ROBIN AND THE 7 HOODS —last and easily the best of the ‘Rat Pack’ comedies, landing a breezy 19th spot among the hits of 1964. Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin & Sammy Davis Jr. find a suitable home for their patter in 1929 Chicago, and their camaraderie, a good supporting cast and a slick production make the often-strained material go down, with Bing Crosby and Peter Falk filling in Rat-holes left cheeseless by the absent Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop.*
Sinatra produced this one, everything looking bright and brassy in color lensing by William H. Daniels, directed by Gordon Douglas. The Robin Hood characters are reworked into Damon Runyon-esque gangland. ‘Robbo’ (Frank), ‘John Little’ (Dino), ‘Will Scarlet’ (Sammy) and ‘Alan A. Dale’ (Bing) contend with ‘Guy Gisborne’ (Peter Falk) for shares of the rackets in the Windy City, as well as wooing ‘Marian’ (Barbara Rush). Edward G. Robinson shows up for some gangster & Warner Brothers nostalgia.
There are a half-dozen songs scattered around, whipped up by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen, with the ace number being “My Kind Of Town”, which drew an Oscar nomination for Best Song to go with Nelson Riddle’s nomination for Scoring. The four leads banter along in cruising gear, with Davis getting a manic bartop dance number with a tommy gun that’s nifty in a vulgar sort of way. There are amusing supporting bits here and there, but Peter Falk handily steals away with the best lines and funniest delivery.
Too long at 124 minutes, but generally fun. With Victor Buono, Robert Foulk, Hank Henry, Philip Crosby, Allen Jenkins, Jack LaRue, Richard Bakalyan, Hans Conreid and Sig Ruman.
* Bishop was busy with his TV show, but Lawford had been ostracized—forever, Gonesville—after brother-in-law JFK decided it would be wiser to vacation at Crosby’s Palm Spring’s home than Frank’s. Sinatra had dropped a bundle refinishing his pad for the President and took out his rage on lapdog Lawford. Petey out, der Bingle in, and Frank bore his idol/competitors presence gracefully enough. Filming then plunged into a pall of depression when word came of the President’s assassination. That Frank had cheek enough to play a hood at a time when he was being investigated for his Mob ties, probings around his links with Sam Giancana, then being hounded by the FBI under urging from Robert Kennedy—there’s a movie (or three) behind the movie.