Dean Martin

Pencil Portrait by Antonio Bosano.

Dean Martin Pencil Portrait
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Dean Martin was the very epitome of the devil-may-care roué who truly isn’t impressed by anything or anyone. Beauty? He had more women than he knew what to do with. Fame? Come on. Money? Please! Dino didn’t care if you were the President of the United States, some hot piece of ass or the head of the Las Vegas Mafia. The man who once famously claimed to having never read a book, simply didn’t give a fuck.

It makes for a great story, but I’m not buying it…

His story is part of Italian-American folklore. From the outset, he was a hustler, always trying to pad his wealth with business deals, some of them shady. His early machinations are comical; at one point he sold far in excess of 100% of himself to various agents and investors. Later, however, he became a real-estate tycoon.

Personally, Martin became increasingly detached as his success grew. Always a womaniser, he ‘used’ the opposite sex without giving anything of himself. His long suffering second wife Jeannie, would demand a quality 25% of his waking hours, and whilst her husband enjoyed playing the role of devoted son and family man, his wives neither knew, nor ever wanted to know, anything about his activities outside the home. As he aged, his relations with younger women made him a figure of ridicule, as he sought to prove his virility and vitality with them.

At the same time, he had no real friends. Nobody ever really knew Dean Martin. There was his early morning constitutional on the golf course, his business dealings – notably in real estate – a preoccupation with his ‘bird’* and finding an enticing warm home for it, his show business side, and his famous participation in Frank Sinatra`s Rat Pack, yet throughout it all, his detachment never wavered. As he grew older, his heavy drinking became more excessive.


During the `60s, Martin reached new heights as a TV personality. He made an enormous amount of money from his weekly hour long television show. The program was tasteless but funny, and millions still believe he never rehearsed; God only knows why, but that’s another subject within itself. His biographer Nick Tosches, suggests that only those closest to him knew that the charming, dissolute, devil-may-care persona he adopted for the show was actually the real man. Hmmmm…….

Recommended listening

Cha Cha de Amor (1962)

Dream with Dean (1964)

Houston (1965)

Recommended viewing

The Young Lions (1958)

Rio Bravo (1959)

The Silencers (1966)

Take one shot of danger, two splashes of action and a twist of comedy and add a generous portion of screen legend Dean Martin to the mix and you’ve got THE SILENCERS, a stylishly sexy adventure in the tradition of James Bond. It’s up to secret agent Matt Helm (Martin) to save the day when megalomaniac Victor Bruno (What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?) and his dastardly organization, Big O, plot to sabotage America’s atomic missile system. From deep inside Big O’s subterranean hideout to a perilous mountainside car chase to groovy designer bedrooms filled with booby traps, Helm braves blistering showers of bullets, knives and laser beams to make the world a safe place again. Helping his cause is a bevy of beauties including Stella Stevens (The Poseidon Adventure) and double agent Daliah Lavi (Casino Royale). In addition to its arsenal of high-tech gadgets and outrageous costumes, THE SILENCERS features an amazing opening sequence starring Cyd Charisse (Singin’ in the Rain) and cocktail-era soundtrack by Elmer Bernstein with vocals by Martin, Charisse and Vikki Carr.

Yes of course it’s pure drivel but it’s also glossy entertainment and who could complain about the beautiful women on show? Dino breezes through the improbable action set pieces like a man gamely looking for the nearest bar.

The sons of Katie Elder (1965)

Airport (1970)

Writer-director George Seaton’s explosive hit was one of film history’s great game changers, launching a new screen genre, the disaster epic, and bringing a renewed focus on the spectacular. Airport confronted viewers with the spectacle of a disaster that they themselves might experience in their own lives, offering a new frisson to moviegoers while narrowing the gap between the Hollywood movie and the thrill ride. Fifty years on, it remains one of the best of its kind, a quality example of a genre that would be preposterously lampooned in successive sequels.

Adapted from Arthur Hailey’s best-selling novel, which I personally read, the story concerns a bombing aboard a transatlantic flight, and the passengers, crew, and airport officials on the ground who strive to bring the crippled craft safely home. Drama emerges from reference to the countless people who daily pass through an airport, mindless of its systems and occasional breakdowns, and by personifying the responsible professionals there as deeply human—with flaws, conflicts, and desires that intersect with their life-or-death functions.

Unhappily married Airport manager Burt Lancaster and airline public relations officer Jean Seberg work to avert disaster whilst negotiating their mutual attraction, and stewardess Jacqueline Bisset and married pilot Dean Martin enact a similar drama aboard the endangered airplane. Lancaster’s marriage is in fact all but over save for inking the decree nisi, whilst martin’s wife remains blissfully unaware of her husband’s predicament. George Kennedy, Van Heflin, Maureen Stapleton and Helen Hayes (who won an Oscar for her performance) offer impressive character turns.

Dino (captain Vern Demerest) is first rate throughout and, having been alerted about a possible bomb on board, plays his comedic trump card after he has begun slowing turning the plane around to head back to the airport. Leaving the controls in the capable hands of his co-pilot, he wends his way along the galley looking for the suspect when he is accosted by the Schultz family.

Mrs. Schultz : Captain, our son has a question. Schuyler, here’s our captain.

Schuyler Schultz : [pointing out the window] Before, Virgo and Leo were right there, sir. Now I’m beginning to see Ursa Minor and Cassiopeia. We MUST be turning around.

Capt. Vernon Demerest : You have a young navigator here! Well, I’ll tell you son… Due to a Cetcil wind, Dystor’s vectored us into a 360-tarson of slow air traffic. Now we’ll maintain this Borden hold until we get the Forta Magnus clearance from Melnics.

Schuyler Schultz : Oh… yes… of course!

Mr. Schultz : What did he mean by that, son?

Schuyler Schultz : Never mind, father, I’ll tell you later.

The film’s technical details, special effects and wide-screen compositions give it a distinctly modern sheen, trending toward the bigger-budget, event-driven Hollywood still to come. It remained Universal Studios biggest-ever box-office hit for five years until the appearance of a certain great white shark.

The Dean Martin Show (1965 - 1974)

Recommended reading

Dino: Living High in the Dirty Business of Dreams (Nick Tosches) 1992

First published in the early 90’s when Dino was ‘failing’ – a weekly reclusive diner, retired nightclub performer, redundant recording star and mourning father – Nick Tosches takes his reader on a mesmerizing, irreverent odyssey through American mob culture, through the hidden, the forbidden, and the dreamed-of places, telling the story of a rise against all odds; the glory of that rise and its dark side, too: the story of a man driven into his own shadow by fame and inner demons. If Martin was indifferent to most things, the central aim of any biography on the man must be to ascertain what truly ‘moved’ his inner being.


Dean Martin - Collected Cool