The Rat Pack

The Rat Pack Information

The Rat Pack is a 1998 HBO TV movie about the Rat Pack. The movie stars Ray Liotta as Frank Sinatra, Joe Mantegna as Dean Martin, Don Cheadle as Sammy Davis, Jr., and Angus Macfadyen as Peter Lawford.

Despite his membership in the Pack, Joey Bishop (played by Bobby Slayton) is given minimal screen time, while John F. Kennedy (played by William L. Petersen), depicted as an on-and-off friend of Sinatra's, is given a more central role.

Also featured in supporting roles are Zeljko Ivanek as Bobby Kennedy, Veronica Cartwright as Rocky Cooper (wife of Gary Cooper), Deborah Kara Unger as Ava Gardner, Megan Dodds as May Britt, Dan O'Herlihy as Joe Kennedy, Robert Miranda as Sam Giancana, Scott MacDonald as a tourist, John Diehl as Joe DiMaggio and Barbara Niven as Marilyn Monroe.

Don Cheadle won a Golden Globe for his performance as Sammy Davis, Jr.

The Rat Pack won three Emmy awards and earned several more nominations, including acting ones for Cheadle and Mantegna.


After a brief flash-forward to Frank Sinatra as an old man, saying "I miss my guys," the movie's main narrative begins during high points in the solo careers of the Rat Pack: Dean Martin has become a big success despite the breakup of his partnership with Jerry Lewis; Sinatra's career is at its peak; Sammy Davis, Jr., is making a comeback after a near fatal car crash, and standup comic Joey Bishop is gaining exposure as an opening act for the other three. The Pack becomes complete when Sinatra reconciles with actor Peter Lawford, who has been ostracized since being seen out publicly with Sinatra's ex-wife, Ava Gardner.

Lawford has married Patricia Kennedy. Abandoning a notion to seduce Pat for his own amusement, Sinatra becomes more interested in her brother John F. Kennedy's political ambitions. He sincerely believes Jack Kennedy would be a great president, but he also feels having a friend in the White House could benefit his own public image.

Sinatra arranges for the entire Pack to perform at a JFK campaign fund-raiser. Sinatra also knows Kennedy's infatuation with the opposite sex and introduces him to Marilyn Monroe, who begins seeing Kennedy behind the back of her husband, baseball star Joe DiMaggio.

Kennedy's pompous father, Joseph P. Kennedy, feels Sinatra's mob ties might hurt Jack's chances of defeating Richard Nixon in the election of 1960. He insists that Sinatra help the campaign from behind the scenes only; hypocritically, he also asks Sinatra to use those same mob ties to swing the West Virginia unions' support Kennedy's way.

Meanwhile, the Rat Pack continues to enjoy success in Hollywood and Las Vegas, often combining their stage acts for joint performances. They even parlay their friendship into a movie collaboration, Ocean's Eleven, working and playing together at the same time, enjoying wine, women and song.

Davis is sometimes secretly hurt by the racist jokes of their stage act, especially after his girlfriend, actress May Britt, insinuates that the rest of the Pack is laughing at him, not with him. Davis has a more serious brush with racism when he and Britt announce their engagement, which results in a mixed-marriage protest in front of Davis's hotel. Davis day-dreams about scaring the protesters away with a song and dance routine in which he wields a gun. But he concedes the possible political repercussions of an interracial marriage. He postpones the wedding to avoid hurting Sinatra, who had agreed to serve as best man.

In the White House, President Kennedy seeks to renew his friendship with Sinatra. The two go sailing and plan for Kennedy to stay at Sinatra's Palm Springs residence during an upcoming West Coast presidential trip. Thrilled by the idea, Sinatra returns home and arranges for a guest compound to be built for Kennedy and his entourage.

However, the FBI finds a potential mafia link to the White House through a woman, Judy Campbell, who shared phone calls, and possibly affairs, with both Kennedy and mob boss Sam "Momo" Giancana after being introduced by Sinatra to each. Kennedy's brother, attorney general Robert F. Kennedy, insists that the President cancel his stay at Sinatra's house and cut off all ties to the entertainer. This enrages Sinatra, who had sunk a lot of money and time into the renovation and had been at least partially responsible for Kennedy's being elected president.

Sinatra takes out his wrath on Lawford, who as Kennedy's brother-in-law was Sinatra's direct link to the White House. Lawford finds himself repeatedly serving as a messenger between Sinatra and the Kennedys, including JFK's secret dalliances with Monroe, and he is sick of it. Lawford dreads delivering the news of Kennedy's decision to cancel his visit to Sinatra's house and stay instead with Bing Crosby, a Republican. A furious Sinatra physically throws Lawford out of his home and vows never to forgive him.

The movie depicts this incident as the beginning of the end of the Rat Pack's influence in both politics and entertainment.


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