Joey Bishop’s passing this week influenced my choice for a DVD that you might have seen originally, but have forgotten about.
In the 90’s, HBO decided to start making movies instead of just showing them. In 1998, HBO released The Rat Pack. This was a movie that highlighted the height of popularity of Sinatra and his crew, as well his association with JFK and the mob. After its release, there was a lot of controversy that it painted Sinatra in a bad light and that it was sensational. It is unfortunate that the movie was caught up in all of this, because it was a much deeper film than that.
The Rat Pack can be seen as really three stories: the pressures of Sinatra, the racism that Sammy Davis, Jr., faced, and the election of JFK and how that impacted the young president’s actions. Each story is blended well and given the right amount of room to flourish.
As with most movies I like, casting plays a big key here. The men playing Sinatra, Martin, and Davis were born to play these roles. Don Cheadle won a Golden Globe for his performance as Sammy Davis, Jr., and I have to say that it is because of this role that I look for him in other films. Ray Liotta was simply perfect in displaying the range of emotions and demons that tormented Sinatra; the only role he might have been better in was in Goodfellas. Joe Mantegna made it seem as if Deano had come back to life (Side Note: soon after this movie, there was talk of having Joe do a bio-pic of Dean Martin — too bad it never happened). William Peterson played a President before running to Vegas to play a CSI detective.
Unfortunately, the DVD has no extras to speak of — Maybe HBO will do something special next year for a tenth anniversary release.
My advice: Do not put off seeing this movie. The music will take you back, and the stories will keep you engaged. Curl up with your favorite dame and spend an evening with The Rat Pack…