Enjoying great success in music, film, television, and the stage, Dean Martin was less an entertainer than an icon, the eternal essence of cool. A member of the legendary Rat Pack, he lived and died the high life of booze, broads and bright lights, always projecting a sense of utter detachment and serenity; along with Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr. and the other chosen few who breathed the same rarefied air, Martin — highball and cigarette always firmly in hand — embodied the glorious excess of a world long gone, a world without rules or consequences. Throughout it all, he remained just outside the radar of understanding, the most distant star in the firmament.
Dino Paul Crocetti was born on June 7, 1917 in Steubenville, Ohio; the son of an immigrant barber, he spoke only Italian until the age of five, and at school was the target of much ridicule for his broken English. He ultimately quit school at the age of 16, going to work in the steel mills; as a boxer named Kid Crochet, he also fought a handful of amateur bouts, and later delivered bootleg liquor. After landing a job as a croupier in a local speakeasy, he made his first connections with the underworld, bringing him into contact with club owners all over the Midwest; initially rechristening himself Dean Martini, he had a nose job and set out to become a crooner, modeling himself after his acknowledged idol, Bing Crosby. Hired by bandleader Sammy Watkins, he dropped the second „i” from his stage name and eventually enjoyed minor success on the New York club circuit, winning over audiences with his loose, mellow vocal style.
Despite his good looks and easygoing charm, Martin’s early years as an entertainer were largely unsuccessful. In 1946 — the year he issued his first single, „Which Way Did My Heart Go?” — he first met another struggling performer, a comic named Jerry Lewis; later that year, while Lewis was playing Atlantic City’s 500 Club, another act abruptly quit the show, and the comedian suggested Martin to fill the void. Initially, the two performed separately, but one night they threw out their routines and teamed on-stage, a Mutt-and-Jeff combo whose wildly improvisational comedy quickly made them a star attraction along the Boardwalk. Within months, Martin and Lewis’ salaries rocketed from $350 to $5000 a week, and by the end of the 1940s they were the most popular comedy duo in the nation. In 1949, they made their film debut in My Friend Irma, and their supporting work proved so popular with audiences that their roles were significantly expanded for the sequel, the following year’s My Friend Irma Goes West.
With 1951’s At War with the Army, Martin and Lewis earned their first star billing. The picture established the basic formula of all of their subsequent movie work, with Martin the suave straight man forced to suffer the bizarre antics of the manic fool Lewis. Critics often loathed the duo, but audiences couldn’t get enough — in all, they headlined 13 comedies for Paramount, among them 1952’s Jumping Jacks, 1953’s Scared Stiff and 1955’s Artists and Models, a superior effort directed by Frank Tashlin. For 1956’s Hollywood or Bust, Tashlin was again in the director’s seat, but the movie was the team’s last; after Martin and Lewis’ relationship soured to the point where they were no longer even speaking to one another, they announced their breakup following the conclusion of their July 25, 1956 performance at the Copacabana, which celebrated to the day the tenth anniversary of their first show.
While most onlookers predicted continued superstardom for Lewis, the general consensus was that Martin would falter as a solo act; after all, outside of the 1953 smash „That’s Amore,” his solo singing career had never quite hit its stride, and in light of the continued ascendancy of rock & roll, his future looked dim. After suffering a failure with Ten Thousand Bedrooms, Martin’s next move was to appear in the 1958 drama The Young Lions, starring alongside Montgomery Clift and Marlon Brando; that same year he also hosted The Dean Martin Show, the first of his color specials for NBC television. Both projects were successful, as were his live appearances at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas; in particular, The Young Lions proved him a highly capable dramatic actor. Combined with another hit single, „Volare,” Martin was everywhere that year, and with the continued success of his many TV specials, he effectively conquered movies, music, television and the stage all at the same time — a claim no other entertainer, not even Sinatra, could make.
For the rest of this bio go to http://www.artistdirect.com/artist/bio/dean-martin/463863 ~ Jason Ankeny, All Music Guide
PLEASE NOTE: I divided my uploads among multiple channels, Bookmark this link in your browser for instant access to an index with links to all of John1948’s oldies classics. LINK: http://john1948.wikifoundry.com/page/John1948%27s+Youtube+Index