Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Robin and the 7 Hoods


Today, I'm celebrating Dean Martin's 100th birthday with a review of the gangster film/musical Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964). The photo above shows Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Dean Martin behind a portrait of Edward G. Robinson.

This article is part of The Dean Martin Centenary Blogathon hosted by Musings of a Classic Film Addict.

Actor, singer, and Rat Packer Dean Martin was born 100 years ago today (June 7, 1917). A great way to celebrate his wonderful singing voice and laid-back charm is by watching the 1964 gangster flick/musical Robin and the 7 Hoods, which features the Ohio-born crooner as Frank Sinatra's loyal (except when it comes to women) second in command.

Robin and the 7 Hoods, which is based on the Warner Bros. swashbuckler The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), begins when crime boss "Big" Jim Stevens (Edward G. Robinson) is bumped off by another ruthless gangster, Guy Gisborne (Peter Falk), in twenties Chicago. This sets off a fierce rivalry between Guy and Robbo (Frank Sinatra), a speakeasy owner who becomes famous for using his ill-gotten gains to support orphanages and set up soup kitchens. Robbo is assisted in his good deeds by two loyal wingmen: Snazzy dresser Will (Sammy Davis, Jr.) and pool hustler and ladies' man Little John (Martin).


Robin and the 7 Hoods came from Sinatra's idea to transform the medieval legend of the outlaw who "robbed from the rich to give to the poor" into a Guys and Dolls type musical that would take place in twenties Chicago. Sinatra, who produced the film, hired songwriting team Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen to provide the toe-tapping original score, and he hired a great supporting cast that included fellow rat-packers Martin and Davis, old Hollywood legends Robinson and Bing Crosby (he plays an uptight orphanage director), and the up-and-coming Falk. 

Although the production went through several difficulties -- President John F. Kennedy was assassinated during the shooting and Sinatra's 19-year-old son, Frank Jr., was kidnapped for two days until his father paid $240,000 in ransom -- there's no hint of stress in the finished film. Viewed today, Robin and the 7 Hoods is probably the best Rat Pack movie. It has a great score, including the Academy Award-nominated "My Kind of Town," and there are outstanding performances all around, especially from the always charismatic Davis,  Falk as a not-too-bright hood, and Crosby, who has a great time spoofing his good guy persona by playing an orphanage director who gleefully joins Robbo and his merry men in bootlegging and illegal gambling.

Dean Martin on the set of Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964).
Martin is not always front and center in Robin and the 7 Hoods, but he is a key part of the movie's success. He is ideal for the role of Little John, which gives him the ability to showcase his easygoing rapport with Sinatra and his natural charm -- in an ironic plot twist, Little John has more success in the boudoir with the Maid Marian character (Barbara Rush) than Robbo. Martin is also part of several great musical numbers including the jazzy production number "Mr. Booze" and "Style" a charming trio performance with Sinatra and Crosby.

However, my personal favorite is his solo effort "Any Man Who Loves His Mother." I'll leave you with a clip of Dino warbling the catchy tune.


Robin and the 7 Hoods is available for streaming on Warner Archive Instant. It is also available on DVD and video on demand.



3 comments :

  1. Robin and the 7 Hoods is a Sunday afternoon of easy-going, charming entertainment. Even the title makes me smile.

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  2. I love this movie. It's a tad bit long, but it is still so much fun. It's hard to pick, but I think "Style" is my favorite number. Great post!

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  3. This film is so wonderful - definetely one of my favorites! If I may say, I even think it's better than Guys and Dolls...
    Kisses!
    Le

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