingly, some moments playing out on screen before me were powerful enough to pierce through my distraction straight to my heart. Certain insights burrowed their way deep into my soul, compelling me to rewatch, consider, and go deeper. They’ve lived inside me for over six months, and now, they cry out to be shared.

Expressing myself fully will require delving into some spoilers. Of course, I won’t even begin to cover everything presented in the film – just the details that resonated with me most (which, in some cases, I’ll supplement with my own research). And as much as I want to, I won’t reveal what was determined to be Dean’s “Rosebud”, nor the precious story behind it. But if you hope to catch this currently TCM-exclusive program one day and prefer to walk into it completely blind, I understand – and I hope you will still leave a like/comment and stop by again when you’re ready. (Maybe it will re-air on his birthday, which is coming up soon on June 7th.) If, however, you’d like to venture further into the depths of Dean with me now, then let’s dive in!…

“One beautiful thing about our business is that we get to come to Hollywood, and we get to be who we want to be. But who you are, is always who you are. You can never leave yourself, ‘cause your self is within you.” ~ RZA (musician)

Dean Martin was born Dino Paul Crocetti to Angela, a first-generation Italian-American, and Gaetano, an immigrant who hailed from Montesilvano, Abruzzo in Italy. Dino and his only sibling, younger brother Guglielmo (later called Bill), were raised in a close-knit ethnic community in Steubenville, Ohio that reinforced their culture’s highest values: kinship within the family, guardedness toward the outside world, and living by the Abruzzian saying, “Keep yourself to yourself.”

Only Italian was spoken at home, leaving young Dino unfamiliar with English and unprepared for American public school when he entered the system at the age of six. Labeled an “analfabeta” (illiterate), he was bullied for his struggles with this second language until he dropped out just two years shy of graduating high school. But there were few opportunities in Steubenville for an uneducated young man to earn a living that didn’t involve coal mining, steel mill work, or illegal activity.

Little Dino

I couldn’t find this one online, and unfortunately, the documentary never captures the whole photo in one shot. But I had to include it, because what you can’t see is, he’s looking at a BOOK. (And his brother Bill, who’s sitting beside him, seems just as sweet.)

Who would choose to bully this tender, innocent baby and turn him against school? I want to travel back in time and protect him from the world.

When neither boxing nor blackjack dealing panned out as well as he hoped, desperate to avoid the mines and the mills, he turned his attention to singing, changed his name to “Dean Martin”, and – thanks to a serendipitous team-up with a madcap young comic named Jerry Lewis and a key endorsement from famous friend and fan Frank Sinatra (both of whom are featured significantly throughout the film) – he soon skyrocketed to greater heights of popularity and success than he ever dreamed.

But as RZA went on to observe: “No matter how great Dean Martin became, the child in him remained. That child could be smothered by other things as you live through life, but eventually – like that same blade of grass that grows through the concrete – that child will come back up and show itself.”

If he only knew…

Dean may have left Ohio and its painful memories behind, but that bullied little boy from Steubenville never left him.

He was who he always was.

***

“Dean was quite a doctor.” ~ Barbara Rush (actress)

I think he actually looks nervous.

On the set of The Young Lions, life imitated art in a big way. This 1958 war epic paired Dean with method heavy-hitters Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift. (After his supernova-like partnership with Jerry disintegrated and his first solo outing – a romantic comedy called Ten Thousand Bedrooms that tried to recreate the magic of Martin and Lewis without Lewis – failed, this blatant stunt-casting was a last-ditch attempt to redirect his crashing career.) Dean co-stars as Michael Whiteacre, a reluctant draftee who become fast and unlikely friends with Monty’s Noah Ackerman after a chance meeting at their physical exam. The story follows them from basic training and combat through the end of World War II, tracking how their experiences parallel those of Christian (Marlon Brando) – a hopeful German who enlists to fight for his country. Only two will make it home.

In one particularly touching segment, highly principled but nerdy Noah is determined to stand up to bullies in his platoon through boxing. Cooler yet somewhat self-centered and cowardly Michael is thoroughly against the idea, but he can’t bear to let his buddy go it alone. At Noah’s endearingly earnest request, “Would you act as my second?”, he begrudgingly arranges the matches, stands at the edge of each fight (trying to appear detached, though he feels every punch), and helps Noah back to his feet after he’s inevitably knocked down again, and again, and again.

Dean & Monty as Michael & Noah…To me, THIS is what friendship looks like.

Behind the scenes, cast members could see that Monty, who had taken as little time off as possible following a devastating car crash, was in more physical pain than he let on – but only Dean took drastic measures to help. As Barbara Rush, who played Michael’s girlfriend, recalls: “Montgomery Clift just loved him. They were very fond of each other…He was so thin, and he was ill. He was hurt. Dean was quite a doctor. He’d pick him up. And he carried him. He carried him around the set…They were brothers. They were each other’s best friend.”

Montgomery Clift’s car after his accident…

While that may sound like a dramatic exaggeration, an audio clip from what appears to be a retrospective interview conducted in Dean’s later years confirms her recollection. He says of Monty: “He was so sick. He was, you know, in that wreck. And nobody paid any attention to him. I used to carry him to the restaurant, and – I loved him so much because he was so helpless. But nobody else paid attention to him.” Take a minute to see that image in your mind’s eye: Dean Martin, literally carrying Montgomery Clift wherever he needs to go. Let it sink in…I can think of no better picture of compassion.

Dean took action to keep someone from being overlooked, and from that kindness came a genuine friendship – one that was beneficial to both of them. In addition to the very real chemistry they created on screen in the film itself, Dean helped Monty endure the shoot, and Monty, according to Deana, taught Dean how to act. (Dean carried Monty; Monty taught Dean how to stand on his own.) Then, after turning down the chance to star in another Howard Hawks’ Western that would re-team him with John Wayne and Walter Brennan, Monty suggested his friend Dean for the part – that of Dude, a struggling, alcoholic deputy in the now classic Rio Bravo. And the rest, as they say, is history…

The bullied little boy on horseback got to live the dream…

*After reading my first post about Dean (and unknowingly talking me down from my almost-manic overreaction to its many typos), my blogging buddy Eva-Joy, of The Caffeinated Fangirl, sent me this postcard. The message on the back means even more than the picture on the front.*

Be sure to check out her blog! She is as thoughtful a writer as she is a friend.

There’s one more moment in The Young Lions I must highlight. In a scene set in a sick bay, while a bloodied and bruised Noah is being patched up after a third brutal beating, Michael tries to persuade his friend to forget about the final fight that would pit him against the toughest guy in the camp. While a resolved and unaffected Noah looks at him through a swollen eye and continues to protest through an even more swollen lip, Michael becomes more and more agitated – culminating in an instance of pure, subtle, seemingly improvised brilliance in which Noah winces and Michael shoots an alarmed, then dagger-filled, look at the medic tending his wounds. Unable to take anymore, Michael adamantly declares that if Noah insists on getting pummeled again, he’ll have to do it on his own – and turns to go.

But as he reaches the door, Noah stops him and asks, “You’ll be around?” Without hesitation, Michael looks back, and softly replies, “Mmm-hmm.”…I’m at a loss to accurately describe the loaded, unspoken meaning that courses beneath the surface here, except to say it’s a small yet magnificent wonder to behold.

Perhaps Noah is merely asking Michael if he’ll wait outside for him – as Michael is next seen doing just that. But I think what Noah’s really saying is, “Hey, I know you’re concerned about me and don’t like to see me in pain, but you were just blowing off steam and will be at that fight, right?” To which Michael’s “Mmm-hmm” is a devoted reassurance of, “You know I will.”

Of course, this is nowhere near the end of the movie, and that promise is immediately tested, because these boys have a long way to go. But don’t we all need someone like that in our lives?

“You’ll be around?”

“Mmm-hmm.”

Best friends…

***

“But I said, ‘Shouldn’t you be back out at your party?’ And he said, ‘Nah. They don’t need me.’” ~ Henry Jaglon (director & author)

Rio Bravo would be the apex of Dean’s dramatic career, but film was still his top priority for a brief time (with mixed results) – until he shrewdly sensed a shift in the landscape of popular music. With crooning going squarely out of style, he felt he needed to refocus his energy and adopt a different approach if he wanted to remain a relevant voice in his original field of expertise.

His old pal Frank Sinatra stepped up at the perfect time once again by scoring Dean a “comeback” booking at The Sands in Las Vegas. It would be his first time on stage without the support of a comedic partner. He’d proven he could thrive in movies on his own, but could he entertain a crowd alone, too?

Flying solo at The Sands…

Looking back on Dean’s anxious preparation for this crucial night, Deana reflects, “I know he was nervous…I remember him saying that he needed a gimmick.” Soon, his thoughts turned to Joe E. Lewis, a bygone nightclub comic famous for his drunk act. Dean had his gimmick. (Although my question is: If your wife’s alcoholism is one of the factors that led to the breakup of your first marriage, why would you even go there?) Enlisting the assistance of Ed Simmons, one of main writers for Martin and Lewis (Norman Lear – Norman Lear! – was the other), he crafted the smiling, slurring, slightly tipsy character with whom he’d become synonymous – stumbling through songs, cracking silly, self-deprecating jokes, and acting, in the words of actor/author Ron Marasco, “as the straight man to his drunken self”.

For better or worse, an image was born.

Barry Levinson (the well-known director) and Lee Hale (musical director for The Dean Martin Show) relay with astonishment memories of perfected “spontaneity” and shot glasses filled with apple juice to illustrate how Dean the man was distinctly different from his onstage persona. However, no story drives that point home more profoundly than one told by Henry Jaglon.

When he was a young man, Henry escorted a date (presumably Natalie Wood, as a picture of them posing together is shown while he’s talking) to one of Dean and his second wife Jeanne’s regular weekend parties, which were a veritable who’s who of Hollywood elite. Around 8:00 or 9:00 pm, Dean would make his customary appearance and work the room – seemingly as delighted by the company of his friends and colleagues as they were by him. But as Henry tells it:

“I went to a party that was given by Dean Martin. It was a big affair. And I went to the bathroom. And I walked past this door that was, like, a quarter open. And I heard the television set inside, and I just looked inside a little bit. And there was Dean Martin – at his own party! – and he’s watching The Andy Griffith Show. I tried to duck back out, and he said, ‘Hey, kid. Come on in. What are you doing here? Oh, you’re from the party?’ And he said it disdainfully – and it’s his party! And he was very playful and friendly. But I said, ‘Shouldn’t you be back out at your party?’ And he said, ‘Nah. They don’t need me.’”

