Dean Martin: An American Legend with a Storied Career
Dean Martin, a beloved American singer, actor, and comedian, left an indelible mark on the entertainment industry. With a net worth of $30 million at the time of his passing in 1995, Martin’s journey to stardom was both inspiring and fascinating. This article delves into the life and accomplishments of Dean Martin, highlighting his early struggles, rise to fame, and significant contributions to the world of entertainment.
Early Life: A Journey from Steubenville to Stardom
Dean Martin, born Dino Paul Crocetti on June 7th, 1917, in Steubenville, Ohio, had humble beginnings. His father, originally from Italy and working as a barber, instilled in him a deep appreciation for their Italian heritage. Martin grew up speaking Italian and faced difficulties due to his broken English, making him a target for bullying. Despite these challenges, he exhibited remarkable talent and determination from an early age.
As a teenager, Martin discovered his passion for music and began playing the drums. Believing he possessed greater intelligence than his teachers, he made the bold decision to drop out of Steubenville High School during his sophomore year. Martin ventured into various odd jobs, including working at a steel mill, a speakeasy, and even as a welterweight boxer. Boxing under the name Kid Crochet, he eventually moved to New York City, where he shared an apartment with Sonny King, another aspiring entertainer. Together, they would entertain audiences by staging bare-knuckle boxing matches in their apartment, charging a small fee for the spectacle.
Martin’s life took a turn when he secured a job as a roulette stickman at an illegal casino. Simultaneously, he pursued his passion for singing by performing with local bands under the stage name “Dino Martini.” His talent captured the attention of the Ernie McKay Orchestra, which marked the beginning of his musical career. In 1940, he joined the Sammy Watkins Orchestra, and Watkins advised him to change his name to Dean Martin. Embracing this recommendation, Martin stayed with the group until May 1943 before embarking on a solo career in New York.
Martin & Lewis: A Comedy Duo That Shaped an Era
In 1945, Dean Martin’s path crossed with that of comedian Jerry Lewis at the Glass Hat Club. A fortuitous encounter led to their debut on stage in Atlantic City when another singer failed to appear, and Lewis suggested Martin as a replacement. Their initial performances received lukewarm responses, prompting the owner to consider canceling their contract. Determined to succeed, Martin and Lewis modified their act, incorporating improvisation, with Martin showcasing his singing talents while Lewis provided comedic antics. The duo’s new approach struck a chord with audiences, and they quickly gained popularity.
Their breakthrough came in 1949 when they appeared in the comedy musical film “My Friend Irma.” This performance caught the attention of NBC executives, who offered the duo a five-year contract worth $150,000 per year, a substantial sum at the time. Although their humor relied heavily on visual gags, NBC’s investment paid off through lucrative sponsorships from Chesterfield cigarettes and Anacin, a pharmaceutical company. In 1950, they made their television debut on “The Colgate Comedy Hour.” Martin and Lewis collaborated on sixteen films between 1949 and 1956, solidifying their status as a beloved comedy duo.
Dean Martin: Thriving as a Solo Artist
After parting ways with Jerry Lewis in 1956 due to creative differences, Dean Martin embarked on a successful solo career. In 1957, he starred in his first film without Lewis, “Ten Thousand Bedrooms,” which unfortunately did not resonate with audiences. However, the following year, Martin delivered a compelling performance alongside Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift in the critically acclaimed war drama “The Young Lions.” His talent as a dramatic actor became evident, and in 1958, he garnered further acclaim for his role in the drama film “Some Came Running,” which received multiple Academy Award nominations.
During this period, Martin balanced his acting pursuits with his passion for music. He starred in notable films like “Artists and Models,” “Robin and the 7 Hoods,” “Ada,” and “Ocean’s 11.” Additionally, in 1965, he achieved another milestone in his career by hosting his own variety television show, “The Dean Martin Show.” This acclaimed series, which aired from 1965 to 1974, showcased Martin’s versatility as an entertainer and earned him a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Television Series Musical or Comedy in 1966.
The Rat Pack: Legendary Camaraderie and Performances
Dean Martin’s name became synonymous with the Rat Pack, an informal group of friends who captivated audiences with their performances and off-stage camaraderie. Alongside Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop, Martin formed this iconic group. Known for their unforgettable shows in Las Vegas, the Rat Pack became a symbol of elegance and entertainment.
Initially, Peter Lawford was part of the group; however, Humphrey Bogart replaced him in 1964. Although the Rat Pack eventually grew apart in the 1970s, the trio of Sinatra, Davis, and Martin reunited for a memorable twenty-nine-appearance comedy tour in 1987, rekindling the magic that had captivated audiences for years.
Dean Martin’s Enduring Legacy
Dean Martin’s personal life was as vibrant as his professional career. He married Elizabeth Anne McDonald in 1941, and the couple had four children before divorcing in 1949. Later that year, Martin married Dorothy Jean Biegger, with whom he had three children before their divorce in 1973. In his final marriage, Martin tied the knot with Catherine Hawn, which lasted for three years but did not result in any additional children.
Despite his tremendous success, Martin faced health challenges later in life. A heavy smoker, he received a lung cancer diagnosis in September 1993. Although surgery could have prolonged his life, Martin made the personal decision to forgo the procedure. As a result, he gradually withdrew from public life, ultimately succumbing to respiratory failure on Christmas Day in 1995. In honor of his contributions, Ohio Route 7, which passes through his hometown of Steubenville, was renamed Dean Martin Boulevard in 1997.
Dean Martin’s Real Estate Ventures And Net Worth
Dean Martin’s shrewd investments extended beyond his successful entertainment career, as he delved into the realm of real estate ventures. One notable acquisition took place in the 1970s when Martin purchased a property in the prestigious neighborhood of Beverly Hills for a modest sum of $120,000. Recognizing the potential, he embarked on a series of expansions that transformed the initial dwelling into an expansive 12,000-square-foot residence. However, following Martin’s passing, the property changed hands, being sold for $1.35 million in 1995. Then, in 2003, it was once again sold, this time for $2 million. The subsequent owner opted to raze Martin’s former abode and erect a contemporary mansion in its place, showcasing the evolution of the property. This distinctive mansion has recently made waves in the real estate market, garnering attention with a staggering listing price of $28 million, a testament to its luxurious design and sought-after location in Beverly Hills.
In addition to his Beverly Hills property, Dean Martin also possessed a remarkable mid-century modern home nestled in the picturesque Palm Springs. Following his untimely demise, Martin’s estate decided to sell this property in 1996, and it fetched a price of $205,000. While his entertainment legacy remains his primary claim to fame, these ventures into real estate demonstrate Martin’s acumen in diversifying his investments and further contributing to his net worth.
Dean Martin, an iconic figure in American entertainment, left an indelible mark on the world. From his humble beginnings in Steubenville, Ohio, to his rise as a legendary singer, actor, and comedian, Martin’s journey captivated audiences across the globe. His partnership with Jerry Lewis, contributions as a solo artist, and involvement with the Rat Pack exemplified his versatility and enduring appeal.
Although Dean Martin is no longer with us, his legacy lives on through his timeless performances, beloved music, and unforgettable presence. His net worth of $30 million at the time of his death was a testament to his remarkable talent and lasting impact on the entertainment industry.