Jack Golden Russell’s Ocean’s Eleven Story
Ocean’s Eleven is based on a story by gas station attendant Jack Golden Russell. During World War II, Russell had been a member of a group of 25 GIs who had smuggled valuable radio equipment out of Germany. In 1955, assistant director Gilbert Kay related Russell’s story to Peter Lawford, with the two men agreeing that a similar tale featuring a gang of ex-GIs who plunder Las Vegas would make a great heist film.
Kay shopped his story around Hollywood for four years. Finally, in 1959, Peter Lawford and his wife Pat purchased Kay’s script for $10,000. Lawford showed the script to Frank Sinatra who “flipped” for the idea, readily envisioning himself as gang leader Danny Ocean with his fabled Rat Pack in support.
Ocean’s Eleven made its way to Warner Bros., where studio mogul Jack Warner quipped, “Let’s not make the movie – let’s pull the job.” Warner Bros. bought the script for $50,000, with Frank Sinatra’s agent, Bud Allenberg, putting the movie deal together.
Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. Star in Ocean’s Eleven
Harry Brown and Charles Lederer wrote the final screenplay for Dorchester Productions. Lewis Milestone produced/directed and Nelson Riddle created the quirky music score.
Rat Packers Frank Sinatra (Danny Ocean), Dean Martin (Sam Harmon), Sammy Davis Jr. (Josh Howard), Peter Lawford (Jimmy Foster) and Joey Bishop (Mushy O’Connors) head the cast. Other players include Angie Dickinson (Beatrice Ocean), Richard Conte (Tony Bergdorf), Cesar Romero (Duke Santos), Akim Tamiroff (Spyros Acebos), Henry Silva (Roger Corneal), Buddy Lester (Vince Massler), Richard Benedict (Curly Steffens), Norman Fell (Peter Rheimer) and Clem Harvey (Louis Jackson).
Ocean’s Eleven Filmed in Las Vegas
Ocean’s Eleven was filmed in Las Vegas, primarily at the Riviera and Sands Hotels. California locations included Bob Hope Airport in Burbank and the Beverly Hills mansion of Hollywood agent Kurt Frings, which served as the swanky digs of crime boss Spyros Acebos.
At the time, Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack were also doing two shows nightly at the Sands. The boys often didn’t get to bed until five in the morning, arriving on the Ocean’s Eleven set after noon.
Ocean’s Eleven Movie Review
Ocean’s Eleven is Rat Pack cool, with Frank Sinatra and the boys portraying former members of the 82nd Airborne who “blow all the lights in Las Vegas” on New Year’s Eve. Hitting the Sahara, Riviera, Desert Inn, Sands and Flamingo in a daring raid, the 11 ex-paratroopers score big, relieving the casinos of over $10 million.
Crime movie fans will love Ocean’s Eleven, mainly for its brazen, finely executed plan. Throw in Ol’ Blue Eyes and the hip Rat Pack, and one has the makings of a 1960s film classic.
Frank, Dean, Sammy, Peter and Joey simply play themselves, with the rest of the cast in fine support. Red Skelton appears as himself, hilariously escorted from the Sands after trying to exceed his self-imposed gambling limit. Shirley MacLaine nabs a cameo as a tipsy, mink-clad trollop who accosts a sober Dean Martin outside the Sahara.
Ocean’s Eleven features an “incendiary” ending involving the stolen loot, a dead body and a mortuary with its own crematorium. As Dino croons: Ain’t that a kick in the head?
Ocean’s Eleven Release, Reviews, Box Office, DVD
- Release date: August 10, 1960.
- ” A surprisingly nonchalant and flippant attitude toward crime…” reported Bosley Crowther of The New York Times (8/11/60).
- Box office gross: $5.650 million (#9, 1960).
- Ocean’s Eleven DVD (Warner, 2008).