It was apparently common for Dean to slip away unnoticed while “Jeannie”, a natural-born hostess, and his guests enjoyed themselves without realizing he’d gone. Reportedly, he’d also call the police on his own party (pretending to be an annoyed neighbor) when he wanted to everyone to go home, so he could get a good night’s sleep before his early morning golf game.

Author James Kaplan posits that perhaps, given his working-class immigrant background, Dean felt “ill-equipped” to maintain dinner conversation with industry insiders, while (in an interview not mentioned in the documentary but featured in my first post about him), Dean described himself as “shy”. Whatever the reason, even if Henry slightly misquoted him or Dean meant it in jest (which is often just a way to mask deeply-held beliefs), the very idea is a heartbreaker:

“Nah. They don’t need me.”

***

“Dear Florence, Don’t practice too much.” ~ Dean Martin

Dean & Florence (and Carol Brady)

While rehearsing a comically acrobatic musical number the day before an appearance on The Dean Martin Show, Florence Henderson (who was not yet known the world over as the matriarch of one of TV’s most famous families, The Brady Bunch) broke a bone in her foot.

Dean was likely not present for the incident, as – hesitant to agree to host a weekly variety series when so many of his contemporaries were unsuccessful in the format, but equally hesitant to turn the offer down flat – he presented NBC with a list of purposely outrageous demands he was sure they’d refuse: mainly, he wouldn’t attend rehearsals (choosing instead to watch them on film and study scripts on the golf course), and he would only film on Sunday afternoons (after that morning’s golf game). When the network surprised him by agreeing to his stipulations without reservation, he decided the deal was too good to pass up. Thus, a nine-season sensation began.

A frequent guest on the show, Florence boasted a classically-trained voice, live-wire energy, versatile dance skills, and a particular gift for gymnastics-style physical comedy. Ever the trooper, she had her foot injected and bandaged after her rehearsal mishap, and was back in action the next day as scheduled. What followed is so incredible, it must be experienced in detail. And as I have dissected these two routines many, many times, we’re going into a play-by-play…

Florence, a picture-perfect example of “smiling through the pain…”

Interestingly, in her big number (which was designed especially for her), Florence portrays an operatic diva soldiering on while everything goes horribly wrong around her in an increasingly zany fashion. Her dress gets stepped on, chorus members block her view of the camera, she gets tangled in scarf-like props, and finally, she’s flipped upside down and all around by an ensemble of clownishly inept dancing boys (which is how she broke her foot). Although her character slowly falls apart – at one point even bursting into fake tears – Florence herself has it all together. Her every note and every step are confident and precise, no matter how deceptively ridiculous.

So, when her shoe pops off (during, in an even more ironic twist, the exact same move in which she injured herself in the first place), it seems like part of the routine when she hurriedly tosses it aside and goes on to tap dance on her broken, and now shoeless, foot. You’d never know anything was amiss.

Until Dean Martin steps out, fresh and ready for their duet which is to follow almost immediately – leaving poor Florence barely any time to even catch her breath. Before making his way to her, he casually saunters over, picks up her shoe, and places it on her foot as they chat. For her part, she’s still as calm and poised as ever – though her eyes are a little wild and her smile frays at the edges. And when he gently makes light of her “sore toe”, she lets out a surprised, breathy “A-ha ha ha!” that’s a bit too sunny and one-hundred-percent fake. (I know, because I’ve done it.) The last thing she wants to do is laugh about her “toe”, but she’s maintains her composure.

Then, when the music starts (for what is yet another insanely active number), something within her amps up. Either Dean’s special brand of rehearsal failed him on this occasion or her sudden shift threw him off his game (my bet is the latter), because he instantly goes blank and is seemingly dazed with shock. His “What are you shoutin’ about?” is probably the closest he’d come to saying “Chill, woman!” – at least on television. But she doesn’t take the hint. Her hyperactivity makes Jerry Lewis seem tame by comparison. She tries to be funny, and she is, but in a way that feels forced. There’s this sense that she’s almost fighting against Dean as she attacks their song like a steamroller. And maybe I’m projecting, especially since she seems to idle high in her natural state anyway, but I see determination cranking up to an unhealthy level. This is a woman who is powering through. She’s going to be hilarious and charming and finish this performance as planned if it kills them both, darn it – and she’s going to do it right.

Suddenly, Dean matches her level for a split second, then goes for a pratfall – and takes her down with him. As their music continues playing, he seems to signal to her (based on his face and body language), “I don’t know why. I just thought it’d be a good idea.” They laugh hysterically and go on with the show, right from the floor.

As they curl up into each other, you can feel Florence’s energy slowly shift once more (this time easing back down), and before they bounce up to their feet again, she gives him the tiniest peck of a kiss. As they goof off and gallup around like a couple of crazy kids, something about her is subtly but definitely different. She moves with a lightness that wasn’t there before. Her laughter is genuine; her smile, relaxed. Dean remains hopelessly lost (even pretending to be blind once it’s clear he’s not going to get back on track), but they roll with it together as she guides him along.

Consciously or unconsciously, by ad-libbing that fall (and holding her as she fell), it’s as if he told her, “However this works out, it’s going to be fine. Just enjoy yourself!” He gave her permission to let go of her idea of perfection, loosen up, and have some fun. (And with her little kiss, it’s clear that, on some level, she got the message.) The result is far more memorable than any perfectly polished routine ever would have been.

In King of Cool, Florence calls Dean “a dear soul”.

This portion of the documentary (Florence retelling the basics of what happened interspersed with clips of their performance) captivated me, because somehow, I knew there had to be more to the story. Sure enough, in an interview for The Archive of American Television, Florence spoke fondly of Dean:

“He knew how much I liked to rehearse. I’m a rehearsal freak. He gave me a picture of the two of us together, and it said, ‘Dear Florence, Don’t practice too much.’ And he once said to me – and I thought this was an interesting comment about television – he said, ‘You know…television, you don’t want to practice too much – ‘cause then you might get too good, and then nobody watches you.’ And I thought that was very interesting, because what he was saying really was, don’t be afraid to make a mistake. Don’t be afraid to be human.”

Hmm. Maybe there’s a lesson in there for me, too.

“Arthur Murray taught me dancing in a hurry…”

Dean and Florence’s pratfall-inducing duet, in all its glory.

If you’d like to see both numbers, here’s the full episode. (The picture quality’s quite poor, but it’s still very much worth a watch.)

***

”All we need to do is look at Dean and Christmas to appreciate how much he valued family.” ~ Charles Granata (writer)

The Dean Martin Show pulled out all the stops at Christmastime. One particularly amusing episode featured children of the guests, cast, and crew – who, armed with noisemakers and trusted with considerable freedom, filled a soundstage to sing carols and open gifts. (It’s as adorably chaotic as it sounds. God bless Gunsmoke’s Dennis Weaver, who coordinated the song that featured the noisemakers like a champ.)

A cavalcade of stars made cameo appearances each year to announce the medical centers around the country that were slated to receive toys for their patients on behalf of the show, with the first shoutout always going to St. John’s Hospital in Dean’s hometown of Steubenville, Ohio. (He was who he was.)

The whole Martin & Sinatra “pack”…

But in 1967, the show produced the ultimate Christmas special. Featured alongside Dean were his wife Jeannie, his bestie Frank, and all the children of both families, who performed in various combos with their famous fathers. Even fellow Rat Packer Sammy Davis, Jr., dressed as Santa, popped in for a visit! (Dean’s friendship with Sammy, especially in relation to The Rat Pack’s association with JFK, is a story for another day.) Though some members of each family are obviously more comfortable in the spotlight than others, the love and warmth within the group feels true. Watching them together, you’d never know the storms the Martins had weathered to get there.

Dean & Betty

Dean’s first wife, Elizabeth Anne McDonald, was an indispensable source of motivation and support for Dean in the early years of his career, who even travelled with him until sometime after their son (the first child of four) was born. After years of struggle, they were finally able to afford a nice home and bring the rest of Dean’s family out to join them in California – with Dean buying his parents a house of their own and making brother Bill his business manager.

Eventually, their marriage became strained. Betty grew dependent on alcohol, and Dean, unhappy at home, reportedly made a practice of infidelity while on the road – until he got serious about Jeanne Biegger, whom he later married.

Deana says her dad stayed close by after divorcing her mother and would still come over on special occasions – especially Christmas (although she admits thinking about this still makes her sad). When Betty became unable to care for the children, who were now being passed among relatives, Dean’s ex-sister-in-law dropped them off on his and Jeannie’s doorstep.

Dean and Jeannie, who would have three kids of their own, were granted custody – bringing together, all told and counting themselves, a family of nine (plus, of course, Dean’s parents and brother), who, against all odds, became remarkably close. Deana remembers, “All of us together at 601 Mountain Drive – that was the happy place.” Dinner around the table was a nightly event, featuring every member of the household and usually some friends, often including the Sinatras and their three children.

Dean, Jeannie & family

In a recent interview with People magazine, Tina, Frank’s youngest daughter, recalls, “We were close-knit and far more average than most people thought. The camaraderie between families started with the youngest and went to the oldest, and that’s really true. My mother and Jeanne were fond of each other, so it was heartfelt, every bit of it…We did spend time and holidays together and it was special…We were like one big pack.”

So, getting the whole gang together for Christmas on Dean’s show seemed like a logical move. There was just one problem: several of the kids had never performed on camera before. But what was seen as fun by most was more than nerve-racking to one in particular. Tina, who was in high school at the time, continues, “”I truly was thinking I was going to die of heart failure that day. I arrived at NBC and sat in my car outside the studio thinking, ‘Well, I just won’t show up. They’ll be fine. They’ll do it without me. Deana can sing two parts.’ I did not want to make a fool of myself…I mustered the energy, and as soon as I walked in and saw how everybody else was natural, was comfortable. I felt more natural doing it – I thought ‘OK, what a good way to die. If you’re going to die, you’ll do it having a good time.’”

Dean with Deana, and Frank & Tina Sinatra

(“I thought, ‘OK, what a good way to die.’”…Tina and I may be kindred spirits.)

Yet once again, Dean sensed what others missed and knew what to do about it. Tina reveals he made a concentrated effort to help her overcome her anxiety. “Dean knew that I was nervous. He knew his kids were fine. He knew I wasn’t, and he made me feel really good. He was a wonderful guy.” (Additionally, Tina notes he also, to quote the article, “rushed to her side when she was in a car accident as a teen” and “later shouldered the task of informing the Sinatra children that their father was marrying [Mia] Farrow, who was much closer to their age than his.”)

