Dean Martin

Dean Martin Headshot

Singer • Actor • Comedian

Birth Date: June 7, 1917

Death Date: December 25, 1995

Birth Place: Steubenville, Ohio

As the epitome of laid-back cool, the handsome, mellow-voiced crooner Dean Martin successfully redefined his image throughout his career without ever straying too far from his established persona as a quick-witted, booze-loving regular guy. Martin emerged from the shadow of playing straight man to his early comedy partner Jerry Lewis, to become a respected film actor in such films as "Some Came Running" (1958), as well as a top-selling solo recording artist. His profile rose even further as the apparent second-in-command to his close friend Frank Sinatra in the Rat Pack, both in films and on records and the stages of Las Vegas nightclubs. By the 1960s Martin was one of the most popular and highest paid performers in history, with a hit single that bounced the Beatles off the charts, films like the Matt Helm series topping the box office, and his long-running comedy-variety series, "The Dean Martin Show" (NBC, 1965-1974), sitting atop the ratings each week. Martin's output decreased somewhat in the 1970s and 1980s, but his appearances in films like "Airport" (1970) and "The Cannonball Run" (1981) continued to endear him to a broad audience. However, by the time of Martin's death in 1995, a resurgence of appreciation for Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., and their contemporaries - fueled perhaps most prominently by Jon Favreau's über-cool film "Swingers" (1996) - elevated the entertainer to full-fledged icon status. Though his former partner Jerry Lewis would later call him "the most underrated performer in the history of our business," Martin was enthusiastically embraced by the audiences of his time, and rediscovered by subsequent generations of fans who had yet to be born during his heyday.

Born on June 7, 1917, Dino Paul Crocetti was the son of Italian immigrant farmers in Steubenville, OH. He spoke only Italian throughout his early years and dropped out of high school in the 10th grade - perhaps one of many reasons Martin would develop an almost impenetrable wall around himself, letting few in throughout his life. The future performer toiled in a variety of odd jobs around this time, including stints as a shoe-shine boy, store clerk, steel mill worker, and for a period, welterweight prizefighter. He also helped run bootleg liquor for certain shady establishments, later becoming an accomplished croupier at some of the local speakeasies. After being coaxed on stage one night by friends, Martin realized his suave good looks and smooth baritone might allow him to escape a life of manual labor and set out to become a crooner in the mold of Bing Crosby and Russ Columbo. An early break came when he performed with the Ernie McKay Orchestra, which led to higher profile gigs, and by the mid-1940s, a spot opening for a young Frank Sinatra in New York City. After a brief stint in the Army, Martin teamed with a teenage comedian named Jerry Lewis, launching them both into the celebrity stratosphere. Though Martin seemingly played the straight man to the manic, off-the-wall Lewis - the "organ grinder" to Lewis' "monkey" as many termed it - his deft comic timing was a critical, if not always appreciated, part of what was then America's most successful comedy duo of the late 1940s and 1950s. Indeed, the fan hysteria that accompanied Martin & Lewis' public appearances at the time was akin to the manias that surrounded Sinatra and Elvis Presley at the heights of their popularity.

In addition to sold out live performances, Martin & Lewis began appearing on various television programs, and even landed their own half-hour radio spot, "The Martin and Lewis Show" on NBC. Placed under contract with producer Hal Wallis at Paramount Pictures, the comedy duo appeared together in 16 films, beginning with "My Friend Irma" (1949), through "Sailor Beware" (1952) and "Artists and Models" (1955), ending with "Hollywood or Bust" (1956). When the team's 10-year partnership ended - due, most speculated, to Lewis' ever-increasing ego, combined with Martin's mounting dissatisfaction with being the "second banana" - many in Hollywood predicted dire straights for Martin's future career after the duo's acrimonious split. Martin, however, saw things differently, releasing a string of hit recordings - which would ultimately include classics like "That's Amore" (1953), "Memories Are Made of This" (1955), "Mambo Italiano" (1955) and "Ain't That a Kick in the Head" (1960) - and jumping into a solo film career with the box office bomb "Ten Thousand Bedrooms" (1956). Undeterred, he took a supporting role in director Edward Dmytryk's war drama "The Young Lions" (1958), delivering a respectable performance, followed by another well-regarded turn as an incorrigible gambler in the Vincente Minnelli melodrama "Some Came Running" (1958), co-starring Frank Sinatra and Shirley MacLaine. Martin paired with John Wayne for the first time in the classic Howard Hawks western "Rio Bravo" (1959), then reconnected with Sinatra for "Ocean's Eleven" (1960). The caper comedy, featuring mutual pals Sammy Davis, Jr., Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford, officially kicked off the Rat Pack era, to which Martin and the boys would be linked forever after.

