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Dean Martin: King of the Road

By Michael Freedland

Rat Pack singer and actor Dean Martin has held his place in popular culture since his death in 1995.

Today fans of all ages download his songs and purchase his recordings on CD. Ocean’s 11, his 1960 crime caper with fellow Rat Packers Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr, Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop, was remade by Steven Soderbergh in 2001, starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts. The hard partying legend of the Rat Pack, in Las Vegas and Hollywood was recreated for a new audience, and the Ocean films became a franchise.

Dubbed the King of Cool, Dean Martin’s extraordinary life is detailed in this absorbing biography. Born to an Italian American family in 1917, he left school at sixteen and trained first as a boxer. From this he graduated to the local casino, where, as a croupier, he began to cultivate the persona of the gambling ladies man which would propel him to success. In true rags to riches style, he went on to become one of the biggest stars of the late 20th Century. An all-round entertainer, he was a singer, actor and TV host, famous for his charm, humour and Italian good looks.

Michael Freedland was himself a journalist, popular broadcaster and a biographer who specialized in Hollywood stars. In this excellent study, he dispels the myths Martin created about himself. Presenting himself as a hard-drinker, in fact he didn’t drink much. He riffed around his own laziness but was the consummate professional – always punctual, always immaculate, with a vast selection of his trademark tuxedoes on hand for every appearance. Despite the outward confidence and bravado, in fact he suffered chronic claustrophobia and had a manic fear of hospitals.

With exclusive access to Martin’s family and friends, including some who have never spoken of Dino before, this is an in-depth account of Martin’s career and of the key relationships in his life – his three failed marriages, the final reconciliation with his second wife, Jeanne, and of course his lifelong friendship with Frank Sinatra.

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