Do you know about The Rat Pack members? This was a term that referred to a group of American entertainers who made a huge impact in film, television, and music.
The Rat Pack Members included Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop. The original Rat Pack members included Humphrey Bogart and a slew of “visiting members” including Errol Flynn, Robert Mitchum, Nat King Cole, and Tony Curtis.
But it was the 1960s Rat Pack Members that we remember today. Sadly, they’ve since passed away, but they leave behind incredible legacies.
How did each of the Rat Pack members die? And how did they spend their lives, and what were their achievements?
Let’s look back at their incredible lives and careers….
Francis Albert Sinatra was born in Hoboken, New Jersey on December 12, 1915. He was the son of two Italian immigrants and grew up in relatively humble surroundings, as was the norm for most first-generation Americans.
At a young age, Frank developed an interest in music. He was particularly fond of big band jazz music and loved Bob Eberly, Bing Crosby, Gene Austin, and Russ Colombo.
When he turned 15, Frank received a ukulele from his uncle Domenico. He began playing the instrument and singing at family gatherings – and soon became a huge hit. It was at this tender age that he found his calling.
He became a self-taught musician and singer and began performing in the 1930s with a variety of bands.By the 1940s, Frank Sinatra was one of America’s most popular singers. By the 1950s, his film career had begun, and it wasn’t long until he became a huge movie star.
He had a suave persona, which made him a perfect fit to join a group of other Hollywood men who exemplified style and class…
Frank Sinatra died on May, 14th, 1998, in Los Angeles after suffering two heart attacks. His music and acting career spanned six decades!
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In his day, Dean Martin dubbed “The King of Cool” and was also a singer and actor, just as Frank Sinatra was.
He was born on June 7, 1917, in Steubenville, Ohio. As a young man, he worked various odd jobs, including bootlegging, steel millwork, being a croupier, and even sparring as a welterweight boxer.
He soon turned his sights on singing. Before long, he had become a popular singer performing with bands and as a solo artist. In the 1940s, he met comedian Jerry Lewis and the two soon began performing together on stage.
Before long, Dean Martin became a regular in film and television. By the 1950s, he was one of America’s biggest film and TV stars – even being the host of his own talk show The Dean Martin Show.
It was also during this time that he met Frank Sinatra and the two became friends. They later joined Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop to form The Rat Pack as one of the members.
Dean Martin sadly diagnosed with lung cancer in 1993. Two years later, he retired from public life and died on Christmas Day at the age of 78. He died from acute respiratory failure resulting from emphysema.
SAMMY DAVIS JR.
The word ‘trailblazer’ could have been invented for Sammy Davis Jr. He was born on December 8, 1925, in New York City.
He begun his show business career at the age of 3 – performing in vaudeville acts alongside his father.
Upon his discharge from the Army after the Second World War, he continued to perform in nightclubs as a singer. He also began to perform different characters on stage – which won him much acclaim from audiences and critics alike.
His film career took off in the 1950s and it wasn’t long until he became a household name in both cinema and television. He was also lauded for being one of the first mainstream black American actors who refused to conform to degrading stereotypes.
He met the other members of The Rat Pack in the 1950s. Like the other gentlemen, he became famous for his class and style. With the Rat Pack, he starred in the films Ocean’s 11, Sergeants 3, and Robin and the 7 Hoods.
Sammy Davis Jr. died on May 16, 1994, at the age of 64. He died due to complications from throat cancer. His legacy remains as one of America’s greatest entertainers and a trailblazer who paved the way for other black entertainers in film, television, music, and on stage.
Peter Lawford was born as Peter Aylen in London, England, on September 7, 1923.
His family was connected to the English aristocracy, and he traveled around for much of his childhood – living in multiple countries. In the late 1930s, he and his family were traveling around the United States.
With the outbreak of the Second World War, the family found themselves stranded in the country. Their money was stuck in the United Kingdom, and before he knew it, Peter had to take on odd jobs to earn his living.
He eventually found himself in Hollywood where he worked in a movie theatre as he sought work in films.
He began his acting career as an extra before venturing into leading roles in the early 1940s. His first lead role was in the 1945 film Son of Lassie.
He appeared in many of MGM’s biggest hits of the 1940s and 1950s. These films included My Brother Talks To Horses, It Happened In Brookyln – which also starred his future Rat Pack member, Frank Sinatra – Good News, Royal Wedding, You For Me, and Rogue’s March.
