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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

The Rat Pack lived by their own rules in original "Ocean's 11"

Jul 28, 2023 01:14PM ● By Randal C. Hill

Las Vegas takes our money, sure, but what if the tables were suddenly turned and we took their money? Who wouldn’t enjoy that?

In 1958, actor Peter Lawford paid $10,000 for a story idea that a movie-director pal claimed to have heard from a gas station attendant. Lawford then approached his fellow members of the celebrated Rat Pack (though the men preferred the more dignified nickname of The Summit), which included Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and Joey Bishop. 

Lawford shared a proposal about using the idea for a heist-caper film set in Sin City. When he heard the concept, Sinatra joked, “Forget the movie! Let’s pull the job!”

The “Ocean’s 11” plot line became a setup for the five hard-drinking, chain-smoking, dame-chasing headliners to make whoopee onscreen—which they did with ease and aplomb as they ad-libbed many of their lines.

The premise of the gather-the-guys yarn stars Ol’ Blue Eyes (Sinatra) as leader Danny Ocean, who assembles a squad of Army-veteran paratrooper pals for a civilian commando raid in Las Vegas on New Year’s Eve. Each participant exudes a different level of passion, and each has a personal reason to be involved. One hopes to help his wife stop stripping for a living. Another is terminally ill and wants to provide for his kid’s college tuition. Another sees a chance to buy his way out of a mundane life that includes driving a truck.

The plan was to simultaneously cut off the electricity at midnight at five major casinos—the Sahara, the Riviera, the Desert Inn, the Sands and the Flamingo. The thieves would then break into casino cages, stuff $5 million in cash into trash cans, and have one of the raiders drive a treasure-laden garbage truck out of town and into hiding. But to prove that crime never pays, one of the 11 scofflaws unexpectedly dies and a monkey wrench is tossed into the mechanism of the “perfect” plan.

Sinatra and Martin earn the lion’s share of screen time together, with Sinatra once saying, “You know, sometimes I think the only reason I got into this caper was to see you again.” 

Cameo appearances weave through the story and include icons such as Shirley MacLaine, Red Skelton, Angie Dickinson and George Raft.

Filming often took place in Las Vegas in short bursts during the daytime before the superstars appeared onstage to perform for the likes of JFK and other celebrities of the time.

The original “Ocean’s 11” became one of Warner Brothers’ most profitable pictures upon its August 1960 release. And while some movie critics harrumphed that the tale was immoral, most reviewers declared it a romp, and quite a clever scheme.

The original “Ocean’s 11” is now a low-tech time capsule that delights to this day. It inspired a remake starring George Clooney and Brad Pitt in 2001 that became a trilogy. “Ocean’s 8,” a spinoff starring Sandra Bullock, rebooted the franchise in 2018. 

Each of the movies allows us to appreciate larger-than-life fellows with oversized personalities who try to live life by their own rules. If you haven’t seen it, definitely check out this classic. It’s one of the reasons we once loved going to the cinemas.



One of the most difficult tasks facing the film’s production team was actually convincing Nevada’s Clark County officials to let them use one of their garbage trucks.