Ocean’s Eleven (1960)
Release year: 1960
Director: Lewis Milestone
Screenwriter: Harry Brown, Charles Lederer, George Clayton Johnson, Jack Golden Russell
Starring: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, Angie Dickinson, Richard Conte, Cesar Romero, Joey Bishop
Danny Ocean (Frank Sinatra) gathers ten of his World War II buddies to pull of the ultimate Las Vegas heist.
One of the most classy heist movies due to its excellent and star packed ensemble cooler than cool, lead by Ol’ Blue Eyes himself, Sinatra (From Here to Eternity, 1953). Together with among others Martin (The Cannonball Run, 1981), Davis Jr. (Robin and the 7 Hoods, 1964), Lawford (Exodus, 1960), Romero (Batman: The Movie, 1966) he adds glamour and frosting on this stylish crime caper story that oozes 1960s atmosphere. Sinatra and his team plays their parts with a charm that gives the impression their characters are close to their own personalities and leaves you feeling very much at home with the cast when you watch this undeniable cozy and elegant movie. This is not one of those crime movies that are high on action, it does have its moments of tension, but mostly it runs along in a pleasant speed, ensuring you get this is not about the heist made by Ocean’s eleven as much as it is about Ocean’s eleven (hence the title), and as long as you understand that, you are in great company with the Rat Pack. There is a small supporting role from a great MacLaine (Terms of Endearment, 1983) as a tipsy woman whose drunkenness threatens the entire plan, as it is set up to work only by following every detail. Her encounter with Martin is one of the most comic scenes in a comedy straining to make you smile more than to make you laugh. Cool, stylish and charming, like the Rat Pack, this is fitting for the movie as well, making it an enjoyable watch and one of the greatest heist classics.
A remake was made by Steven Soderbergh in 2001 starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Don Cheadle. It was a great success and has so far had two sequels with a spin-off, Ocean’s Eight, due in 2018.
Sammy Davis Jr. was forced to stay at a “colored only” hotel during the filming because Las Vegas would not allow blacks to stay at the major hotels despite his appearing with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and the others at the Sands Hotel. He was only allowed to stay at the major hotels after Frank Sinatra confronted the casino owners on his behalf, therefore breaking Vegas’ unofficial color barrier.
A big part of the dialogue was improvised by the cast who were extremely familiar with each other in real life. MacLaine’s cameo was mostly improvised as well. The actress came in to shot the scene quickly during a break in filming The Apartment (1960).
Picture copyrights: Warner Home Video