Dean’s daughter Gail joined Tina for this interview – to help her promote the episode’s then current rebroadcast on PBS (which took place last December) and share her own reminiscences of her dad and “Uncle Frank”. While the girls lauded each man as highly the other, they confirmed that, of the two “pallies” (Frank and Dean’s affectionate nickname for one another), it was Frank who liked an exciting nightlife, while Dean, “despite his hard-drinking persona, preferred golfing and watching Westerns at home on TV”. But their friendship stood the test of time because, “work was important, but so was home, and they had that much in common.” Gail made one more observation about her dad that really stood out to me. Regarding how freely he gave gifts to his children, she mused:

“He was sort of Santa, any day and every day.”

Dean with his daughter Gail, and Frank & Nancy Sinatra

(My Christmas wish is to hang out with this crew!
)

***

“There’s a line in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, ‘The grief that does not speak, whispers over the fraught heart – and bids it break.’” ~ Ron Marasco (actor & author)

By 1966, Dean was king. The “analfabeta” from Steubenville, who most people doubted would survive in the world of entertainment without a partner, was now a film star, solo recording artist (who had just bumped The Beatles out of the number one spot on the charts with his new hit, “Everybody Loves Somebody”), and host of a highly-rated TV show, who had withstood personal setbacks to create a thriving family and professional life.

Dean with his parents…

Then, on Christmas Day of that same year, his mother passed away – followed soon by his father and his brother. During the most prolific period of his career, Dean suffered three major losses within the span of eighteen months. Yet he wouldn’t (or possibly couldn’t) take time away from work. True to the hallmark of his childhood, “keep yourself to yourself”, he coped alone, never letting anyone see the depth of his grief – though renowned talk-show host Dick Cavett shared about the night he caught an unexpected glimpse:

“I couldn’t believe I was asked to be on The Dean Martin Show. And after the show, I went out into the dark NBC parking lot, and I saw [Dean] get into his limousine. As he came by, I could just see him in the back seat – slumped, looking quite sad. And I waved to him. He waved back. I thought, ‘This is show business. Poor man gave everything in that performance tonight.’”

Visibly saddened by the memory, he concludes, “Seeing him slumped in the back of a dark limousine on a dark night looking very – unhappy, is unfortunately the image that remains with me.”

Considering Dean’s intensely private nature, I can’t help but wonder: who was there to carry him when he needed it? Was he so distant or in such denial, he pushed away anyone who tried to help bear his burdens? Or did no one pay enough attention to realize just how badly he was hurting?

He may be posing here – but look at that face. There’s a lot going on.

Unwilling or unable to process his pain, Dean became caught in a downward spiral. His marriage to Jeannie crumbled, due in large part to a lack of communication (in an audio clip, she is matter-of-fact: “He just didn’t talk. What can I tell you?”) and his relationship with Cathy Hawn. When Jeannie divorced him in 1973, he quickly married Cathy – only to file for divorce himself three years later.

Dean & Cathy with her daughter Sasha, whom he adopted

Addiction once kept at bay began to take its toll. While the documentary makes it plain that he was “hooked on pills in his later years”, it doesn’t mention that he had a long-term dependence on Percodan – which was commonly prescribed and otherwise easily accessible at the time, despite its potency. Dean’s introduction to it may have been through a golfing injury or even a dental problem, though such specifics (including when and why his use crossed a life-altering line) are ultimately unclear.

Which brings us, in a way, to Mack Gray – a mysterious figure who, though conspicuously absent from King of Cool, was heavily present in Dean’s career and was, depending on the source, either a personal friend beloved by the family or, to put it bluntly, his dealer. (Perhaps both are true.) Researching their connection may be my next Dean-related project.

Dean & The Golddiggers – a phenomenon that got gaudier and bawdier as time went on

In a case of art imitating life, things on The Dean Martin Show got strange and sad. If you’ve never seen Dean and Bing Crosby (both with bushy sideburns), surrounded by shimmy dancers and trying to groove while crooning “Put you hand in the hand of the man who stilled the water…”, trust me – once is more than enough. What pushes it from bizarrely awkward to unfortunately pathetic territory is, while Bing maintains a semblance of dignity (which is pitiful enough on its own, considering how poorly suited he is for what he’s trying to do), Dean seemingly couldn’t care less.

Was he hopped up, or merely employing the Italian concept of “menefreghista”, which means, “he who doesn’t give a ____” (fill in the blank with the four-letter word of your choice)? Maybe one led to the other. At any rate, what was once a mystical element of his “cool” gradually turned self-destructive. A general malaise had crept into his work by this point anyway (one which still mars his overall reputation to this day), but the episodes and movies from this decade truly bother me. I can’t watch this bright, sensitive, talented, “dear soul” try to numb himself out of existence and call it entertainment.

This is just sad. There’s no other word for it.

(I wonder if the funky microphone was necessary due to his decreased lung capacity.)

Friends interviewed in King of Cool knew Dean was mired in “a bit of a depression he couldn’t shake”. And, on October 29th, 1970, the world got a poignant glimpse at just how vulnerable he really was…

The documentary asserts that, in this palpably emotional performance of his old-fashioned country-western single “My Woman, My Woman, My Wife”, Dean was already “deeply grieving” the loss of Jeannie – which, even though they were technically still married at the time, is certainly plausible, especially given his previous pattern of unfaithfulness under stress. Regardless, he’s clearly going through something. This man is breaking apart on television, despite his best efforts to hold himself together. It’s a testament to his consummate professionalism that he doesn’t come completely unglued.

“I lost control of my life and my soul…”

If you only watch one video in any of my posts, make it this one.

I think Ron Marasco has it right. In elaborating on the quote from Macbeth, he explains, “Grief that you hold onto, it wants to get out. And so it breaks the heart to get out.”

***

“I remember the implosion of my grandfather…” ~ Alexander Martin (Dean’s grandson)

Dean rallied again in the 1980s – reconciling with Jeannie (though they never remarried) and getting his habits under control – only to face yet another tragedy: the death of his son, Dino, Jr.

Known professionally as Dean Paul Martin, Dino Jr. was an actor and singer in his own right, as well as an officer in the Air National Guard. In March 1987, at the age of 35, he was declared missing after his plane crashed into the San Bernardino Mountains while lost in a snowstorm. A days-long search ensued.

Alexander remembers the fateful moment his family was informed his father’s body had been found:

“Eventually, someone had to come and tell us – and tell my grandfather…I remember the implosion of my grandfather – sitting in his chair, actually – the sinking that happened. That moment has stayed with me. The impact of this, what this man has just said to my grandfather, has made a huge dent. And this larger-than-life person has shrank just a little bit.”

Dean with Alexander (left), youngest son Ricci (right) & family

He never fully recovered. Years of failing health and a loss of interest in life followed – a slow and steady decline that included a lung cancer diagnosis. And then, on December 25th, 1995, as his mother had done exactly twenty-nine years before him, Dino Crocetti went home for Christmas.

***

“Our idols – our parents – they age. But then something interesting happens. The declining person dies. And they’re no longer the declining person. In a weird way, you get them back. They return to being everything that they were.” ~ Ron Marasco

On that night in November, as I sat perched on my bed – starving (I still had not eaten dinner), re-editing like mad, mentally kicking myself, and occasionally flitting my attention to the TV screen – this was the thought that not only pierced through my distraction, but shattered it completely. And before I knew it, I was crying…

The first time I put together the story of someone’s life and shared it with others was when I wrote my grandmother’s eulogy and read it at her funeral. She had been in a slow and steady decline of her own for so many years due to dementia, by the time she passed away, I was afraid that, ironically, everyone had forgotten who she really was.

You’d never connect my grandmother with Dean Martin. Like me (the apple who didn’t fall far from the tree), she wasn’t necessarily “cool”. In fact, I’m sure her genetic influence has a great deal to do with why I tortured myself to meet a totally inconsequential deadline that I made up and why I (along with the Regis Philbins and Florence Hendersons and Tina Sinatras of the world) need regular doses of Dean just to remember to breathe.

But Norman Lear called him “mesmerizing in his complication”, and the same could very much be said of her. She was complex. She was difficult to understand (and at times, even more so to live with). But she was also spectacular – and she deserved to be remembered for more than just her oversimplified final years. So I used the completed question-and-answer journal she’d given me as inspiration for fashioning the best tribute I could. And through that process – though I’d never realized it until I heard those words expressed to me just that way – I got her back.

Deana & her dad

Flooded with emotion from memories of that time, hunger and typos now entirely forgotten, I felt I understood on a very personal level why Deana Martin wanted this film to be made:

A few sad, or even frustrating, chapters do not define a life story – and death does not end it. When you honor someone’s memory in light of their whole experience, “they return to being everything that they were”. That’s a beautiful gift.

And as for the film that told his story? I think the King of Cool would approve.

***

Now I want to hear from you!: Have you seen King of Cool? (Or would you like to?) Did you learn something about Dean you didn’t know before – either from the documentary itself or maybe from this post? What’s your favorite Dean Martin moment? Is there anything else you’d like to chat about? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

Subscribe via email or follow along on WordPress, so you’ll know when I post something new. I’d love to connect with you!

(And please help others find the Connection by liking, reblogging, and sharing, too. Thank you!)

Advertisement

43 thoughts on “King of Cool: A Personal Review”

  1. Dino was as suave as suave can get, always a gentleman. I liked he was a private person when not performing, preferring to watch TV or read in a quiet space instead of being in a crowded party. I remember seeing an interview with him on YouTube, it was after his son Dean-Paul died in that tragic accident, he was a guest on a UK morning show, and the lady interviewing him told her colleagues before the segment aired that she couldn’t tell if he was tipsy like his persona implied or if he was just that good of an actor – I’d go with he was that good of an actor. Sometimes I don’t think he ever gets enough credit for his skills, I actually prefer him over Frank Sinatra.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I prefer him over Frank now, too – which is really saying something, because I’ve always been (and still am) such a Sinatra fan. Before I saw Some Came Running and Rio Bravo last summer, I completely fell for Dean’s image (which I didn’t care for) and totally underestimated him. I wonder if a lot of people do that. :/

      It’s funny you mention that interview, because there’s a very quick clip of it in King of Cool – where she offers condolences and he responds. (Or at least, I assume it was the same interview…It was after Dean Paul’s death, and the interviewer was English.) Seeing just that isolated moment, where he was being totally serious, I don’t think he was tipsy at all. So, yes, if he appeared to be at other points, I bet it was an act. I want to see the whole interview now! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Hi, Tony! 🙂 Is this the video you mentioned?: https://youtu.be/UFtg2yZW0cU

      It is the one briefly featured in King of Cool. I believe he was totally sober here (and, in terms of alcohol, likely always was – note the sort of disdainful way he says “drunk jokes”), and you’re right, he’s such a gentleman. In fact, he seems to be an absolute sweetheart. ❤

      King of Cool implies that once Dean Paul died, Dean didn’t want to work at all anymore and became reclusive. And the clip taken from here is when the interviewer offers her condolences and his response – in which he does seem to be holding back emotion. His whole demeanor does shift anytime Dean Paul is mentioned (even when he brings him up himself – it’s like he says his name naturally, then catches himself), and his death is clearly difficult for him to talk about. But what’s particularly interesting to me is that he seems intent on performing and perfectly content with doing so.

