I do not believe anyone has ever appeared to be as casual as Dean Martin did during the run of his variety show – which debuted in 1965 and ran until 1974. 1965 was a couple of years past The Rat Pack’s prime, but it didn’t matter. At the time, Dean was hotter than Frank Sinatra himself. He was enjoying hit records, sold-out appearances, and a film career. There was something about Dino that people could not get enough of, as is evident on the new double-DVD set The Best Of The Dean Martin Variety Show.
The package contains seven individual episodes, and covers the years 1965 – 1972. The guest list features some of the biggest names in show business. These include Bob Hope, Jack Benny, John Wayne, George Burns and many others. Fans of Dean’s politically incorrect portrayal of himself as a lush will find much to enjoy here as well, for this is where he really developed the character.
As warranted by the variety show format , there were also plenty of musical guest stars. Among them are Juliet Prowse, Peggy Lee, and fellow Rat Packer Sammy Davis Jr. Naturally Dean himself sings plenty of songs as well. Old-school comedians Don Rickles and Rodney Dangerfield also appear. Speaking of old-school, Regis Philbin wrote the introduction to the accompanying booklet.
Dean Martin could get away with anything back then, and famously refused to rehearse before taping. This brought a sense of spontaneity to his segments, which cannot be manufactured. His ad-libs and outright mistakes during sketches just made the audience laugh that much harder. The Best Of The Dean Martin Variety Show is a glimpse of a world which was actually already dated at the time. Which again, simply did not matter. Dean’s fans were fans for life. Count me in, I think these old shows are great fun.
The DVD extras feature exclusive interviews with Jonathan Winters, Angie Dickinson, Florence Henderson, and Phyllis Diller, among others. All fondly remember Dean Martin for his warmth, humor, and style. They don’t make ‘em like Dino anymore, or for that matter shows like this. But these programs sure are a treat to look back on.