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Who were the original Rat Pack members? Group of actors, singers and entertainers in the 50s and 60s

During golden age of Hollywood, a group of A-listers who regularly worked and socialized together became know as the ‘Rat Pack’ - the label given to them by Lauren Bacall.

During golden age of Hollywood, a group of A-listers who regularly worked and socialized together became know as the ‘Rat Pack’ - the label given to them by Lauren Bacall.

With a new documentary about the 80s coming-of-age collective the Brat Pack about to hit screens, we take a look at their predecessors - a generation of actors and actresses who were equally as fast-living and carefree - or more so - the Rat Pack. The Rat Pack was a constantly evolving group of Hollywood A-listers who not only starred together in several of the hit movies of the day but were also a close knot group of friends who socialized off-screen. They supported each other both professionally and emotionally, and unlike the Brat Pack, whose members felt stigmatized by their moniker, the Rat Pack reveled in in.

Who came up with the name the ‘Rat Pack’?

Smoldering screen goddess Lauren Bacall is credited with having invented the name Rat Pack after witnessing its members holding court during one of many nights of endless drinking and debauchery. In her memoir By Myself, she describes the initiation criteria: “In order to qualify, one had to be addicted to nonconformity, staying up late, drinking, laughing, and not caring what anyone thought or said about us”.

Hanging out in Las Vegas

Bacall’s husband Humphrey Bogart is cited as one of the original members of the Rat Pack and the first leader of the group. Bogie and Bacall would often entertain their fellow artists - hitting the town after shows. Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland landed residencies in Las Vegas in the early 50s and Sin City would become synonymous with the Rat Pack. Sinatra, who picked up an Oscar for his portrayal of Private Angelo Maggio in From Here to Eternity in 1954, was designated pack master and Garland, first vice-president. Bogart meanwhile, soon discovered that his days were numbered. He was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1956 - the legacy of years of hard drinking and chain smoking. He died in January 1957 shortly after his 57th birthday.

With Sinatra as their spiritual leader, the Rat Pack continued to thrive and gain new members. There was multi-talented, hugely versatile Sammy Davis Jr. who could sing, act, dance, make people laugh. Dean Martin, who appeared alongside Sinatra in seven movies at the peak of their powers. Sinatra invited Peter Lawford to join and through his contacts, got him a role in John Sturges’ 1959 war film Never So Few.

Rat Pack films

  • It Happened in Brooklyn (1947) (Frank Sinatra and Peter Lawford)
  • Meet Me in Las Vegas (1956) (Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr)
  • Some Came Running (1958) (Sinatra and Dean Martin, co-starring Shirley MacLaine)
  • Never So Few (1959) (Sinatra, Lawford)
  • Ocean's 11 (1960) (Sinatra, Martin, Davis, Lawford, Angie Dickinson, Joey Bishop)
  • Pepe (1960) (Sinatra, Martin, Davis, Lawford, and Bishop)
  • Sergeants 3 (1962) (Sinatra, Martin, Davis, Lawford and Bishop)
  • The Road to Hong Kong (1962) (Sinatra and Martin)
  • Come Blow Your Horn (1963) (Sinatra, Martin)
  • Johnny Cool (1963) (Davis and Bishop)
  • 4 for Texas (1963) (Sinatra and Martin)
  • Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964) (Sinatra, Martin, Davis, Bing Crosby)
  • Marriage on the Rocks (1965) (Sinatra and Martin)
  • The Oscar (1966) (Sinatra, Lawford)
  • A Man Called Adam (1966) (Davis and Lawford)
  • Texas Across the River (1966) (Martin and Bishop)
  • Salt and Pepper (1968) (Davis and Lawford)
  • Sweet Charity (1969) (MacLaine and Davis)
  • One More Time (1970) (Davis and Lawford)
  • The Cannonball Run (1981) (Martin and Davis)
  • Cannonball Run II (1984) (Sinatra, Martin and Davis, MacLaine, Henry Silva)

The Rat Pack wasn’t exclusively a male-dominated collective - there were several female artists who were part of the gang - Angie Dickinson, Shirley MacLaine, Marilyn Monroe, Katharine Hepburn and Juliet Prowse were considered full-time or part-time associates during the late 50s/early 60s. Five Rat Pack big cheeses appeared in the 1960 casino heist movie Ocean’s 11 which did well at the box office but received mixed reviews.

They would spend the day on set, they head straight to the The Copa Room at The Sands Hotel to unwind. It was there, right at the heart of Sin City that Sinatra, Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop, and Lawford performed together on stage. Clips of some of those shows still exist and are available to watch on Youtube.

By the tail end of the 60s, the cultural landscape had changed and the Rat Pack had run its course. The surviving members remained great friends and did manage a number of reunions - Martin and Davis landing roles in The Cannonball Run (1981) and the sequel three years later, along with Sinatra and MacLaine.