Martin and director Minnelli joined forces once again with an adaptation of the Judy Holliday musical "Bells Are Ringing" (1960). During the early 1960s, he performed regularly with the Rat Pack live on the Las Vegas strip, and in other lightweight film romps such as "Sergeants 3" (1962) and "Robin and the Seven Hoods" (1964). Billy Wilder's sex comedy "Kiss Me Stupid" (1964) featured Martin in a role tailor-made for him - that of a hard-drinking, womanizing lounge singer - however, audiences were far from receptive to the film's cavalier attitude toward promiscuity and adultery, dooming its theatrical release. Although musical tastes in America were changing - it was at the height of the Beatles' American invasion, after all - Martin proved he still had something to offer when his hit single "Everybody Loves Somebody" knocked the Fab Four off the U.S. charts in 1964. Never one to take himself or his public image too seriously, Martin cashed in on the James Bond craze of the mid-60s with the spy spoof "The Silencers" (1966), as sexy super agent Matt Helm. Based on the popular series of pulp novels, it generated several sequels, all starring Martin, and later helped inspire the Mike Myers romp "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery" (1997). Other efforts included his own long-running TV variety program, "The Dean Martin Show" (NBC, 1965-74) - later followed by NBC's periodic "Dean Martin's Celebrity Roast" spin-off specials, which attracted some of the biggest names in show business for some of the funniest off-the-cuff revelry ever aired on the small screen.

Over the course of the 1970s, Martin began to scale back his work. His last successful starring role in a major motion picture was as the pilot of a doomed airliner in the all-star disaster melodrama "Airport" (1970). His final starring role was in the little-seen crime drama "Mr. Ricco" (1975), followed by sporadic appearances on television shows like "Charlie's Angels (ABC, 1976-1981) and "Vega$" (ABC, 1978-1981). Perhaps his most significant television appearance of the era was in 1976, when Sinatra brought Martin out as a surprise guest on Jerry Lewis' annual Muscular Dystrophy Telethon, marking the first time the former friends had spoken in two decades. The reunion touched Lewis, who had never stopped missing nor idolizing his former partner. Martin was called out of semi-retirement by 1970s movie megastar Burt Reynolds for the campy car race comedy "The Cannonball Run" (1981), along with fellow Rat Packer Sammy Davis, Jr. Cast as a pair of contenders disguised as priests, the pair good-naturedly goofed their way through the silliness, reprising their roles in the 1984 sequel. Tragically, Martin's son, actor-singer Dean Paul Martin, was killed in a plane crash in 1987, and many of the performer's intimates later suggested that the loss was such a devastating blow to the already emotionally reserved Martin, causing him to further retreat into solitude throughout his later years. One bright spot came when Lewis made a low-key appearance at Dean Paul's funeral, prompting Martin to at last rekindle the friendship with his former partner for the remainder of his life. A life-long smoker, Martin succumbed to emphysema at his Los Angeles home in 1995 at the age of 78, leading old friends like Sinatra, MacLaine and Lewis to memorialize him as an underrated comedy genius and premier recording artist who was always the most charming man in the room.

