Dino Paul Crocetti was born to Gaetano and Angela Crocetti on June 17, 1917 in Steubenville, Ohio. Not able to speak English until age five, Dino quit school at 16 and took odd jobs as a steel mill worker and even an amateur boxer under the name "Kid Crochet," during which time he broke his nose. But as a delivery boy for bootleg liquor, he made connections with the underworld and everything changed. Anxious to walk in the footsteps of his idol Bing Crosby, Dino started singing for bandleader Sammy Watkins, got his nose fixed, changed his name to Dean Martini, and eventually dropped the "i" to become Dean Martin.
Dean married Betty McDonald in 1941 and fathered four of his seven children with her before they divorced in 1949. In 1946 he met a struggling comic named Jerry Lewis and the two teamed up to form one of the most famous comedy duos in history. Jerry's wackiness played perfectly off Dean's straight-man, crooner persona and they made 16 films together, including My Friend Irma (1949), At War with the Army (1950), The Stooge (1952) and Hollywood or Bust (1956), their final film. But their huge success took its toll and in 1956, Dean and Jerry, not even speaking to one another, broke up the act.
Martin, now married to second wife Jeanne since 1949, was on his own and though his 1953 solo recording of That's Amore was a hit, his first solo film, Ten Thousand Bedrooms (1957), was a bomb. Not wanting to be remembered as Lewis's former partner, he took a meager-paying role in The Young Lions (1957) to be near Marlon Brando. He followed up with Some Came Running (1958) with Frank Sinatra, Rio Bravo (1959) with John Wayne and Ocean's 11, with Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop - a group of entertainers that forever would be affectionately known as "The Rat Pack"! The "pack" made three more films together: Sergeants 3 (1962), 4 for Texas (1963) and Robin and the Seven Hoods (1964). Sinatra was Chairman of the Board, for sure, but Las Vegas provided a playground for Dean and stage performances with drink and cigarette in hand became his trademark.
From 1965 to 1974, Dean hosted The Dean Martin Show and amidst a slew of hit records like his theme song Everybody Loves Somebody, You're Nobody Till Somebody Loves You, Return To Me and Volare, he made five films as suave detective, Matt Helm, and kept fans roaring as Roastmaster of the Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts (1975-1984). His most famous films during this stretch included The Sons of Katie Elder (1965), 5 Card Stud (1968), How to Save a Marriage and Ruin Your Life (1968) and Airport (1970).
Although Martin was labeled a booze-happy ladies man, he really only drank apple juice on stage. But he was indeed a heavy smoker all his life, and on Christmas Day in 1995, Dean left his fans behind when he succumbed to lung cancer. Let Critics' Choice Video "return him to you" Molto bene!