      Of course, something did change at some point, because the Rat Pack reunion tour (which he didn’t want to do) undeniably did not go well. But the documentary makes it seem like the progression went from “Dean Paul’s death” straight to “no desire to perform”. There’s got to be a missing step somewhere. :/

      He also says he and Jeannie are getting remarried as if it’s a fact, and we know that never happened. (Bless his heart.) So, something had to go wrong.

      I can see three possibilities:

      • This was more of a denial phase, where his immediate reaction was “It’s fine. I’m fine. Everything’s fine.” – and he honestly believed that – but the true impact of his grief hadn’t struck him yet. I strongly suspect he and I are quite similar in personality, and I know that’s always my first, automatic reaction. It’s a coping mechanism that helps in the moment, but it can unexpectedly make things tough later, when all of a sudden, something hits me and I have to deal with it on a deeper level.

      • People get tender and can grow close after a tragedy – but that can change later, once life returns to normal. Maybe what actually shut him down was the realization that he and Jeannie were never going to remarry. Not that I blame her. It was probably better for her own peace of mind that they didn’t. If I’d been through what she had, I think I would’ve stood my ground, too – just to protect myself. But that doesn’t mean the consequences of his own choices weren’t devastating to him, especially if he realized there was nothing he could do to repair them.

      • Or it’s possible he weathered those trials just fine and the real issue was his own physical decline. He looks far healthier here than he ever did for that reunion tour, which was just the next year. Maybe he really did have dementia (of which I’ve read speculation, though never confirmation), and it started to change his behavior sooner than anyone realized. (Looking back, that’s what happened to my grandmother, too.)

      Of course, it doesn’t have to be only one option. Maybe it’s a combo, and one affected the other – like dominoes. If so, poor guy. 😦

      What do you think?

      Liked by 1 person

    3. Yes, that’s the exact video, good detective work there! I read somewhere that he and Jeannie remained on good terms even after their divorce, in fact I believe he called her when Dean Paul’s death really sunk in and he told her he didn’t think he could go on anymore. She convinced him to keep going, that there were people who cared about him, and that Dean Paul would say the same thing to him.

      I think physically he was starting to deteriorate, tragedy and stress will do that, but I also think he was able to move forward mentally thanks to support from friends and family. He was definitely there mentally until the end, but physically it was getting tougher and tougher.

      Liked by 1 person

    4. King of Cool noted that they reconciled (and Dean, and their friends, always wanted them to remarry), but I didn’t know that part of the story. 😮 Again, bless his heart! 😦

      I’ve never found a source trustworthy enough to officially give credence to the dementia theory, so I’m glad you can confirm it’s off base. That’s such a tragic disease. Of course, cancer’s no better, and King of Cool’s producer did say Dean actually started to really drink later on to help manage the pain it caused him. So, maybe any behavior perceived as out of the norm was due to that.

      However, the “lit cigarette” story from the Rat Pack tour is credibly verifiable (via the LA Times – it happened when their critic was there reviewing the show), and that was no more than a year later. Of the three possibilities I suggested to explain such a drastic change, it sounds like the first one may be closest to the truth – which totally lines up with my sense of his personality.

      On the one hand, I can’t deny I’m pleased that I’m probably reading him correctly. But on the other, my heart hurts for him, because I know what a complicated, crushing defense strategy that can be, especially when the impact finally hits. :/ And it makes me think…Like I said in my post, I am most certainly not “cool” 🙂 – but what I didn’t say is I have often been described as “calm” / “calming”. And I do like to maintain an easygoing, peaceful stasis (for myself and others) as much as possible – but, deep down, that’s not always how I really feel. I know how stressed, and anxious, and crazy I can get, even if it’s on a level that most people can’t see. So I have to wonder if there was a lot more going on inside the “King of Cool” than anyone ever truly knew. 😦

      Thanks so much for mentioning that interview. 🙂 I’m glad I finally took the time to seek it out, because it’s led to an even deeper rabbit hole and made this whole experience richer. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Fascinating post, Jillian!

    I’m especially intrigued by Dean Martin’s immigrant background and how he changed his name in order to break into acting. So many Americans from Southern and Eastern Europe in the twentieth century felt that same pressure to change their names in order to assimilate (or just get paid and put food on the table, period). Including quite a few members of my own family.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! 🙂 ❤ I’m glad you enjoyed it!

      I’m sorry your family experienced that pressure. 😦 I’m sure it creates such an identity crisis. Now that I think about it, I don’t see how anyone who’s faced with that kind of choice can keep from internalizing the idea that “who I am isn’t good enough to get what I need”. What a terrible message to carry with you. 😦 That adds a whole new dimension to Dean’s story I hadn’t considered before. Thanks for the insight. 🙂

      This is something you have in common with Martin Sheen (as that issue’s a big deal in the Sheen/Estevez family). That’s pretty cool, at least. 🙂 I know there’s a video on YouTube where he and Emilio talk about their names. I really want to watch it now. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I know! I can’t imagine being pushed to change my name, to change the very way I identify myself, to please other people.

      My family was from Eastern Europe (Poland and Lithuania) and arrived in the U.S. in the early 1900s, when nativist prejudice was very strong. So most of the women in the family changed their names–I believe the men did too, but I don’t know as much about them. Sophia became “Susan,” Petra became “Pearl,” Magdalena became “Margaret,” Constanzia became “Katie.” Which you might assume is the reason I’m named Katie myself–I don’t //think// my parents consciously named me after that particular great-aunt, but I like to pretend I’m named after her anyway.

      Oh wow, I should look that up!

      Liked by 1 person

    3. How interesting! 😀 I love family history…The only side of mine I know anything about is my maternal grandfather’s. My great-grandparents’ grandparents were immigrants, but I have no clue what century that would be. 🙂 My great-grandfather’s family were Dutch, and my great-grandmother’s were Irish. I don’t know any names, though. (That’s SO cool! 😀 And I say go ahead and own that you’re named after your great-aunt. 🙂 Even if it was coincidental, that’s still a special connection. Who knows – maybe you were meant to have her name, and your parents just THINK they chose it. 😉)

      Aside from a possible Jewish background on the Dutch side that may have been abandoned over time (and that’s just total speculation on my part), I don’t think changing identity was part of my family’s history (unless an “O” was dropped from the Irish side at some point). People in my part of the country tend to feel those with a Scottish or Irish background get overlooked when it comes to marginalized groups – and economically, that’s absolutely true. (They were a dirt poor people who, generations upon generations later, are in large parts still struggling to either stay or even rise above the poverty line.) But in our righteous indignation, I think we forget there are issues we didn’t have to face to the same degree as others – such as completely changing our names.

      As for Dean, it does seem that he was willing to do whatever was necessary to make his singing career work, especially since he saw it as his only desirable option. So I think he took whatever “help” or advice came down the pike in the beginning, just in an effort to get ahead. But, like I said (thanks to you getting my brain working in that direction), I can’t see now how a change like that didn’t negatively affect him in SOME way…Also, one of the interviewees was the owner of an Italian restaurant Dean used to frequent in his later years, and he just happened to off-handedly comment that when Dean would call for a reservation, he’d say, “This is Dino Crocetti.” So, he still called himself by that name, at least at that point in time and in some situations. He never truly let it go.

      Or, like Martin Sheen, he may have never legally changed it. 🙂 I had to look up that video since I mentioned it to you. I was just too curious. 😉 You can thank YouTube for bringing it to my attention. (It knows me so well! 🙂) Bur it had stopped recommending it to me, so I had to search – and I found there are actually several short videos from the same interview. They’re not grouped together in a playlist, unfortunately. But if you search: Martin Sheen Emilio Estevez “hudsonunionsociety” (that’s the channel), they should all pop up. 🙂

      This one is about their names: https://youtu.be/h_oMkQY2ico

      To hear Martin talk, he didn’t feel too badly about it. But I notice that Emilio said he encouraged him “not make the same mistake I did”. So, clearly, he had to regret it eventually. Again, I think on some emotional level, that HAS to stay with you.

      And this one is about Martin’s parents’ immigration stories: https://youtu.be/CqQtRUhih6I

      I think they’re really neat. 🙂 And I noticed something else: I know they’re actors, but they seem to genuinely enjoy listening to each other talk ❤ (until Emilio starts to brag on him, then Martin looks SUPER uncomfortable!). And, also – he wrote a book??? 😀

      I hope you enjoy! 🙂 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    4. Wait–wait–

      Martin Sheen’s real name is Ramón Estévez? I HAD NO IDEA!!! How did I miss this?? I knew his son was Emilio Estévez, but I’ve never been good at researching actors’ stories and I guess I just assumed he was adopted or something. This is wild. I had absolutely no inkling that Martin Sheen (Ramón Estévez) had Spanish heritage as well as Irish. My mind is well and truly blown.

      Thank you so much for telling me the story and sharing the videos with me, Jillian! I know something really cool now that I didn’t know before! My historian’s brain is happy ❤

      I love knowing that Dean Martin at least got to use his real name some of the time. It's sweet to think about him dialing the Italian restaurants and saying "Hi, this is Dino Crocetti." "Oh yes, Mr. Crocetti, what can we do for you?"

      Liked by 1 person

    5. Oh, good. This makes me feel better. 🙂 I’ve been partial to all of the Sheen men ever since I can remember (love Martin and had a crush on both sons 😉), but I didn’t know about their names for YEARS. I used to think Emilio was just trying to be different. 🙂 (Charlie’s real name is Carlos Estevez, if you’re wondering how he fits in.) I’m so happy to have introduced you to the Estevez family and Mr. Crocetti. 😉 ❤

      And I’m glad our conversation inspired me to track down those videos. I’ve enjoyed them, too! 🙂 I particularly appreciate Emilio’s perspective on “growing up together” with his parents and “watching them develop”. I’m an only child of young parents, so that touched me. Both father and son really seem to be insightful, eloquent guys. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    6. Right?? I knew Emilio was Martin’s son, but I think I assumed he was adopted, or from a previous marriage, or a stepson. It never occurred to me that his last name might be Martin’s ACTUAL NAME!

