We’re celebrating versatile entertainer Dean Martin and all the things he did so well.
Dean Martin (1917–1995) — like his Rat Pack pals Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. — was a man of many talents. The actor-singer-comedian was equally successful in nightclubs, in movies, on television, and in record shops. Today, we’re celebrating the versatile entertainer and all the things he did so well.
Born June 7, 1917, Dino Paul Crocetti tried his hand at many trades before landing in show business: delivering bootleg liquor, blackjack dealing, working in a steel mill … he even boxed for a while as welterweight “Kid Crochet.” After twelve bouts (“I won all but eleven,” he later said), Martin gave up on boxing and turned to showbiz, crooning with local bands and calling himself “Dino Martini.”
After a brief stint in the Army during World War II, Dean Martin (as he was then known) started to make a name for himself on the East Coast nightclub circuit. While performing at the Glass Hat Club in New York, he met comedian Jerry Lewis. The two became fast friends and the rest, as they say, is history. Audiences loved the way they played off each other, with Martin as the straight man to Lewis’s very goofy one, and Martin and Lewis vaulted to stardom.
With comedy success came calls from Hollywood, and Martin and Lewis starred in several wacky movies together. But after years of formulaic film comedies, Martin longed to do more serious acting. Meanwhile, his partnership — not to mention friendship — with Lewis was beginning to fray. After 10 years and much to the disappointment of their adoring fans, Martin and Lewis went their separate ways. Martin embarked on a solo acting career and, after a few flops, finally found success in 1957 when he starred in “The Young Lions” with Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift. The film was a hit, and Martin solidified his reputation as an actor.
Though he was successful both as a comedian and an actor, it was as a singer that Martin truly made his mark. But the now-legendary singer didn’t succeed overnight; it took Martin years to refine his style and hit it big. In his early nightclub days, he copied the styles of other top performers such as Bing Crosby and Perry Como. Eventually, he matured into his own distinctive sound, and his music career really started to move. Today, even more than his work in movies or comedy, he’s remembered for his smooth voice and effortless style on classics like “That’s Amore,” “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head,” “Baby It’s Cold Outside” — and, of course, his signature song, “Everybody Loves Somebody.”
Said Martin, “I want to be remembered as a damn good entertainer, nothing spectacular. A good entertainer who made people enjoy themselves and made them laugh a little. I want them to think ‘He was a nice guy. He did pretty good and we loved him.'”
Written by Linnea Crowther and Jessica Campbell. Originally published June 2012.