In the years following his passing, Martin's musical contributions gained new recognition, due in large part to his hits being featured on the soundtracks of such films as "Goodfellas" (1990), "A Bronx Tale" (1993), and the L.A. hipster comedy "Swingers" (1996). On the small screen, aspects of his relationships with former friends and partners were covered in a pair of telepics - "The Rat Pack" (HBO, 1998), with Joe Mantegna as Martin and Ray Liotta as Sinatra, in addition to "Martin and Lewis" (CBS, 2002), with Jeremy Northam as the laid-back crooner and Sean Hayes as his nutty partner.

Credits

The Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra Family Christmas Show

Music Performer
Show
2021

Dean Martin: In the Spotlight

Actor
Show
2021

The Martin & Lewis Story: The Last Great Comedy Team

Actor
Show
2021

Holiday Classics

Music Performer
Show
2021

Dean Martin: Let It Snow Let It Snow Let It Snow

Music Performer
Show
2019

Legends In Concert: Dean Martin

Music Performer
Show
2016

Legends In Concert: Tammy Wynette

Music Performer
Show
2016

Hooligans at War: North vs. South

Actor
CSM Gold
Movie
2015

Sinatra and FriendsStream

Actor
Special
2014

The Rat Pack: Live and Swingin'

Music Performer
Show
2010

Dean Martin: Innamorata

Music Performer
Show
1989

Half-Nelson

Actor
Show
1985

Half-Nelson

Self
Show
1985

Half-Nelson

Actor
Mr. Martin
Movie
1985

The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast: Michael Landon

Self
Show
1984

The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast: Mr. T

Host
Show
1984

The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast: Joan Collins

Host
Show
1984

Cannonball Run II

Actor
Jamie Blake
Movie
1984

The Cannonball Run

Actor
Jamie Blake
Movie
1981
29%

Every Little Movement

Actor
Show
1980

The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo

Guest Star
Show
1979

The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast: Suzanne Somers

Host
Show
1978

Dean Martin Celebrity Roast: Betty WhiteStream

Host
Special
1978

The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast: George Burns

Host
Show
1978

The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts: Jimmy Stewart

Host
Show
1978

The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast: Jack Klugman

Host
Show
1978

The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast: Dan Haggerty

Host
Show
1977

The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast: Peter Marshall

Host
Show
1977

The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast: Gabe Kaplan

Host
Show
1977

The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast: Angie Dickinson

Host
Show
1977

The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast: Ted Knight

Host
Show
1977

The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast: Danny Thomas

Host
Show
1976

CBS Salutes Lucy: The First 25 Years

Guest
Show
1976

The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast: Redd Foxx

Host
Show
1976

The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast: Joe Garagiola

Host
Show
1976

The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast: Dennis Weaver

Host
Show
1976

Charlie's AngelsStream

Guest Star
Series
1976

The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast: Dean Martin

Guest
Show
1976

Dean's Place

Host
Show
1976

The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast: Valerie Harper

Host
Show
1975

The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast: Evel Knievel

Host
Show
1975

Dean's Place

Host
Show
1975

The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast: Michael Landon

Host
Show
1975

The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast: Sammy Davis Jr.