      Funny story–I went on Facebook yesterday to be like “how many of y’all knew this and were just hiding it from me??” Apparently my dad’s cousin knew the Estevez family’s real name because he KNOWS EMILIO ESTEVEZ IN REAL LIFE, hung out with him as a young man and went to parties at his house and even met Martin Sheen!!! I ask you!!!

      I almost thought my dad’s cousin might be pulling my leg, but no, the story appears to be genuine. (And he’s from California, which makes a certain amount of sense.)

      Aw! Yes, that is so sweet ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    7. That…is…AMAZING!!! 😀 So you’re, like, two or three degrees from Martin and Emilio (like that game “six degrees from Kevin Bacon”)??? That’s close enough to celebrity-status in my book! 😉

      If you’re dad’s cousin has any stories to share, I’d love to hear them 🙂 (just because I’m curious and nosy). Even if you keep it just between the two of you, I’d still have a conversation with this guy if I were in your shoes, just to see what else he’s hiding from you. 😉 Heck, if I were you, I’d be like, “Hey, dad’s cousin – are you still in touch with these guys? Let’s have a meet-and-greet!” 😀 (I’d have no chill about this. 😉) SO COOL. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    8. Ha, right?? I’m going to use this as my big claim to fame from now on xD “My dad’s cousin is a personal friend of Emilio Estevez…”

      You know, I really should! I’ve never met my dad’s cousin in person because we live too far apart, but I’m thinking I’ll have to invite him to my wedding if I ever get married, and then slip him a cold beer and be like “Now then, Bill, tell me more about the days when you were a youngster in California hobnobbing with famous movie stars…”

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I read the whole thing and loved every minute of it. Wow.

    Such a brilliant tribute to an amazing entertainer, actor, and singer.

    “Dean carried Monty; Monty showed Dean how to stand on his own.” LOVE how you put that! Gave me all the feels. And, obviously, I need to watch The Young Lions now–for Dean and Montgomery Clift AND Brando. (I think we own the DVD already…)

    I didn’t know all of that about Dean’s backstory, so that was really fascinating.

    And the ending of the post made me cry, literally cry, particularly that last quote. My dad died of cancer almost five years ago and during the last several weeks, he really changed to be a completely different person (mainly because of all the morphine). I felt like I didn’t even know him anymore and that was really hard. But the memories of previous times *do* come back, eventually. And good for Deana, for having this film made. ❤

    (Also, it's very special that you were able to write your grandmother's eulogy. I'm sure it was a wonderful tribute.)

    Thank you for the shout-out, by the way! I think Dean would be pretty happy to know that he was one of the reasons we became friends. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awww…Yes, I think he would, too! ❤ 🙂

      I’m so sorry about your dad. 😦 (That seems inadequate, but my heart hurts for you so much, I don’t know what else to say.) The final transition period IS really hard. My grandmother had already changed so much over time, yet it was still traumatic. I can’t imagine what it’s like with an illness that doesn’t give you quite so long to adjust – or if it was one of my parents. That’s a whole other level. 😦 I’m just very, very sorry. And I’m glad you have your siblings (and mom?) and memories of your dad. 🙂 Thankfully, it does get “easier” (which doesn’t seem like the right word at all) with time, but occasionally, something like that quote just hits me in a powerful way. (I’ve rewatched the documentary a few times now, and it still makes me cry, too.) Although that can be cathartic. 🙂

      The Young Lions is a time investment (almost 3 hours long) and a little scattered, but it’s SO totally worth it, because you just don’t get better than those three guys – separate or together. Interestingly, Brando’s got the same magical effect going on that he does in Sayonara and Guys & Dolls – he’s doing something that doesn’t come natural to him (this time, it’s a German accent), and you can TELL it’s not natural. Yet, just like with those films, he embodies the character so well, it truly doesn’t matter. You still believe him. That amazes me. 🙂

      But my favorite highlights are:

      – Every moment Dean is on screen. ❤ (He’s SO good!)
      – Every moment of Dean & Monty together. ❤ ❤ (They’re the world’s-best best friends!)
      – Noah and Hope’s first “date”. ❤ ❤ ❤ (I won’t say why.) 😉

      Actually, it’s length is probably due to the fact that it’s not just a combat movie. There’s definitely some fighting, but there’s also lots of time spent with these guys on a personal level, which I really like. ❤

      If it turns out you don’t have it, there are some uploads on YouTube. 🙂 The one from the channel “DK Classics” is the best I’ve seen. Hi-def and everything. 🙂

      *Also, would you like to know what Dean’s “Rosebud” was? 🙂 If so, I’ll message you on Insta.*

      Like

    2. Thank you, friend. ❤ Yes, I do still have my siblings (seven of them!) and my mom. It does get easier over time–but both easier and harder, if that makes sense. I totally get what you mean about some things hitting you out of the blue. That's what your post did for me! (But don't feel bad–it was sooo good.)

      I will definitely return to this comment after I watch The Young Lions so that I can properly understand all your favorite things about it that you listed. 😉 I LOVE war movies that dive into the characters' personal lives and drama and perspective, instead of just focusing on battle scenes!

      Liked by 1 person

    3. SEVEN siblings? Wow. 😀 I’m an only child, so I can hardly even imagine. 😮 If you all are close, I’m sure it’s really special. 🙂 (Also, it just dawned on me today that it’s almost been five years since my grandmother passed away. I bet we were going through similar difficulties at the same time. ❤️)

      I think The Young Lions might be right up your alley! 😀 (Again, it’s not perfect. Really, it’s a bit of a mess, but it’s a good mess ❤ – especially if “war/drama” is your type of film.) I look forward to reading your thoughts! 🙂

      Speaking of movies, I was going to go into something specific about Oceans 11 when we were chatting on IG yesterday, but I decided to wait until I was sure you’ve seen it. However, I will say this: Don’t be surprised if it’s a “The Sons of Katie Elder”-type experience for you. It took me two watches to truly appreciate / enjoy it. 🙂

      Also, I’ve meant to tell you: I made contact with Charity, and we follow each other now. 🙂 (I made sure to tell her you sent me her way.) And, to keep myself from really falling down the rabbit hole reading ALL her typings, I decided to look only for characters who are my exact type – INFP 9w1 sp/sx (the lowercase letters are also an Enneagram thing, called your “instinctual stack”)…and I found ONE (to match your Bob Wallace 😉) – Eloise, from Last Night in Soho: https://funkymbti.com/2022/02/13/last-night-in-soho-eloise-infp/

      After reading about it, I am confident I will never actually watch this movie (because I’m very sensitive about horror – it’s just not my thing, and this one seems particularly dark), but Eloise’s description here is FREAKISHLY relatable. 😮 I told Charity I felt a little vulnerable sharing that with her, because she has me pegged – and now she knows it. 😉

      Like

    4. I’m closer to some siblings than I am to others, but overall we all have a great time together. ❤ (I’m the oldest btw!)

      I was almost positive my family owned The Young Lions, but alas. Going to see if my library has it though…

      Ah, I should have clarified that Ocean’s 11 was a REwatch. 😄 I’ve actually seen it several times and it’s a nostalgic favorite—but it DID take me a couple viewings before I really appreciated it. So your advice is still correct. 😉

      Oh wow!!! I’m so happy that you and Charity have ‘met.’ That’s awesome. And yes, she is FRIGHTENINGLY good at reading personality types! 😳😄 She actually published a book recently that explores each MBTI type in depth—it’s called 16 Kinds of Crazy. Such dedication!!

      Liked by 1 person

    5. The oldest of eight. That is so neat. It’s like Little Women x2 or The Waltons or something. ❤ (Oh, my goodness. 😮 Have you seen The Waltons? You’re John-Boy!!! The oldest of, I forget how many siblings – maybe seven or eight – AND he’s a writer! 😀)

      If you have access to YouTube, you can find The Young Lions there, too. 🙂 (That’s how I watch it.) The channel “DK Classics” has the best upload I’ve seen so far. Hi-def and everything.

      I must’ve been too caught up in the story of Dean’s Rosebud 😉 and not paying attention – because I read over our chat just to remind myself of what we talked about, and you clearly said you’d watched it. 🙈 Also, I’d totally overlooked that video of little Sammy! 😮 WOW – what a talent from so young. 😀 But it took me a few times to realize he was saying, “I’ll be glad when you’re dead, you rascal you!” LOL. 😀 (The line about “six feet under” clued me in. 😉) So funny!

      AND I misremembered as well, because Ocean’s 11 isn’t in my DVR anymore. 😦 Since I don’t have access to it now (which is such a bummer!), and you’ve already seen it, I’ll go ahead and share what I can think of:

      – The first time I saw it, I couldn’t get over how I was watching these guys basically just live in sin ☺️ – with no consideration or remorse. I felt poor Tony didn’t get enough attention (don’t they just leave him there???), and as fun as it is to watch their faces at the end – they’re not sorry for what they did, they’re just sorry it didn’t work out! 😀 Combine that with the overall messiness, and despite how charming and clever and entertaining these guys ALWAYS are, I found that I enjoyed little moments, but not the whole.

      – However, in all fairness, some of what I consider “messy” might be that I just can’t follow capers – or any story with several procedural steps / action without a lot of dialogue – very well. It takes several watches for all the pieces of that kind of story to fall in place for me. BUT also, Angie Dickinson just disappears, so my impression of “messiness” has to be right on some level. (Unless the idea was that it’s assumed Danny will go back now, in which case maybe it’s not necessary to see her again – but I think it would’ve been better if she had some actual resolution.)

