Ocean’s Eleven (1960)


Introduction

Ocean’s 11 (also stylised Ocean’s 11) is a 1960 American heist film directed and produced by Lewis Milestone from a screenplay by Harry Brown and Charles Lederer, based on a story by George Clayton Johnson and Jack Golden Russell.

The film stars five of the Rat Pack: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop. Centred on a series of Las Vegas casino robberies, the film also stars Angie Dickinson, Richard Conte, Cesar Romero, Patrice Wymore, Joey Bishop, Akim Tamiroff, and Henry Silva. It includes cameo appearances by Shirley MacLaine, Red Skelton, and George Raft.

Outline

World War II veterans Danny Ocean and Jimmy Foster recruit nine comrades from their unit in the 82nd Airborne Division to simultaneously rob five Las Vegas casinos: the Sahara, the Riviera, the Desert Inn, the Sands, and the Flamingo.

The gang plans the elaborate New Year’s Eve heist with the precision of a military operation. Josh Howard takes a job as a sanitation worker driving a garbage truck while others get jobs at the various casinos. Sam Harmon entertains in one of the hotel’s lounges. Demolition charges are planted on a local electric power transmission tower and the backup electrical systems are covertly rewired in each casino. At midnight on New Year’s Eve, the tower is blown up and the Las Vegas Strip goes dark, as the men sneak into the money cages, hold up the cashiers, and dump their collection bags into the hotels’ garbage bins. A garbage truck driven by Josh picks up the bags and passes through the police blockade. Everything appears to have gone off without a hitch.

The gang’s electrician, Tony Bergdorf, drops dead of a heart attack in the middle of the Strip. This raises police suspicions, who wonder if there is any connection to the thefts. Reformed mobster Duke Santos offers to recover the casino bosses’ money for a percentage. As the robbery was well organised, he assumes that it was a Mafia operation until his underworld connections deny any involvement. Duke is engaged to Foster’s mother, who casually mentions that Foster and Ocean, having fought together in the army, are both unexpectedly in Las Vegas. Duke also learns about Bergdorf’s military record from the police. By the time that Bergdorf’s body arrives at the mortuary, Duke has pieced it all together.

Duke confronts the thieves, demanding half of their take. In desperation, they hide the money in Bergdorf’s coffin, setting aside $10,000 for his widow. The group plans to take back the rest, making no payoff to Duke, after the coffin is shipped to San Francisco. Their plan backfires when the funeral director talks Bergdorf’s widow into having the funeral in Las Vegas. She has the body and coffin cremated along with all of the hidden cash.

Cast

  • Ocean’s 11:
  • The film derives its name from this group of 11:
    • Frank Sinatra as Danny Ocean.
    • Dean Martin as Sam Harmon.
    • Sammy Davis Jr. as Josh Howard.
    • Peter Lawford as Jimmy Foster.
    • Richard Conte as Tony Bergdorf.
    • Joey Bishop as “Mushy” O’Connors.
    • Henry Silva as Roger Corneal.
    • Buddy Lester as Vince Massler.
    • Richard Benedict as George “Curly” Steffans.
    • Norman Fell as Peter Rheimer.
    • Clem Harvey as Louis Jackson.
  • Others:
    • Angie Dickinson as Beatrice Ocean.
    • Cesar Romero as Duke Santos.
    • Patrice Wymore as Adele Elkstrom.
    • Akim Tamiroff as Spyros Acebos.
    • Ilka Chase as Mrs. Restes.
    • Jean Willes as Gracie Bergdorf.
    • Hank Henry as Mr. Kelly, the mortician.
    • Lew Gallo as Jealous Young Man.
    • Robert Foulk as Sheriff Wimmer.
  • Cameos:
    • George Raft as Jack Strager (Casino Owner).
    • Red Skelton as Himself.
    • Shirley MacLaine as Inebriated woman (Martin’s kisser).
    • Red Norvo as Himself/Hotel Vibraphonist (Martin’s band when he sings “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head?”).
    • Shiva as snake dancer.

Production

Peter Lawford was first told of the film’s basic premise by director Gilbert Kay, who had heard the idea from a filling station attendant. Lawford bought the rights in 1958, envisioning William Holden in the lead. Frank Sinatra became interested in the idea, and a variety of writers worked on the project. When Lawford first told Sinatra of the story, Sinatra joked, “Forget the movie, let’s pull the job!”

The animated title sequence was designed by Saul Bass. The film’s closing shot shows the main cast walking away from the funeral home, with the Sands Hotel marquee behind them, listing their names as headliners.

Filming Locations

The Las Vegas portion of the film was shot on location at the Flamingo, Sands, Desert Inn, Riviera, and Sahara hotels. One segment was also filmed at the former Las Vegas Union Pacific station.

Two Beverly Hills locations were used: the opening barber shop scene was filmed at 9740 Wilshire Boulevard and the scenes at Spyros Acebos’s house were filmed at 230 Ladera Drive, which belonged to Hollywood agent Kurt Frings.

Release

The film received mixed reviews from critics.