Host
Show
1975

The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast: Joe Namath

Host
Show
1975

The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast: Jackie Gleason

Host
Show
1975

The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast: Lucille Ball

Host
Show
1975

Mr. Warmth

Actor
Show
1975

Mr. Ricco

Actor
Joe Ricco
Movie
1975

The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast: Telly Savalas

Host
Show
1974

The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast: Bob Hope

Host
Show
1974

The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast: Jack Benny

Host
Show
1974

The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast: Redd Foxx

Host
Show
1974

The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast: Johnny Carson

Host
Show
1973

ShowdownStream

Actor
Billy Massey
Movie
1973

Powder Room

Actor
Show
1971

Something Big

Actor
Joe Baker
Movie
1971

AirportStream

Actor
Capt. Vernon Demerest
Movie
1970
75%

Bandolero!Stream

Actor
Dee Bishop
Movie
1968
20%

Five Card Stud

Actor
Van Morgan
Movie
1968

How to Save a Marriage and Ruin Your Life

Actor
David Sloane
Movie
1968

The Wrecking CrewStream

Actor
Matt Helm
Movie
1968

Dean Martin: In the Chapel in the Moonlight

Music Performer
Show
1967

Rough Night in Jericho

Actor
Alex Flood
Movie
1967

The AmbushersStream

Actor
Matt Helm
Movie
1967

The SilencersStream

Actor
Matt Helm
Movie
1966

Murderers' RowStream

Actor
Matt Helm
Movie
1966

Texas Across the River

Actor
Sam Hollis
Movie
1966

The Dean Martin Show

Host
Variety Show
1965

The Best on Record

Actor
Show
1965

Marriage on the RocksStream

Actor
Ernie Brewer
Movie
1965

The Sons of Katie ElderStream

Actor
Tom Elder
Movie
1965
100%

Favorite Songs

Actor
Show
1964

Dean Martin: Dream

Music Performer
Show
1964

What a Way to Go!Stream

Actor
Leonard "Lennie" Crawley
Movie
1964
18%

Robin and the Seven HoodsStream

Actor
Little John
Movie
1964
40%

Kiss Me, Stupid

Actor
Dino
Movie
1964

Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed?

Actor
Jason Steel
Movie
1963

Four for TexasStream

Actor
Joe Jarrett
Movie
1963
11%

Toys in the Attic

Actor
Julian Berniers
Movie
1963

The Lucy ShowStream

Guest Star
Series
1962

The Tonight Show Starring Johnny CarsonStream

Guest
Talk
1962

Who's Got the Action?

Actor
Steve Flood
Movie
1962

Sergeants 3

Actor
Chip Deal
Movie
1962

All in a Night's Work

Actor
Tony Ryder
Movie
1961

Ada

Actor
Bo Gillis
Movie
1961

Dean Martin: You're Nobody Till Somebody Loves You

Music Performer
Show
1960

Ocean's ElevenStream

Actor
Sam Harmon
Movie
1960
48%

Who Was That Lady?

Actor
Michael Haney
Movie
1960

Bells are RingingStream

Actor
Jeffrey Moss
Movie
1960
83%

Ford Startime

Actor
Show
1959

The Phil Harris Show

Actor
guest
Show
1959

RawhideStream

Guest Star
Series
1959

Career

Actor
Maurice "Maury" Novak
Movie
1959

Rio BravoStream

Actor
Dude ("Borachón")
Movie
1959
96%

The Young LionsStream

Actor
Michael Whiteacre
Movie
1958
71%

Some Came RunningStream

Actor
Bama Dillert
Movie
1958
75%

Club Oasis

Self
Show
1957

Ten Thousand Bedrooms

Actor
Ray Hunter
Movie
1957

PardnersStream

Actor
Slim Mosely Jr./Slim Mosely Sr.
Movie
1956

Hollywood or Bust

Actor
Steve Wiley
Movie
1956

You're Never Too Young

Actor
Bob Miles
Movie
1955

Artists and Models

Actor
Rick Todd
Movie
1955

Living It Up

Actor
Dr. Steve Harris
Movie
1954

Three Ring Circus

Actor
Peter "Pete" Nelson
Movie
1954

The Caddy

Actor
Joe Anthony
Movie
1953

Money From Home

Actor
Herman "Honey Talk" Nelson
Movie
1953

The Stooge

Actor
Bill Miller
Movie
1953

Scared Stiff

Actor
Larry Todd
Movie
1953

Jumping Jacks

Actor
Corp. Chick Allen
Movie
1952

Sailor Beware

Actor
Al Crowthers
Movie
1952

That's My BoyStream

Actor
Bill Baker
Movie
1951

The Colgate Comedy HourStream

Actor
Series
1950

The Colgate Comedy HourStream

Host
Series
1950

Show of the Year

Self
guest
Show
1950

What's My Line?Stream

Guest
Game Show
1950

My Friend Irma Goes West

Actor
Steve Laird
Movie
1950

At War With the Army

Actor
Sergeant Vic Puccinelli
Movie
1950

My Friend Irma

Actor
Steve
Movie
1949

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