      – BUT, when I rewatched it, I noticed the seemingly random narration at the beginning (that says something about how EVERYBODY thinks about peace and goodwill around Christmastime or something) sounds very tongue-in-cheek. So, I think that means, “You’re about to meet a self-centered bunch of guys. Don’t follow their example.” And in that light, I think it makes Tony that much more tragic, because he was the only one with UNSELFISH motives – and these guys were affected by what happened to him as much as they could be. And they’re not really sorry at the end, because they’re not fully capable of that either…Not that I’m saying they were BAD guys, just self-centered. (And, of course, again – they’re also as charming and clever and entertaining as ever!…It’s like watching the most sophisticated yet most selfish, or most worldly, parts of ourselves on display.) Now, I’m not sure if it’s actually meant to be a fable, or if it simply reflects the outlooks of the guys involved (as in, The Rat Pack saw nothing wrong with living like the Ocean’s 11 guys because that’s what they did). And, coincidence or not, from the “fable angle”, setting the story in Las Vegas (“Sin City”) is perfect! 😀

      – Speaking of the worst parts of ourselves, I’m an only child with a life similar to (though nowhere near as extreme as) Jimmy’s, and I must admit I have some Jimmy tendencies. But because he’s so relatable, he’s probably my favorite character of the bunch – and he definitely makes me laugh the most. 🙂

      – A priceless moment that doesn’t fit with my “fable about selfishness” theory is Dean’s conversation with Angie Dickinson. ❤ He is always SO good at playing the world’s-best best friend! (And they really should’ve listened to him and not tried to pull this off in the first place. But then there wouldn’t be a movie. 😉)

      – I LOVE Red Skelton’s and especially Shirley MacLaine’s cameos! (If you notice, she calls Dean “Ricky Nelson”, and he’d been in Rio Bravo with Ricky just the year before. And he says, “I used to be him, I’m Perry Como now” – and Dean was frequently mistaken for Perry Como! 🙂 Oooo, also – her line about “I’m so drunk, I couldn’t lay down without holdin’ on” is a joke from Joe E. Lewis, the guy Dean based his image off of and would often quote! In fact, to demonstrate how perfected his “spontaneity” was, there’s a moment in King of Cool where they play clips of him saying that exact line in different shows back-to-back. So, it was one of his staples.)

      – You may already know this, but another person to watch out for is the guy who has a small part as the casino owner named Jack Strager (the one who gets all the other casino owners together and has the idea to get Duke Santos involved, if I remember correctly). He’s played by a guy named George Raft. He was in lots of movies (particularly gangster pictures) in the 1930s, and Dean idolized him and modeled himself after him. (If you watch him with that in mind, you can totally see the similarities, which is really cool. 😀 They’re both very subtle and natural but react to absolutely everything, and they just have a…coolness about them). When Martin and Lewis hit it big, Dean became friends with George Raft (how cool would that be – to become actual friends with someone you’re a fan of?), who was living the high life at the time. But eventually, George fell into financial difficulty. While I don’t know this for sure, it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if Dean got him this job…Also, George Raft was how Dean got hooked up with Mack Gray – which, depending on what purpose this guy actually served in Dean’s life, may not have been a good thing. 😦

      That’s everything I can think of without having the movie available to watch. 🙂 (Although if we keep talking about it and/or you review it, I may have to rent it! 😉)

      Like

    6. Oh, no worries! I forget stuff that people said too. XD

      You do realize you basically just wrote a blog post about a movie, just based on “what you can think of”? And it’s AWESOME. I love everything you said. I completely understand what you mean about finding it hard to get past the fact that the characters are so immoral and are not remorseful for it. You’ll find that contemporary reviewers (some of them anyway) agreed with you! Check out this section of the Wikipedia article about the film – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ocean%27s_11#Reception

      I do feel like Ocean’s 11 is a movie you really have to watch more than once to fully understand. So many characters, such elaborate schemes…I’ll definitely be talking about that in my review (if/when I write it).

      I LOVE TONY. The actor who plays him, Richard Conte, is one of my ‘sleeper favorites’–meaning: he’s not an actor I automatically think of when I list my favorites, but I love seeing him in films. And Peter Lawford as Jimmy is a lot of fun. The scenes with his mom and Duke make me laugh. His mom is especially funny, imo.

      Okay, I love your ‘fable about selfishness’ theory. So cool!! And I think it’s possible for the Dean/Angie scene and the fable theory to live in harmony with each other. ❤ And yeah, I do really, really like it how Dean's character (Sam?) tries to tell them to not do the job…but then he sticks loyally by his friends when they decide to do it anyway.

      Yesss. Red and Shirley's cameos were great. =) I didn't know all that about George Raft, but I'll be keeping my eye on him the next time I watch the film!

      Liked by 1 person

    7. Awww…Thank you so much! ❤

      I believe I read that Reception section after I watched Ocean’s 11 the first time, and it just reinforced my initial impression that it’s a spoiled-at-heart, almost mean-spirited movie. But when I read it now, those reviews sound harsh. :/ And I think it’s because, like you said, it’s a film you have to watch more than once to understand / enjoy its vibe in the proper context. (Although, I do like the line about how it “romps along merrily unconcerned”. That’s just a funny image. 😉 Also, how did you link to that specific section? That’s so neat! 😀)

      Speaking of which, I just realized today that Ocean’s 11 will be on TCM tomorrow (for Dean’s birthday). 😀 Hopefully, it will record for me (my DVR tends to have a mind of its own – all I can do is make suggestions about what it should record 😉). If it does, I’ll definitely watch it soon (like, within the next few days). I’m especially looking forward to this rewatch, because “third time’s the charm” certainly seems to be true for me. That’s when everything REALLY clicks. 🙂

      Richard Conte has such a naturally sweet yet tragic face. I’ve only seen him in one other film (a nothing comedy with Dean), but he was basically in the background. I’d like to see him in another meaty role. And I love your point about Sam agreeing to help out of loyalty, not because they talked him into it or he just up and changed his mind (which I think is what I assumed originally). ❤ Of course he would, because he’s played by the world’s-best best friend. 😉

      Also, did you know there’s a line about “pasta fazool” in Dean’s song That’s Amore? 😀 “(When the stars make you drool just like pasta fazool?”) I heard it this weekend and got chills. ❤

      Like

    8. I actually kinda like it when it takes me a few viewings to fully appreciate a film. The whole experience feels richer, in a way–does that make sense?

      Linking to a specific section is easy! Just go to the main article, and instead of scrolling down to a section, click on the link near the top of the page (like, how there’s a link to skip directly to ‘cast’ or ‘plot’ or whatever). Once you’ve clicked the link, the website URL will change in the URL bar and then you can copy and paste that link wherever you’d like. Hope that made sense? XD

      Really looking forward to hearing even more of your thoughts on Ocean’s 11!!!

      A couple Richard Conte recs for you: House of Strangers, which was actually recommended by The Classic Movie Muse. ❤ He doesn't play the nicest character for most of the film, but his character's arc is really interesting and unexpected. And then I'd also recommend Call Northside 777, another film noir, where he plays opposite Jimmy Stewart as a wrongfully convicted man. Conte's a total sweetheart in 777, from what I remember. ❤

      "the world's best best friend" I LOVE THAT. *feels*

      Ahhh! That's SO cool! Wow. Especially knowing some of the context about pasta fazool.

      Liked by 1 person

    9. I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to reply. 😦 I had technical issues this weekend. But those are resolved now, and I look forward to starting Ocean’s 11 over and appreciating it for the third time (plus watching the documentary) this week. 😀

      Yes, that makes total sense. Some films click with me right away, but even if that’s the case, I’ve found that the first watch is generally a sensory experience, the second is for noticing little details, and the third connects everything into a bigger picture. Occasionally, there have been movies that do the very opposite of click with me, and I have no interest in seeing them ever again. 🙂 But if I’m intrigued at all (even if I wouldn’t necessarily say I loved it at first watch), I’ll usually give it the second and third try when I can, just in case. A few films have become all-time favorites that way (Some Came Running immediately comes to mind). You are so right. It does make for a richer experience. ❤

      That Wikipedia trick is just the neatest thing ever! 😀

      I’ll be on the lookout for those Richard Conte recommendations. 🙂 I think it’d be interesting to see him play someone who starts out not so nice, especially since he comes across as such a sweetie in Ocean’s.

      I don’t need role models in my movies either, necessarily. I’ve been trying to figure out why I initially felt Ocean’s 11 crossed some sort of line, even though I enjoy Sergeants 3 and Robin and the 7 Hoods, which are just as ambiguous and antihero-ish. I will say a general trend I’ve realized only recently is that movies have to “say” something for me to really enjoy them – even if it’s a statement or message I don’t agree with, there’s got to be a point of some kind. Unless it’s realistically graphic or involves major physical suffering, I will watch all kinds of behavior if I feel the movie itself says something of value (A Streetcar Named Desire, which you’re not keen to try, is a perfect example). But if there’s no point to it, then I feel gypped. 😉 With Ocean’s 11, I particularly didn’t appreciate their behavior in light of the fact I felt the movie didn’t say anything about it – or about anything at all, really. (That’s why I like the review that said it “romps along merrily unconcerned” that it doesn’t make its point – I got the same impression). But it was entertaining enough to intrigue me, so I gave it a second watch when it became available to me again. And once I landed on the fable angle, I saw it in practically a whole new light. But I had to turn it into a fable first to really enjoy it. 🙂

      That’s a lot of analysis you didn’t ask for. 😉 I’m learning that the metrics of what makes a “good” movie are so subjective and specific to each individual person – and I’m even still trying to figure out the reasons behind my own preferences and tendencies – so I found that interesting. 🙂

      Of the other Rat Pack films, Sergeants 3 is an exception, since it’s a reimagining of Gunga Din. I think Robin and the 7 Hoods is very similar in “message” to Ocean’s 11, and 4 for Texas is so ridiculous (in a dumb, low-brow comedy sort of way), I didn’t even finish it and have no desire to do so. 😉

      Also, since you love Ocean’s 11, you’ve got to get some Robin and the 7 Hoods in your life, girl! 😀 There are more big, showy musical numbers, but it’s a lot like Guys & Dolls in that way, which I can only imagine would make you love it even more. 🙂 The only potential roadblocks I can think of that might keep you feeling less than excited about it are not all of the Rat Pack is included (no Peter, no Joey – but you get Bing Crosby and Peter Falk instead!) and it’s a little more outrageous / removed from reality, almost like a fairytale for grown-ups (featuring gangsters 😉). But the style really is like Ocean’s 11 meets Guys & Dolls. Add in your love of Robin Hood, and I really think this one might be an essential for you. ❤

      After I watch Ocean’s 11 and that documentary, I’ll comment back on your review. 🙂 Looking forward to it! 😀

      Like

    10. No worries! (Though I did wonder where you’d gone–not from impatience, just from missing your comments. <3)

      If I'm bored by a film, I'll usually never watch it again. But other than that, I'm a great fan of rewatching movies. One almost always notices something new the second time around (or several new things). That's really interesting that you want the films you watch to have a message–a purpose for being made, as it were. I can relate to that (though I'll watch stupid, cheesy films if I'm in the right mood lol).

