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Steven Soderbergh's 2001 take on Ocean's Eleven with George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, Don Cheadle, Matt Damon and Elliott Gould was one of the few remakes to actually improve on the original. However, if you want to return to the ring-a-ding sixties and experience the original 'Rat Pack' in all their glory, the 1960 version is the place to start. Here's the set-up: ten former army buddies concoct a scheme to rob the top five Las Vegas gambling casinos during a power blackout masterminded by their main man, Danny Ocean (Frank Sinatra). But their elaborate preparations result in an unforeseen development in the eleventh hour.
One of the first in a series of heist movies in the sixties, Ocean's Eleven (1960) perfectly captures the neon buzz and nighttime glamour of the world's most popular gambling den. At the same time, audiences are treated to a glimpse of Sinatra and his favored cronies having fun with their on-screen personas which are not so far removed from their off-screen lifestyles. In addition to 'Rat Pack' regulars - Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Joey Bishop, Peter Lawford, Norman Fell and Henry Silva - Ocean's Eleven co-stars Akim Tamiroff, Cesar Romero, Richard Conte, and Angie Dickinson as Ocean's estranged wife. Guest cameos include George Raft, Red Skelton, and Shirley MacLaine.
Lewis Milestone, the veteran director whose most famous film remains the anti-war saga, All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), seemed an unlikely choice to direct Ocean's Eleven. But his career had suffered during the communist purge of Hollywood due to Senator Joe McCarthy's influence in the fifties and Milestone needed the work. And it turned out to be hard work. Milestone had never experienced an actor like Sinatra before. "When he wasn't actually acting himself, he would say, 'Get him to do this' or 'Make sure she does that," Milestone recalled in All the Way, a Sinatra biography by Michael Freedland (St. Martin's Press). "Ask me which was my least favorite film that I ever made and it has to be Ocean's Eleven." For Sinatra fans, however, Ocean's Eleven is a good-time blast from start to finish and even though the "Chairman of the Board" doesn't sing one song on-camera, his pal Dino gets to croon a fun rendition of "Ain't That a Kick in the Head".
Director/Producer: Lewis Milestone
Screenplay: Harry Brown, Charles Lederer
Cinematography: William H. Daniels
Editor: Philip W. Anderson
Art Direction: Nicolai Remisoff
Music: Nelson Riddle
Cast: Frank Sinatra (Danny Ocean), Dean Martin (Sam Harmon), Sammy Davis Jr. (Josh Howard), Peter Lawford (Jimmy Foster), Angie Dickinson (Beatrice Ocean).
by Jeff Stafford