Sunday, November 7, 2010

Orginal Film Shows More Character Development

Something interesting happens when you compare an original film to its remake. Quite often, you'll find that some of the magic found in the original is lost in the remake. The chemistry between the cast may be lacking, or the story may be more convoluted. I've found that this is usually the case, especially now, in the days of computer animation and CGI. However, in this instance, I found the chemistry between the cast in the original and that of the cast of the remake to be comparable.

There's no doubt that George Clooney, Brad Pitt and company have chemistry on screen. There were often news stories of practical jokes played by Clooney and Pitt, either on the cast and crew, or on each other. But I found that the chemistry between Frank Sinatra and his fellow "Rat Pack" members to be more enjoyable. Sinatra originated the role of Danny Ocean in this 1960 film "Ocean's Eleven". He plays a criminal mastermind who pieces his scattered crew back together for a heist that, to quote a line from the film, "Will not only put your kid through college, it will buy them a college." As in the Clooney-Pitt version, the crew devises a plan to rob a number of Las Vegas casinos, simultaneously. In this film, the robberies are to take place during the five casinos' simultaneous New Years' festivities. With the rest of the crew in place, including, of course, the remaining members of the "Rat Pack" (Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop) as well as secondary characters, such as Norman Fell (who would later play the curmudgeon landlord Stanley Roper in the hit sit-com "Three's Company") the plan is developed in great detail. It develops slowly, over the course of the two hour film, with the actual heist taking place in the final scenes of the film, as one would expect. But, also as expected, the film has it's share of complications, which adds a much needed complexity to the film. Without them, the film would become one dimensional and mundane.

One of the best examples of the complexities of the film lies within Lawford's character Jimmy Foster's relationship with his mother, played excellently by Ilka Chase. Jimmy is a man who lives beyond his own means. That being said, he's never far from his wealthy mother, just in case he should need to borrow a few (thousand) bucks. Their relationship is further strained when mother-dearest returns from a trip with news of her impending nuptials. The situation is even further complicated when Jimmy meets his soon to be step-father, Duke Santos, an ex-con now living a (supposedly) honest life, played by the suave Cesar Romero. Jimmy's contempt for Duke is palpable, but there's no way, short of speculation, whether or not the two actors really had this sort of animosity towards one another, or if it was all part of their respective roles. There's no doubt that these two actors, whatever their feelings toward each other off set may have been, that while on camera, they played well off of each other.

After seeing this film, I can see why the Rat-Pack was so popular. Their chemistry together was certainly dynamic. But, without question, their chemistry out of the "pack", be it alone, or with the film's second tier actors, such as Romero's Santos, and also the chemistry of the actors in the later incarnation of the film, is what made the film and the careers of all its stars so successful. I would highly recommend this film for the fan the the thrill, but also for someone who loves to get lost in a film, to feel what the characters on film may feel. It's not hard to see why this film, as well as the Clooney-Pitt franchise was so popular. See the film that started it all.

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