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Friday Night at the Drive-In: "Ocean's 11" (1960)

The Rat Pack (started by Humphrey Bogart and inherited by Frank Sinatra after Bogey’s death) made two movies in the sixties. Neither were great shakes as movies go, but the first one, Ocean’s 11, is a wonderful time machine back to a place and time that no longer exist.

 

Released in 1960, Ocean’s 11 can be seen as the 1950’s last hurrah. In just a few short years, the British invasion in music and fashion would change everything. Film historians think the film was conceived as way to give Frank, Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop, and the rest something to do with their days while they were headlining at the Sands resort at night.

Thanks to George Clooney’s remake, most know the plot centers around Sinatra and his old army buddies attempting to rob 5 Vegas casinos simultaneously (in the Clooney remake, it's only 3).

It doesn’t really matter. The plot takes a back seat to the easy-going repartee of the ensemble cast. Frank and especially Dean Martin get to croon. Sammy Davis, Jr. is still relegated to the role of a garbage man who riffs on old Amos & Andy impressions and the Rat Pack’s one female member, Shirley MacLaine shows up for a totally pointless scene with Dino near the film’s climax.

No worries. The fun comes from digging on the late 1950’s fashions (a time when men still wore hats) and a fascinating look at a Las Vegas that seems downright quaint by today’s standards.

In 1960, most American had still not made the trip to Sin City. The daytime casino action was centered around Fremont Street with just a handful of resorts on a patch of barren desert road known as “The Strip” pulling in the evening crowd with their shows.

Compared to today’s palaces like the Venetian, Bellagio and others, the Sahara, Riviera, Sands, Desert Inn and the Flamingo depicted in Ocean’s 11 have all the glitz and glitter of a redecorated rumpus room in a suburban basement somewhere in the Midwest.

But it was a time when this small band of entertainers ruled the town like royalty.

So give yourself a treat and take a trip to 1960 with the Rat Pack. And hang on through the credits. The film’s best joke happens at the very end as Ocean’s 11, now 10, make their way along the Strip on foot.

BTW – The other Rat Pack film was Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964).

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