Ocean's Eleven

by Erika Cox
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Directed and produced by Lewis Milestone, a classic movie from 1960 was the heist film Ocean's Eleven. The film was not immediately popular with critics, but it was remade in 2001, featuring such superstars as Brad Pitt and Matt Damon.

The original film differs greatly from the remake, and although the remake is considered by most to be the superior film, the original Ocean's Eleven is a classic and well loved by many people who love adventurous plots and famous faces.

In the original movie, Danny Ocean leads a gang of men who were all once in the army together to rob five Las Vegas casinos on New Year's Eve. The famous Rat Packer Frank Sinatra plays Danny Ocean, and other Rat Packers also appear in the film. Ocean's crew of men consist of people who all have special jobs in making the crimes work.

Jimmy Foster (Peter Lawford) is one of the first to join the band of thieves. He was once a war hero, but has since become a playboy living off of his wealthy mother. He discovers that Duke Santos (Cesar Romero) is an ex-mobster and plans to marry his mother, so he has a personal stake in the robbery.

Dean Martin plays Sam Harmon, an ex-Lieutenant, who works as a lounge performer and participates in the group only to make everyone else happy—he has not lust for the money himself. His job in the casino, where Roger Corneal (Henry Silva) also works, provides amble distraction when necessary. Tony Bergdoff works as the group's electrician, and he scopes out the circuit boxes and security alarms in the days leading up to the heist.

Josh Howard (Sammy Davis Jr.), also plays a crucial role at this point. He was the demolition man in the war and helps the gang by disguising himself as a garbage man and blowing up the casinos' power supply out of town. Other parts of the gang include Mushy O'Connors (Joey Bishop), Spyros Acebos (Akim Tamiroff) Vince Massler (Buddy Lester) and Curly Steffens (Richard Benedict).

About two hours before midnight, Bergdoff crosses the wires at all five casinos to prevent the back up generators from kicking in during the blackout. The crowd is joyfully singing Auld Lang Syne as the power is blown, and the teams enters the five casinos who's generators do not seem to be working. They stuff money into bags, which they throw into garbage cans outside on the street. On the way out, Bergdoff has a heart attack and dies, and Ocean and Foster hurry away, since the police quickly stop to help him. The next morning, Josh, still as the garbage man, picks up the money, which looks like garbage, and takes it out of town to the dump. He releases his load and picks out the bags of money, hiding them in a nearby tunnel.

Duke Santos offers to find the money for a cut of the casino's losses. He hears from a sheriff that Bergdoff mentioned the 82nd Airborne in his final moments of life, and learns from Foster's mother than her son and Ocean are both in the city. He puts it all together and figures out who has pulled the heist. He confronts Ocean and later sells out the casinos for a promised 50% of the total share instead of the 30% offered by the casinos.

The men come up with a new plan to get the money. They hide it in Bergdoff's coffin and send ten thousand dollars to his widow, asking to have the body shipped to San Francisco for burial. The plan backfires when she decides at the last minute to have the body cremated, and their cash goes up in smoke. At the end of the movie, the camera shows the men walking, defeated.

The movie was not a huge success and was instead considered simply a fun project for the Rat Packers to work on together. It was nominated for a 1961 WGA Award for Best Written American Comedy and a 1961 Golden Laurel Award for Top Action Drama, but was not given much more thought until the 21st century remake, which has a drastically changed plot, but still features a gang of men coming together for a great casino heist.

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