If you're not inclined to read individual biographies of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr., Shawn Levy's Rat Pack Confidential is a perfect one-stop resource. Less a group biography than a series of impressionistic snapshots, the book is loaded with can't-miss material--the dirt on the making of Ocean's Eleven, information about Sinatra's wild stint as a casino owner, deep background on Peter Lawford's habit of introducing Jack Kennedy to glamorous starlets, wiretap transcripts of mobsters Sam Giancana and Johnny Formosa discussiong Dean Martin's lack of respect.
Levy, whose previous book, King of Comedy, is a serious consideration of Jerry Lewis's life and career, offers similarly well considered insights into the members of the Rat Pack. He covers Davis's lifelong struggle against racism and the complicated intertwinings of the Kennedy political machine and "the Clan," as the performers preferred to be called (they often denied anything like the Rat Pack even existed and resisted collective references).
The book's debts to its predecessors are often apparent; much of the material on Sinatra's friendship with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, for example, appears to have been gleaned from recent Bogart biographies. The writing style, which tries to capture the ring-a-ding-ding feel of the era, also owes serious debts to Nick Tosches by way of James Ellroy, while only intermittently reaching their level of mastery. But these are minor quibbles. As a synthesis of thirty years worth of journalism and celebrity biography, Rat Pack Confidential succeeds in portraying the supernova blowout of old-school showbiz in all its dazzling glory.
From Library Journal
It used to be Frank Sinatra's world: Women were broads, the whole world was a smoking section, and booze flowed freely. And at no time was it more Frank's world than when the Rat Pack was in session. Sinatra was the center of the group, with Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. completing the nucleus. Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop, and Shirley MacLaine, the only female admitted, comprised the periphery. Since Sinatra's 80th birthday in 1995 was commemorated by at least a half-dozen books, one might think that all that could possibly be written about Sinatra already has. Indeed, most of the material in these books has been seen before in the biographies and autobiographies of the various Rat Pack players, but each book finds its own angle. Quirk (author of a string of movie-star biographies) and Schoell (a novelist and author of books on film) concentrate a bit more on the various Rat Pack films. Levy (author of a Jerry Lewis biography and former editor at American Film) digs somewhat deeper into Sinatra's connections with politics and organized crime. In light of Sinatra's recent death, there will likely be demand for more material on him, and these boks will be welcome additions to circulating popular culture collections.AMichael Colby, Univ. of California at Davis Lib.
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