Musing on Celebrity

While channel surfing this morning, we came across Robin and the Seven Hoods, a 1964 musical lightly inspired by the legends of Robin Hood, crossed with Damon Runyon. It wasn’t a particular good movie or musical, but was filled with a terrific cast. Check out the names: Sinatra. Sammy. Dean. Bing. Falk. I don’t even have to spell them out, we know who they are. The rest of the cast is filled with delightful character actors from an ancient Edward G. Robinson to a youthful Victor Buono.

During one number, I tried to imagine who would be cast in a modern day remake. I failed to come up with a similar caliber of talent that could be united for a splashy production.

The Rat Pack, and this was most certainly a Rat Pack era film, really represented a generation of performer who became a star through virtue of their talent. Sure, there were personal scandals plus the rising and falling of fame, but stick them all in a musical and you know people were as excited to see them together as we are anticipating this summer’s blockbuster.

They’re having fun, it shows through in a way similar to the fun the cast had making the recent Ocean’s Eleven. Still, it’s kind of sad to realize an entire class of star is gone now, and has never really been replaced.


  • gormuu

    Used to be at an audition, you’d have to list your credentials for acting, singing and dancing. There was a real focus to be good at all three entertainment vocations, since a versatile actor would have to be prepared to do any of the three things.

    Naturally, it’s not that way any more. You hardly have to be good at any one thing, let alone three. I would chalk this up to a few factors: the waning popularity of the musical and show revues, as well as the explosion of mass media, which has created a vacuum that must be filled with talent- any talent! And of course, television has pretty much demanded that that talent be physically attractive in a way that will get people to tune in on a weekly basis. And as we all know, broad acting talent isn’t always trucked up with great physical beauty.

    I can’t imagine something like the Rat Pack being allowed to blossom in today’s entertainment world quite like they did back in their heyday.

  • Julio Diaz

    I dunno, Bob, didn’t the remake of Ocean’s 11 and its sequel resolve the “who would be the modern day Rat Packers” question? (‘Cept none of them can sing that I know of…)

  • Julio Diaz

    And of course, had I read the ENTIRE post, I’d have seen that you already addressed that. In the words of Emily Littella, “never mind.”

  • Bob:

    I’d argue that there isn’t sufficient talent these days. For every Peter Falk, for instance, there’s a Steve Buscemi; for every Victor Buono, there’s a Josh Mostel or John Goodman. And, sorry, as actors, none of the Rat Pack was particularly brilliant.

    And in general, there are some great actors performing today, both dramatic and comedic. Just at random and in no order except stream-of-consciousness: Edward Norton, John Turturro, Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson, Robert di Niro, Nicole Kidman, Val Kilmer, Bruce Willis, Robert Duvall.

    I think the problem is indeed one Julio Diaz notes — looking pretty is more important than being able to act. And then there are the film roles that can make a star out of any actor — think Steven Seagal, Arnold Schwarzenegger, or Harrison Ford. And ultimately, it’s what the pubic wants.

    I also might contend that today’s great actors are better than yesterday’s great actors. As good as someone like Humphrey Bogart was (and he’d never get a lead today, true), is he as good an actor as Edward Norton or Robert Duvall? No. It’s like baseball. Take some of the greats of the 1920s in the shape they were in at their prime and put them via time travel into one of today’s lineups, and they wouldn’t acquit themselves well (Ty Cobb’s hitting .270 quote aside). Today’s players are stronger, faster, better-trained, and come from a more diverse talent pool. (Forget the steroids.)

    What amuses me more is that Hollywood, decade after decade, continues to cast the same types. You can look at an actor today and you realize that he is getting work because he looks like and has the intangibles of an actor of 50 years ago. Tom Hanks? James Stewart. Robert Di Niro? Humphrey Bogart. Meryl Streep? Bette Davis.