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the rat pack, biographical film, biography, review, biopic

The Rat Pack (1998)

Originally aired less than four months after Sinatra’s death, this biopic was despised by members of his surviving family who felt it depicted the entertainer as nothing more than a hard-drinking, mob-connected womaniser. Irrespective of your thoughts as to the accuracy of such a portrayal, the performance of Ray Liotta does recall Goodfella’s Henry Hill more than Ol’ Blue Eyes himself.


Fortunately, casting of other Rat Pack members more than makes up for this misstep. Though Joe Mantegna doesn’t attempt to imitate Dean Martin’s voice, he nails his attitude. Don Cheadle is ideally cast as the multi-talented Sammy Davis Jr., providing the team (and film) with heart whereas Angus Macfadyen appears appropriately weak-willed as Peter Lawford.  The fifth member of the Rat Pack, comedian Joey Bishop, is given perfunctory treatment.


Not so John F. Kennedy, who the biopic indicates was almost a member of the Rat Pack himself.  Not only did Sinatra campaign for JFK, but he also used his mob connections to rig the President’s election and provided female company for him whenever he was in town. Accordingly, it is JFK’s snubbing of Sinatra that marks the beginning of the Rat Pack’s end. 


In his own inimitable way, Dino saw it coming, telling Joey Bishop that “the world is drunk and we're just the cocktail of the moment pally. One of these days everybody's gonna wake up with a heck of a hangover... and wonder what the hell all the fuss was about.”

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Biopic suggests that the Rat Pack started to fall apart after JFK didn’t stay at Sinatra’s Palm Spring House in 1962. Though Sinatra and Lawford were estranged as a result, other members of the Rat Pack continued to work with each other, in film (most notably in Robin and the 7 Hoods) and on stage. One such performance featuring Sinatra, Martin and Davis was televised live in 1965 and is included on the 'Ultimate Rat Pack Collection: Live & Swingin' DVD.

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Though biopic mentions a few Rat Pack films, the only scene recreation is one from Ocean’s 11.

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