      When you first recommended Robin and the 7 Hoods to me, I let it slip my mind because my library didn't have it and it wasn't free to stream anywhere. However, after reading this latest enthusiastic recommendation, I discovered my library's inter-library loan system (which allows you to borrow items from across Canada) and Robin is now on its way to me! It will probably be several weeks before it arrives, but I'm very excited to see it. I will definitely let you know what I think of it!!

      Liked by 1 person

    11. And here I disappeared on you again. 😦 I’m so sorry! It turns out, my tech issues were not resolved. I spent literally a week and a day with intermittent, unreliable, sometimes non-existent internet AND cell phone service. I’m almost positive everything’s back to normal now (though I hesitate to say that for sure, since I was proven wrong before), but I certainly had a time of it! There’s no way I could make it living “off the grid” long term. 😉

      “A purpose for being made”. YES – exactly. 🙌🏻

      Oh, that’s AWESOME. 😀 I’m so excited for you! And you know once you watch it, I’ll have to rewatch it, too. 😉

      Speaking of which, no Ocean’s 11 / documentary yet. 😦 I bet I haven’t had internet long enough in the past eight days to watch it all in one sitting. (And this weekend has been a combo of getting my head back on straight / an ironic break from the technology I just got back.) But I’m determined. It will happen. 😉

      Like

    12. That’s too bad! I figured it was technical issues though–and I hope they don’t come back. 😦

      No pressure from me to see Ocean’s again (though I do eagerly anticipate your thoughts). Even if it takes a while, you’ll have the fun of looking forward to it. 😉 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    13. That’s true. 🙂 And I’m certainly looking forward to it! ❤

      A frustrating experience like this also makes you notice and be thankful for what you may take for granted. I’m definitely more aware and appreciative of technology now – when it works. 😉

      Thanks again for that Dick Van Dyke video, by the way. It’s absolutely precious. ❤ (I got your reply, too. I wish there was a way to “like” emails when you don’t have anything else to add, so you’re not leaving the conversation hanging indefinitely. 🙂)

      Like

  4. There are times (most notably, when I’m reading your posts) that I truly believe that we have been cut from the same sentimental cloth (and I am so here for it). This was so beautiful, Jillian 💕👏

    Not only have you laid parts of Deano’s story out, bare and exposed for all to see, you have been vulnerable and therefore immensely strong in sharing your own experiences with your Grandmother and I want you to know that it is very much appreciated 💝 What a beautiful gift that journal was.

    Equally, I want you to know that yes, you brought me to tears yet again. I now know to make SURE I have my box of tissues, along with my cup of tea with me for the next time I go deep-diving with you. I walked into this post underprepared, Jillian. It’s a mess here. I’m a mess. There are tear stains on the tablecloth girl and I’m holding you (and Deano) personally responsible. Especially the story, teamed with that ADORABLE young Deano photo!!! I will be joining you for that ride back in the time machine! I shall personally be bringing the biggest roll of protective bubble wrap with me. He must be protected at all costs!

    I also hold Ron Marasco responsible. What a brilliant, comforting way to view ageing and ultimately death 💗 I’m writing that quotation down in a special place, that’s for sure. Thank you for sharing it.

    Sadly, I don’t have access to TCM down here, however, I feel as though I don’t need it in order to gain any further insight into the special, as I know the ‘Jillian Treatment’ is all I’ll ever need (and more 😊)

    Goodness, those stories of him hidden away at the party and slumped in the limo, really did a number on me 💔 And the background you gave in regards to Monty and the special bond they shared. Oh my goodness. I hear you, you just hope to god that someone was there looking out for him, but as you pointed out, when you’ve grown up internalising everything, it can be so difficult to reach out.

    I loved hearing your play-by-play on the Florence Henderson number. Kudos to her for carrying on and kudos to Deano for sensing her tendency to push too far. It must have been such a relief for her to lie down, if only for a few seconds. Although, getting up would have proved interesting. Ouch 😅

    Wonderful to hear that his kids were such great mates with Frank’s. Goodness, the stories must be amazing memories for them to reflect on and share 💝

    I keep scrolling back to the photo of his parents! Far out he was a chip off the old block wasn’t he!

    As usual, I’m going to have to reread this one a few times in order to collect some coherent thoughts, but this was so gorgeously written, Jillian ❤️ You are always so remarkably perceptive, heartfelt, thoughtful and eloquent and we are so lucky to get to experience your talent.

    Side note – I now aspire to become a ‘nonagenarian bombshell’ 😉 x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so very much! 🥰 (That hardly seems like an adequate response to such thoughtful praise and encouragement – but the first two paragraphs plus the next-to-last one have me almost speechless. ❤️) I’m so pleased you enjoyed it. 😊 And I apologize for the mess. 😉

      I thought that photo might get you ☺️, because it got me, too. 💔 The sweetest, most innocent children have this natural expression unique to them that I like to call “hearts and flowers encircling their head”. 🥰 When you see that look, you know you’re dealing with a precious baby. Little Dino definitely had hearts and flowers going on. ❤️ I don’t know how old he was there, but bless him, in that picture on horseback, he looks like a different kid. (There were other “school-age childhood” pictures shown, too – and I swear, he looked unhappy in each one. 😔)

      I had to use some discretion to keep from quoting Ron Marasco too much, because every word out of this guy’s mouth was pure gold! 😃 Pithy or serious – all insightful, all brilliant. (Also, I’ve seen the documentary a few times now, and that last quote still makes me cry. ❤️ I had trouble just typing it out. 🙈☺️) I’d never heard of him before (he hasn’t done much of note as far as acting; I don’t know about writing), but I’m a devoted fan now! ☺️

      “the Jillian treatment” 😊❤️ I love it.

      All the stories you mentioned really got to me, too, of course. 💔 (So maybe we are cut from the same cloth. 😊)

      Florence’s foot must’ve been just numb enough to keep her from feeling any pain, because they really do just bounce right back up. 😱🙈 It didn’t seem to hurt, though. ☺️ But I’d never considered how smart and practical that pratfall was in terms of just getting her off her darn foot for a minute! 😃 I swear, Barbara Rush is so right – he really was quite a doctor. 🥰 It must’ve been an instinctual thing.

      No one said this about his mother (I get the feeling she may have been a spit-fire ☺️), but his father and brother were supposed to have been very sweet and gentle as well. 🥰 And his dad was apparently also a jokester, too. ☺️ There were a few clips of him in home movies, and he had the same quick, easy wit. And the wildest thing is, they both had the same habit when being clever – this little move where they sort of run their fingers through / smooth down the back of their hair (while sporting a playful little smile, of course) – the exact same gesture with the exact same expression on their faces! 😃 Like father, like son. ❤️

      Also, hahahaha 😄 – I think I shall aspire to become one myself! 😁

      Again, “Thanks a lot. You’re my girl.” 😊❤️

      Like

  5. Hi Jillian,

    I’m a bit late reading your Dean Martin post, which was very informative! As I shared with you before, I haven’t seen many of his movies and I’m familiar with some of his songs, but there’s a lot about Dean Martin that I don’t know. Like your previous post, I’m finishing learning so much more than I did at the start. Your passion for classic films and Dean’s work shows through and it has a way of making me feel excited when I read your posts. By the way, it was really interesting to read what he was like when he wasn’t performing. I liked reading what his family had to say, it helped me understand more about who he was in a sense.

    The mention of Mack Grey makes me want to sift back through the George Raft biography, that you read my review of, to check the brief mention of Dean Martin that I seem to recall.

    Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that I thought about your blog a few days ago when I saw “Bells are Ringing” on the TCM section of HBO Max. Not sure if you have that streaming service, but they sometimes have some good movies 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi! 😀 Oh, no – you’re not late at all. And even if you were, I love it any time people read and comment, regardless of when the post was published. It keeps the fun going!

      I’m so happy you enjoyed this one, and I really appreciate the feedback on what you found particularly interesting and especially how you felt when you read it. That means a lot. ❤

      Yes! 😀 George Raft is the connection between Dean and Mack Gray. As I understand it (though I haven’t done any concentrated research), Mack was George’s personal assistant for years, but when George couldn’t afford to employ him anymore, he “gave” him to Dean, who had admired George as a fan, then became friends with him after Martin and Lewis hit it big in Hollywood (which, how cool would that be – to become real-life friends with someone you were once a fan of??? 🙂) The way Deana (and, if I remember, also one of Dean’s sons) tells it, Mack was Dean’s schedule-keeper / bodyguard / all this indispensable stuff plus a friend to the family, but other sources imply that he was not a good person to have around. :/ The truth is probably somewhere in-between (and has possibly been exaggerated over time), but I’m curious enough to want find out for sure. 😉

      I would absolutely LOVE to know anything George had to say about Dean or Mack, if you’d like to share that with me. 😀

      I don’t have HBO Max, but I do get TCM through Hulu Live. (My mom lets me share hers. 🙂) It’s really neat because I can watch most films on demand after they air and even record some of them. And, awww…That’s so nice that Bells Are Ringing made you think of me! ❤

      Actually, Barbara Rush saying, “Dean was quite a doctor” in King of Cool made me think of you and your story about how your professor played his music in class. That’s a real-life example that further proves the naturally comforting / stress-relieving way this guy had about him. 🙂

      Also, yesterday was Dean’s birthday. 😀 So, happy (belated) Dean Martin’s birthday to you! 😉 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I checked in the biography, “George Raft” by Lewis Yablonsky, and it confirms that yes, Dean Martin hired Mack Grey. Unfortunately I couldn’t find anything that George said about Dean, but I did find a quote where Dean recalled shortly after arriving in Hollywood in the 1940s, he visited George’s home. It’s mostly about the women that George would have at the house, he only just says that he was in awe of George after having seen his movies as a kid and that he thought George had a lot of class. I remember that Mack Grey is throughout the biography, having known George for many years at the time the book was being written, but I’d have to go back through the index to see more about Mack’s role. I seem to remember that the author compared him to being the only “family” George had, since George for some reason wasn’t in contact with his actual relatives. Mack Grey knew a lot about George. This is the only, and maybe biggest, thing I disliked about the biography was that there was a lot of emphasis on George’s private life. It was more prevalent in the second half and I almost felt like some of it was exaggerated. But I think Mack did reveal a few instances to the author that he saw the real George, like when George’s mom died and he thought George was fainting, later seeing that George was trying to kneel down to say a prayer. Mack Grey was very much his confidant.

