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Martin, Dean(originally, Crocetti, Dino Paul)

Martin, Dean(originally, Crocetti, Dino Paul)

Martin, Dean(originally, Crocetti, Dino Paul), American singer, comedian, and actor; b. Steubenville, Ohio, June 7, 1917; d. Los Angeles, Dec. 25, 1995. A relaxed, easygoing singer, Martin followed in the footsteps of his fellow Italian-American and friend, Frank Sinatra, forging a career made up of personal appearances, recordings, and radio, television, and film work. He got his start in a music-and-comedy act with Jerry Lewis that lasted 10 years, then went out on his own, finding additional success in dramatic film roles and as host of a television variety series. His extensive recordings resulted in 46 singles and numerous albums that reached the pop charts between 1948 and 1972; 12 of his albums went gold, as did the singles “That’s Amore,” “Memories Are Made of This,” and “Everybody Loves Somebody.” Of the 55 feature films in which he appeared between 1949 and 1984, 16 were musical comedies in which he co-starred with Lewis.

Martin was the child of Italian immigrant Gaetano Crocetti, a barber, and Angela Barra Crocetti. After dropping out of high school he worked a variety of jobs before he turned to singing. By 1940 he was working with Sammy Watkins’s band in Cleveland. There he married Elizabeth Ann MacDonald on Oct. 2, 1941. They had four children and divorced on Aug. 24, 1949. Martin stayed with Watkins until September 1943, when he went out as a single with an extended engagement at the Riobamba nightclub in N.Y. Over the next three years he continued to perform without scoring a major success.

Martin made his first recordings for Diamond Records in July 1946. On July 25, at the 500 Club in Atlantic City, he teamed with Jerry Lewis for a zany act in which he both sang and served as straight man to Lewis’s comic antics. The act grew in popularity until Martin and Lewis were among the most successful nightclub performers in the country. In April 1948 they opened at the prestigious Copacabana in N.Y., where they played for 18 weeks. During this run, on June 20, 1948, they made their television debut on the premiere broadcast of Talk of the Town, the variety series later called The Ed Sullivan Show.In August they signed contracts with Capitol Records and Paramount Pictures.

At their first Capitol recording session on Sept. 13, 1948, Martin and Lewis revived the novelty song “That Certain Party” (music by Walter Donaldson, lyrics by Gus Kahn); it became their first chart entry in December. That month Martin alone recorded “Powder Your Face with Sunshine (Smile! Smile! Smile!)” (music and lyrics by Carmen Lombardo and Stanley Rochinski); in March 1949 it became his first Top Ten hit. The Martin and Lewis Show premiered on network radio on April 3. It ran for the rest of the season and from November to January 1950, then returned in the fall of 1951 and ran during 1951–53.

On Sept. 1, 1949, Martin married model Jeanne Beiggers; they had three children. Martin married a third time; the couple divorced on March 29, 1973. Martin and Lewis made their first film appearance in My Friend Irma in September 1949 and followed it with My Friend Irma Goes West in August 1950. September marked the premiere of the television variety series The Colgate Comedy Hour, for which they served as hosts on a rotating basis with other performers, appearing about once a month. The program ran until December 1955.

Martin and Lewis’s film career brought them their greatest success. Their third feature, At War with the Army, released in December 1950, and their fourth, That’s My Boy, released in August 1951, were both among the ten highest grossing films of 1951; Sailor Beware, released in December 1951, and Jumping Jacks, released in July 1952, were both among the ten highest grossing films of 1952. Among their four pictures released in 1953 was The Caddy, in which Martin sang “That’s Amore” (music by Harry Warren, lyrics by Jack Brooks). His Capitol recording of the song hit the Top Ten in December and sold a million copies. Though all of Martin and Lewis’s films were comedies in which Martin got to sing at least a couple of songs, Living It Up, released in July 1954, was a full-fledged movie musical based on the Broadway show Hazel Flagg, with songs by Jule Styne (music) and Bob Hilliard (lyrics).

In January 1956, Martin hit #1 with the million-seller “Memories Are Made of This” (music and lyrics by Terry Gilkyson, Rick Dehr, and Frank Miller), a success not directly related to his partnership with Lewis and one that encouraged him to strike out on his own. Martin and Lewis gave their final performance together at the Copacabana on July 25, 1956, ten years after their first; their last film, Hollywood or Bust, was released in December

Martin’s solo career got off to a slow start. His first film as a single, the musical comedy Ten Thousand Bedrooms, released in April 1957, was unsuccessful, and none of his recordings during the year reached the charts. But on Sept. 5, 1957, he starred in his first television special, followed by a second on Feb. 1, 1958, when one of his guests was Frank Sinatra. Then his third-billed, non-singing role in the epic war film The Young Lions, released in April, established him as a dramatic actor, and within weeks he reached the Top Ten with “Return to Me” (music and lyrics by Carmen Lombardo and Danny Di Minno). These successes set a pattern in which he effectively mixed recordings, personal appearances, and film and television work for the next quarter-century.

His film career revitalized, Martin appeared in an average of three films a year from 1959 to 1964, including his dramatic co-starring performance with John Wayne in the box office hit Western Rio Bravo (March 1959), and the musicals Bells Are Ringing (June 1960), What a Way to Go! (May 1964), and Kiss Me, Stupid (December 1964). He also appeared in a series of films with Frank Sinatra and in some cases other members of the “Rat Pack,” of which they were the two most prominent members:Some Came Running (January 1959); Ocean’s Eleven (August 1960); Sergeants 3 (February 1962); Come Blow Your Horn (June 1963); Four for Texas (December 1963); and Robin and the 7 Hoods (August 1964).

