Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin AND Bing Crosby…

…singing with Nelson Riddle and his orchestra; together delivering a raft of musical numbers written by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen — I mean, how could this NOT be one of the best Rat Pack pictures!

(Actually, with the help of the Feds enforcing the Motion Picture Production Code it was a near thing — but we’ll get to that later.)

Robin and the Seven Hoods is an oft overlooked Rat Pack Era classic musical that I myself have been overlooking for quite a few years.

A month or so back, with my wife off visiting her folks and me with a weekend night to kill, I loaded R7H into my DVD player, poured myself three fingers of Scotch and had a blast re-discovering this fun film.

Watching the Rat Pack principals strut their stuff in this loose retelling of “Robin Hood” as a stylized 30’s gangster musical is a kick on it’s own.

But intersperse a slew of Cahn/Van Heusen songs — written just for the movie — including classics like “My Kind of Town” and  “Style” and you have a bonafide Rat Pack classic!

Looking back at the film…

…it’s interesting to think about the somewhat late addition of Bing Crosby for the Allen A. Dale character. Peter Lawford was originally queued up for this spot in the movie but was scratched after his falling out with Frank. I can only imagine how excited  Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen were to have a real vocal talent like Bing take over for Peter … in fact it’s not too hard to see how excited they were given Bing has more solo numbers in the soundtrack than any of the Rat Packers!

Beyond the ‘Pack+Bing, the cast in R7H was first rate and only added to the acting quality and story flow of the picture. Barbara Rush was incredible playing a Machiavellian, seductress version of Maid Marian (she rolled through the men in this movie like Grant through Richmond).

A pre-“Columbo” edition of Peter Falk was awesome delivering a way over-the-top performance as the classic mobster Guy Gisborne. Peter even did a fine job singing the “All For One and One For All” number.

In addition to the classic popular songs…

…that came out of the film, there were a bunch of musical stage type numbers — move the story forward songs — woven into the film. I think the best of that lot was “Bang! Bang!”  where SDjr gets to display his dancing/physical stagecraft as well as his amazing singing; “Any Man Who Loves His Mother” where Dean (as Little John) smoothly sings his way into the merry men while running the table  and taking Robbo (Sinatra) to the cleaners; and Bing (Dale) guiding the young souls at the orphanage with “Don’t be a Do-Badder”.

But it was the headliner numbers…

…the ones that became popular, that really makes R7H a hit musical. “My Kind Of Town” traveled with Frank for the rest of his career and was reprised on several LPs, but my personal favorite is “Style” (“You’ve either got or you haven’t got …).

Dean, Frank and Bing sing this trio number in a perfect song and dance weave that is both classic and classy. The troika of giants clearly having a blast with this song is great stuff, but R7H was also Bing’s last singing film appearance and “Style” always carried special relevance for me because of that boundary marker … hell, all that special relevance stuff aside it’s hard to beat Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Bing Crosby singing “Style”!

An ending that comes too late…

So, the same people that brought you separate beds for Mary Tyler Moore and Dick Van Dyke, and refused to bring you Barbara Eden’s belly button were also fast at work with “Robin and the 7 Hoods”. The Motion Picture Production Code says even this highly stylized comedic musical needed to be scrupulously monitored to insure “right thinking”.

It was considered gauche and inappropriate for a mobster like Robbo to end up benefiting from his murderous/stealing ways. So the end of the movie had to be written with the fiscal (if not physical) demise of Robbo and his men … remember kids, crime doesn’t pay!.

What this means from a story standpoint is that you should [spoiler warning] just stop the movie after Robbo is exonerated in court and Frank sings “My Kind Of Town” on the courthouse steps. This is the natural ending for the story and the rest feels contrived.

You end up losing ~14 minutes off a 2+ hour flick and walk away with a smile on your face rather than wondering what the hell the director was thinking.

I really think Robin and the Seven Hoods would have moved up from a “good flick” to a “classic musical” but for the molestation of the plot by the MPPC folks … but regardless, it’s great movie fun for ‘Pack fans.

Send your spouse out of town, pour some good Scotch and give it a go … better yet pour him or her some Scotch too, settle on to the couch and save the airfare!

 

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