(director/writer: Gordon Douglas; screenwriter: David R. Schwartz; cinematographer: William H.Daniels; editor: Sam O’Steen; music: Nelson Riddle; cast: Frank Sinatra (Robbo), Dean Martin (Little John), Bing Crosby (Alan A. Dale), Barbara Rush (Marian Stevens), Peter Falk (Guy Gisborne), Sammy Davis Jr. (Will Scarlet), Allen Jenkins (Vermin), Robert Foulk (Sheriff Glick), Victor Buono (Sheriff Potts), Hank Henry (Six Second), Edward G. Robinson (Big Jim); Runtime: 123; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Frank Sinatra; Warner Bros.; 1964)


Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Dreck. A Rat Pack musical gangster film, styled after a Damon Runyon story. It parodies the Robin Hood legend with its sophomoric humor. The dreary comedy is limply helmed by Gordon Douglas (“Nevada Smith”/”Lady in Cement”), the regular Sinatra director, and sloppily written by David R. Schwartz. It’s set in Chicago, during Prohibition, in 1928. The mob boss, Big Jim (Edward G. Robinson), is rubbed out by his gang members under the orders of his right-hand man, Guy Gisborne (Peter Falk), in the opening scene (so lucky is Eddie G to leave this mess so early) while they’re toasting him on his birthday as a great guy. That killing divides the gang, as most of the gang stays with Gisborne as the leader on the South Side, while the smaller group on the North Side is led by Robbo (Frank Sinatra), the boss’s favorite.

Each gang destroys the other one’s gambling house. Because the greedy sheriff (Robert Foulk), who gets fifty percent of the take for covering-up for the gangsters from the law screwed-up a raid plan and won’t settle for a ten percent take, Gisborne rubs him out.

Big Jim’s daughter Marian (Barbara Rush) wanted the sheriff killed as payback for her father’s death and thinks Robbo did it, so she gives him a $50,000 reward. But Robbo refuses the money and gives it to charity. One of those places is an orphanage, which gets Robbo good publicity when the nerdy orphanage secretary (Bing Crosby) tells the press and they call the hood Robin Hood. Thereby the nerd transfers to work for Robbo.

Little John (Dean Martin) is the pool shark wise guy from a neighboring state, who joins the gang and adds muscle and smarts.

Meanwhile the rival gangs continue knocking off the illegal clubs of their rival.

Marian then charms Little John (Dean Martin) into helping her run a counterfeiting scam by using Robbo’s charity as a front. This causes a conflict with boss Robbo and a split.

The pic ran into several delays and sad moments, as Sinatra’s pal JFK was assassinated in Dallas, and they stopped shooting for 10 days. A month later, the nineteen-year-old Frank Sinatra, Jr. was kidnapped at knifepoint in Lake Tahoe and held for ransom. Under the scrutiny of the FBI, Sinatra met the kidnapper’s demands and handed over $240,000. Five days after his abduction Frank Jr. was released unharmed and just a few days after the amateur criminals were arrested. By this time Sinatra lost interest in the film and just went through the motions, ending the uneven film just as quickly as possible.

The songs – “My Kind of Town,” “Style,” “Mr. Booze,” & “Don’t Be a Do-Badder” – were the work of Sinatra’s favorite composers Sammy Cahn and James Van Heusen.

REVIEWED ON 8/13/2020  GRADE: C –