Martin left Capitol Records at the end of 1961 and joined the Sinatra-owned Reprise Records. In May 1964, Reprise released Martin’s revival of the 1948 song “Everybody Loves Somebody” (music by Ken Lane, lyrics by Irving Taylor) in a rhythmic Ernie Freeman arrangement produced by Jimmy Bowen. It hit #1 in August, selling a million copies and earning Martin his only Grammy nomination, for Best Vocal Performance, Male. It also revitalized his recording career. The album Everybody Loves Somebody, released in August, hit #1 in September and went gold. Also released in August was the gold album Dream with Dean. His next single was a revival of the 1955 R&B hit “The Door Is Still Open to My Heart” (music and lyrics by Chuck Willis); it reached the pop Top Ten and topped the easy-listening charts.

An LP titled The Door Is Still Open to My Heart was released in October; it reached the Top Ten in November and went gold. Martin’s follow- up single, a revival of the 1944 song “You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You” (music and lyrics by Russ Morgan, Larry Stock, and James Cavanaugh), reached the pop Top 40 and hit #1 on the easy-listening charts in January 1965.

Martin released three more gold-selling albums in 1965—Dean Martin Hits Again (January), (Remember Me) I’m the One Who Loves You (August), and Houston (October)—as well as four chart singles, including “I Will” (music and lyrics by Dick Glasser), which hit the Top Ten in December. He also appeared in two films, again costarring with John Wayne in the Western The Sons of Katie Elder, released in August, and with Frank Sinatra in the comedy Marriage on the Rocks, released in September. On Sept. 16 he launched The Dean Martin Show, a comedy-variety television series. It became a substantial success, ranking among the highest rated shows each year between 1966 and 1971 and remaining on the air until 1974.

In addition to his TV work, Martin continued to record and make films. In February 1966 he released the gold-selling album Somewhere There’s a Someone.In March, Columbia Pictures released The Silencers, the first of four films in which he portrayed secret agent Matt Helm, spoofing the James Bond movies; it was one of the highest grossing films of the year. Martin released the gold-selling seasonal LP The Dean Martin Christmas Album in October. He also enjoyed gold albums with Welcome to My World (August 1967), Dean Martin’s Greatest Hits! Vol. 1 (May 1968), Dean Martin’s GreatestHits! Vol. 2 (July 1968), and Gentle on My Mind (December 1968).

Martin’s singles regularly hit the lower reaches of the pop charts and the upper reaches of the easy-listening charts: a revival of the 1936 song “In the Chapel in the Moonlight” (music and lyrics by Billy Hill) was an easy-listening #1 in August 1967, and “In the Misty Moonlight” (music and lyrics by Cindy Walker) topped the easy-listening charts in January 1968.

Martin’s recording and film work had diminished by the end of the 1960s, though he was one of the featured performers in the movie Airport (February 1970), the highest grossing film of 1970. That year he was reported to have signed the most lucrative contract in television history to renew his series. On April 24, 1973, he married beautician Catherine Mae Hawn. He adopted her daughter from a previous marriage. They divorced on Feb. 24, 1977. For its final season, 1973–74, Martin’s TV show was renamed The Dean Martin Comedy Hour and sometimes featured humorous “roasts” of wellknown personalities. After the series went off the air, Martin continued to appear on similar programs, billed The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts, as well as hosting annual Christmas specials.

Martin was gradually less active in the second half of the 1970s and 1980s. He appeared in the comedy film The Cannonball Run (June 1981) one of the highest grossing films of 1981, and made his final film appearance in its sequel, Cannonball Run II (June 1984). In 1983 he returned to record- making for the first time in five years with his final album, the country-styled The Nashville Sessions; it featured “My First Country Song” (music and lyrics by Conway Twitty), which became his only country singles chart entry. In the spring of 1985 he was a regular on the TV crime series Half- Nelson.He continued to perform live, especially in Las Vegas. In the fall of 1987 he was part of a tour with Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr., but he dropped out due to ill-health. He was inactive in his later years. He died of acute respiratory failure at age 78 in 1995.

Discography

Swingin’ Down Yonder (1955); Dean Martin Sings (1956); Pretty Baby (1957); This is Dean Martin (1958); Sleep Warm (1959); A Winter Romance (1959); Bells Are Ringing (soundtrack) (1960); Cha-Cha de Amor (1961); Dean Martin (1961); This Time I’m Swingin’! (1961); French Style (1962); Country Style (1963); Dino Latino (1963); Dean ’Tex’ Martin Rides Again (1963); The Door Is Still Open to My Heart (1964); Everybody Loves Somebody (1964); Hey Brother, Pour the Wine (1964); Dream with Dean (1964); Dean Martin Sings, Sinatra Conducts (1965); Holiday Cheer (1965); Houston (1965); Southern Style (1965); The Dean Martin TV Show (1966); Happy in Love (1966); The Hit Sound of Dean Martin (1966); Somewhere There’s a Someone (1966); Christmas Album (1966); Relaxin’ (1966); Songs from The Silencers (1966); Happiness is Dean Martin (1967); Welcome to My World (1967); Gentle on My Mind (1968); Favorites (1968); I Take a Lot of Pride in What I Am (1969); My Woman, My Woman, My Wife (1970); For the Good Times (1971); Dino (1972); Sittin on Top of the World (1973); You’re the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me (1973); Once in a While (1978); The Nashville Sessions (1983).

Bibliography

A. Marx, Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime (Especially Himself): The Story of D. M. and Jerry Lewis (N.Y., 1974); N. Tosches, Dino: Living High in the Dirty Business of Dreams (N. Y., 1992); S. Levy, Rat Pack Confidential: Frank, D., Sammy, Peter, Joey and the Last Great Showbiz Party (N.Y., 1998).

—William Ruhlmann

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