Home Media

Ocean’s 11 was released on videocassette by Warner Home Video on 09 February 1983, as part of its “A Night At the Movies” series, featuring a Hearst Metrotone Newsreel, a Warner Bros. animated short, and a coming-attractions trailer for films of 1960. The film was released as a 50th-anniversary Blu-ray disc on 09 November 2010. The disc’s bonus features include:

  • Special commentary by Frank Sinatra Jr. and Angie Dickinson.
  • “Vegas Map” — mini-documentaries of the five casinos involved in the film.
  • Tonight Show clip of Angie Dickinson with Frank Sinatra as host from 14 November 1977.
  • “Tropicana Museum Vignette”.

Trivia

  • It originated the Ocean’s film series.
  • The plot is loosely followed in Triple Frontier (2019): members of a military unit, finding civilian life challenging, reunite to pull a heist; the heist is successful; they are hunted; one of their member dies; they ultimately lose the money, but they give what they have left to the ex-wife/family of their fallen comrade.
  • According to Frank Sinatra Jr. on the DVD commentary, Sammy Davis Jr. was forced to stay at a “colored only” hotel during the filming because Las Vegas would not allow blacks to stay at the major hotels despite his appearing with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and the others at the Sands Hotel.
    • He was only allowed to stay at the major hotels after Frank Sinatra confronted the casino owners on his behalf, therefore breaking Vegas’ unofficial colour barrier.
    • That hotel was Mrs. Harrison’s Boarding House, located in the historic Westside district.
    • The establishment hosted a stellar array of African American entertainers in its day and is now a listed historic building.
  • In a scene between Danny (Frank Sinatra) and Adele (Patrice Wymore), Adele throws a dish of candy at Danny.
    • The throwing of the dish was ad-libbed, which accounts for the genuine look of surprise on Sinatra’s face and the faces of his co-stars.
  • Sammy Davis Jr. required wooden blocks attached to the pedals on the garbage truck he drove in the film so that he could reach them.
  • Significant portions of the movie interactions between major characters were ad-libbed.
    • The actors playing the leading roles all knew each other well and improvised dialogue as well as or better than the script.
  • During Dean Martin’s scene with Shirley MacLaine, after she calls him “Ricky Nelson”, Martin replies “I used to be Ricky Nelson but now I’m Perry Como.”
    • In real life, early in his singing career, music critics used to derisively refer to Martin as a knock off of Perry Como.
    • In addition, Martin had just done Rio Bravo (1959) co-starring Ricky Nelson.
  • 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.
  • Most filming was accomplished early in the morning, before sunrise, since most of the actors also had shows in Las Vegas that they performed nightly during the shooting.
    • The actors would wake up in the afternoon, do one or two shows in the evening, then go through make-up and arrive at the shooting locations for principal photography.
    • Each shooting location was fully set up in advance so that minimal time would be wasted once the actors arrived.

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s):
    • Lewis Milestone.
  • Producer(s):
    • Lewis Milestone … producer (produced by).
    • Henry W. Sanicola … associate producer (uncredited).
  • Writer(s):
    • Harry Brown … (screenplay by).
    • Charles Lederer … (screenplay by).
    • George Clayton Johnson … (based on a story by).
    • Jack Golden Russell … (based on a story by).
    • Billy Wilder … (uncredited).
  • Music:
    • Nelson Riddle … (music composed & conducted by).
  • Cinematography:
    • William H. Daniels … director of photography.
  • Editor(s):
    • Philip W. Anderson.
  • Production:
    • Warner Bros. Pictures (presents).
    • Dorchester Productions (production) (as Dorchester).
  • Distributor(s):
    • Warner Bros. (1960) (USA) (theatrical) (distributed by).
    • Warner Bros. (1960) (UK) (theatrical).
    • Warner Bros. (1961) (France) (theatrical).
    • Warner Bros. Film (1961) (Sweden) (theatrical).
    • Warner Bros. (1961) (Norway) (theatrical).
    • Warner Bros. (1961) (West Germany) (theatrical).
    • Warner Bros Pictures (1962) (India) (theatrical).
    • CBS (1965) (USA) (TV).
    • Astória Filmes (1970) (Portugal) (theatrical).
    • Warner Home Video (1991) (USA) (VHS) (box set).
    • Warner Home Video (1995) (USA) (VHS).
    • Sandrews (2002) (Sweden) (DVD).
    • Warner Home Video (2002) (Germany) (DVD).
    • Warner Home Video (2002) (UK) (DVD).
    • Warner Home Video (2002) (USA) (DVD).
    • Warner Home Video (2005) (USA) (DVD).
    • Warner Home Video (2006) (USA) (DVD).
    • Warner Home Video (2009) (USA) (DVD) (included in ‘4 Film Favorites: Ocean’s Collection’).
    • Warner Home Video (2010) (USA) (Blu-ray).
    • Warner Home Video (2010) (Germany) (Blu-ray).
    • 7Mate (2020) (Australia) (TV).
  • Release Date: 03 August 1960 (Las Vegas, US).
  • Running Time: 127 minutes.
  • Rating: A.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

Video Link(s)

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