      Oh yeah, I forgot that Hulu Live has that! That’s a great way to watch TCM. My sister lets me borrow her HBO Max, similar to how you share Hulu Live with your mom.

      That’s sounds like very nice compliment Barbara Rush said about Dean and thank you for thinking of me. 🙂 Yes, it’s a very special thing when someone’s music transcends time like that to help others so many years later. I personally think only a handful of entertainers have that quality. Maybe it’s a gift they were born with, since it seems rare. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    3. Interesting! 😀 Since he was heavily featured, I certainly don’t expect you to thumb through all the references to Mack Gray, unless you want to. (I’m sure that would take some time.) But I will ask you this: Do you feel the stories Mack told about George were respectful? (I’m just curious as to who possibly did the sensationalizing – Mack or the author. That may reveal something about Mack’s character.)

      I’ve read at least part of that quote from Dean before, and I’ve wondered where it came from. Mystery solved! 😉

      If you do look through the book again and happen to rediscover other interesting tidbits, I’d love to hear them. 🙂 And if I ever write that post, I’ll give you a shoutout for helping me with research. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    4. That’s a good question! I personally felt that it was a little of both. On one hand I think the author wanted the reader to know that George had many relationships with women, he seemed to emphasize that throughout the book. Mack Grey doesn’t get explicit, but he implies about George and I think he or the author related a story about chorus girls. My interpretation, based on what I remember from a few months ago when I read the book, is that Mack Grey cared about George as his closest friend, but wasn’t hesitant to talk about George’s relationships–again, not explicitly but it was almost boastful. (He was quoted basically saying that George Raft outdid Errol Flynn.) I could be off on what the intentions were, but that’s my honest opinion at this time going off what I recall.

      If you research Mack Grey further, I’m sure he’ll be a complex person. You may know this, but Lucille Ball mentions Mack Grey very briefly in her own autobiography because they dated for a time in the 1930s. So maybe if there’s more quotes by Lucy about Mack somewhere in books or online that may help you see another side of his personality. 🙂

      Oh thank you, that’s really nice of you! Either way, I look forward to your future posts.

      Liked by 1 person

    5. I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to reply. (I’ve had technical issues the past few days.) But in the meantime, I’ve pondered your observations…That’s an angle I hadn’t considered, but it makes total sense. 😀 Maybe Mack was the type of friend who was loyal past the point of the other person’s best interest. Like, he told exaggerated stories about George because he was trying to, as you said, “boast” about him, build him up, and make him look good – regardless of whether he was actually telling the truth. And by the same token, maybe he did keep Dean supplied with Percodan, even though that wasn’t healthy for him, because it made him feel good. It could be that he only thought in the short-term without considering long-term consequences (such as the distasteful impression sensationalized stories would leave on George’s legacy or how detrimental a lasting drug habit would be for Dean’s health and quality of life). In that way, he still could’ve been a caring friend / assistant, even if his short-sighted actions ultimately hurt these guys.

      Now I remember reading someplace that Mack had chronic migraines and “popped Percodan like they were tic-tacs” (though I don’t remember who said that). Maybe with Dean, he didn’t think any farther than, “Hey, these make me feel good. They’ll make you feel good.”

      I’d discovered Lucy and Mack’s connection at some point, but had completely forgotten about it. Thanks for reminding me! Searching for her thoughts on him is a great idea. 😀

      I’m embarrassed to admit I’m behind on my reading, but I very much look forward to diving into more of your posts as well. 🙂 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    6. Hi Jillian, I understand! 🙂 No problem at all!

      That’s a well said possibility for Mack’s intentions. While telling stories of George’s private life, he may not have even thought it could affect George’s legacy in a less than positive light. Similarly for Dean. If it’s true that Mack used the drug himself for his migraines, maybe he also wasn’t fully aware of how powerful it was if he wasn’t given it by a doctor or followed a doctor’s instructions. So many possibilities of what his thoughts were by assisting these two men. I wonder if he was as close to Dean as he was to George, in terms of seeing the vulnerable, out of character side? I admit I don’t know how long he worked for Dean.

      All of this has had me thinking even deeper about the legacy of performers decades after they’re gone. In terms of how what’s said and unsaid, contributes to the impression that we are left with. Sometimes it’s almost like being a detective to find leads, questions, and determine what happened. 🙂 I have to say, one of the reasons why I followed your blog is because I felt you were sincere and compassionate in your writing. In my opinion, some blogs can veer into gossip and it makes the story of their subject even more muddled.

      Thank you. I just published a new post yesterday by the way. If you’re curious to take a look, whenever you have a chance 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    7. I am so very sorry yet again, Rachel. 😦 My technology issues extended throughout the week – intermittent, unreliable internet AND cell phone service. 😮 I think everything’s resolved now, but I have had a time of it! There’s no way I could live “off the grid” long term. 😉

      You know, I wasn’t sure how long Mack worked for Dean either. And I’m still not exactly, but it must have been a long time, because I came across a picture of them sitting at a table working together with Dino (Dean’s son) nearby – and he looked to be only 5 or 6 years old. The picture was apparently from 1958. I didn’t realize their relationship went back quite that far! And I know Mack was still with him in the ‘70s, so I’d say all in all, at least 20 years. And according to Deana, Mack was with her dad almost constantly, which is why I was surprised that he wasn’t at least mentioned in King of Cool. That seemed fishy to me at first – but it could just be that it wasn’t necessary to mention him because he didn’t exactly do anything to move Dean’s career forward (like, say, Jerry Lewis and Frank Sinatra). So in that sense, I guess he would be considered more of a “side character”, at least where the documentary was concerned, even though he was apparently instrumental in Dean’s day-to-day life (and possibly his habits, for better or worse).

      Thank you so much! ❤ And that’s an interesting point about the detective work required in writing posts like these. 😀 I used to love mystery shows when I was younger, and I always thought I’d make a good detective. 🙂 Maybe this is a way to put those skills to work. I’m a classic film detective. (Oooo! I quite like that. 😉)

      Believe it or not, I actually read your Frankie Darro piece (and this comment) at some point in all this craziness. I don’t remember why I didn’t or couldn’t comment at the time (honestly, my devices have been SO insane!), but I’m going to pop over there now, re-read it, and finally leave the comment I wanted to all those days ago. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Jillian! I re-read this article and I must say I think Dean is the coolest member of the rat-Pack. Something I don’t get into much, the rat pack- but dean never took himself too seriously and I love that about him. One of my favorite parts on the doc is we learned sure Dean would have house parties but then retreat upstairs and go to sleep- call the cops say he’s a neighbor and have the place shut down! hilarious! I love Rio Bravo- My Rifle Pony and me- FABULOUS SONG! I just love it! I learned so much- And like Dean although he was not an immigrant- its like he was an immigrant- he dealt with the hardships. I know what its like to be ousted just because you’re different from the rest- or you have a different cultural background. Years went by before I noted thats what some people in school didn’t like about me- I’m from a different cultural background. He was able to rise above with his natural talent and charm! I also learned Frank Sinatra was a very pushy character- he wanted to get what he wanted- like when he united Dean and Jerry- He had guts! I will probably come back and re-read this a third time once I’ve seen some more films of his- I really wanna see some of his westerns- 5 card stud, something big, Bandolero

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad my post inspired you to check out King of Cool (that’s just the neatest thing ever! 😀), and I’m even happier that you watched and enjoyed it. (Now I can gush with somebody who’s actually seen it. 🙂❤️)

      He’d “have the place shut down” – YES. So funny! 😀 And I agree with his sister-in-law. “My Rifle, My Pony, and Me” should be “enshrined in a museum somewhere”. 😉 Although I love so much of his work in movies, I think he was at his absolute best in Rio Bravo. He should’ve gotten more attention for playing Dude. Maybe that would’ve kept his momentum up and sent more high-quality roles his way.

      And the Montgomery Clift connection to Rio Bravo (which wasn’t in King of Cool; I read it someplace else) simply blew my mind! 😀 If I had to pick only one favorite part of the documentary (which is nearly impossible), I’d have to say it was the segment about his and Monty’s friendship. ❤ That story just got me, and it certainly adds a lot to The Young Lions. If Monty indeed taught him how to act, Dean certainly learned well! (I think he really was a natural talent and a quick study.)

      I’m so sorry you had a tough time in school. 😮 It’s a shame that you were treated badly because of something that’s such an important part of who you are yet at the same time makes no difference whatsoever. I can’t speak to the cultural aspect, but I struggled with learning difficulties that set me apart and always made me feel “different”. 😦 As traumatic and unnecessary as it is, I think people who endure bullying without hardening themselves or being crushed come away kinder, more compassionate, and more empathetic toward others. At least we know we’re in good company. 🙂

      Frank struck me as pushy, too, but you’re right – he did have guts! 😀

      I’ve been working my way through Dean’s dramas, including dramatic Westerns, for a little over a year now (plus some comedies, though I don’t think I’m going to make a concentrated effort to go through all of those – he was in A LOT, and most seem mediocre). I have three more to go: 5 Card Stud, Airport, and Mister Ricco. The rest have made it to me in one way or another (thorough TCM, YouTube, local TV, etc) without my having to pay for them, but after writing this post, I decided I’m going to have to break down and rent the final three just to conclude this chapter. 😉

      Of the ones you mentioned, as I said, I’ve yet to see 5 Card Stud. Something Big (which is on YouTube) is a low-brow comedic Western that was so dumb, I couldn’t finish (however, I don’t really care for anything Dean did in the ‘70s, so I may be biased), but I LOVE Bandolero (like, so much, I purchased it). 😀 It’s not perfect, but I think it’s misunderstood and should be considered a classic. It’s the Western equivalent of a Shakespearean tragedy, and it’s absolutely BRILLIANT. ❤ Ohhhh, my goodness. If you ever watch it, we MUST discuss. 😉

      Another interesting one is Road to Jericho, in which he played an all-out villain. 😮 (That’s not a spoiler. The first thing he does – within the first few minutes of the film, I think even before the opening credits finish rolling – is shoot someone in cold blood, so you instantly know what kind of guy he is.)

      I think he had the potential to make a fascinating villain, but this one either wasn’t the right type, or he wasn’t directed effectively. 😦 (The movie as a whole isn’t great.) Still, it’s worth a watch if your curious. And to be fair, I saw it on a local TV station with lots of commercials, so maybe I’d like it better if I could see it uninterrupted. (But I also saw Bandolero under the same circumstances and fell in love on first watch, so who knows? 🙂)

      Thanks so much for taking the time to re-read, like, and comment! 😀 That means a lot. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s