In the 1950s, he also acted on popular TV shows, including Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Jane Wyman Presents The Fireside Theatre, Screen Directors Playhouse , and Playhouse 90.
In 1959, Frank Sinatra asked Peter to join the Rat Pack. He appeared in Ocean’s 11 with the other members of the cast.
Peter Lawford passed away on Christmas Eve 1984, in Los Angeles from cardiac arrest. He was 61 years old.
Joseph Gottlieb was born on February 3, 1918, in the Bronx. Upon his discharge from the US Army following the Second World War, he began performing as a stand-up comedian. It was around this time that he chose his stage name – Joey Bishop.
His early TV appearances included guest and host appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Dinah Shore Chevy Show, The Tonight Show with Jack Paar, and The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.
In the early 1960s, he became the star of his own sitcom The Joey Bishop Show. His popularity drew him to cinema and he was cast in Ocean’s 11 – along with the other members of The Rat Pack.
He appeared with his Rat Pack members in the film Sergeants 3. He and Dean Martin acted together in the film Texas Across The River. His other notable films included Who’s Minding the Mint?, Valley of the Dolls, The Delta Force, Betsy’s Wedding, and Mad Dog Time.
His other popular TV appearances included roles in Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-in, Chico and the Man, The Jacksons Variety Show, Murder She Wrote, and Glory Years.
Joey Bishop sadly died on October 17, 2007, in Newport Beach, California, at the age of 89 due to multiple organ failure.
THE TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS OF THE RAT PACK
The Rat Pack members were masters in their craft and were versatile performers who made strides on stage, in music, on television, and in the cinema.
They were one of the most-loved ensembles in the entertainment industry and are still loved by fans today. But their real-life relationships weren’t always so smooth.
Sadly, Frank Sinatra and Joey Bishop had their issues. Joey found incredible success with his television appearances and film roles. He began living large and demanded to meet with the other members on a private jet. Frank Sinatra had concerns about Joey’s success going to his head.
He advised Joey not to go overboard with his demands. Joey resented this and later recalled that Frank behaved “like a secretary.” He also, at times, resented his membership in The Rat Pack. He felt that he was often portrayed as an entertainer who got lucky by joining The Rat Pack – rather than by getting in because of his talent and efforts.
Sadly, the two of them never reconciled.
Sammy Davis Jr. is recognized as an iconic black American entertainer. His bravery for performing during a time of hostile racism is looked upon with admiration.
But one must also look back and learn about the horrific racism that Sammy had to deal with in his life. For example, he would often headline nightclubs. But when he entered and exited the nightclub, he had to enter from the backdoor. He often wasn’t allowed to mingle with white audiences following his performances.
Sammy Davis Jr. was married to the Swedish actress May Britt at a time when interracial marriages were uncommon and illegal in most of the United States!
He often had to deal with scorn from the public due to his marriage. In fact, President John F. Kennedy forbid Sammy Davis Jr. from performing at his inauguration due to the marriage.
Later in his life, Sammy Davis Jr. dated the actress Kim Novak. Again, this didn’t please many audiences and he actually received death threats from members of the Mafia. He was told he’d be killed unless he split up from Kim. He eventually let her go and suffered from depression due to the incident and the threats.
Peter Lawford was lucky to have lived quite a great life. However, he often had to hide the fact that his right hand was debilitated due to a serious injury. His family also suffered when they lost access to their wealth after getting stranded in the USA. In his later life, much of his fame came from his celebrity rather than his career.
Dean Martin’s son Dean Paul sadly died in a plane crash – which he was piloting. This, naturally, had a severe impact on Dean Martin. It lead to him becoming reclusive in his later years.
Frank Sinatra also had many depression issues throughout his life including a few suicide attempts. He also had to deal with constant surveillance by the Mafia and even the FBI. The latter targeted Frank due to his supposed suspicious activities – including his involvement in fighting against racial prejudice!
Regardless of these trials and tribulations, The Rat Pack members managed to stay dedicated to their craft. They’re all remembered as some of America’s greatest entertainers, and their legacies live on in cinema, television, and music.
Are you a fan of The Rat Pack? The members consisted of some of America’s greatest entertainers who contributed to the richness of American cinema, television, and music.
So that brings up the question:
Do you think that there’s a modern-day group of performers who can match up to The Rat Pack? Or are there no contemporary performers who can live up to the legacy that they left behind?
Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments.
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