Dino Paul Crocetti was born in Steubenville, Ohio, the son of an Italian immigrant barber. Bored with high school, he dropped out in the 10th grade, only to spend his adult life embarrassed by his poor English grammar and lack of education.
Known as chief deputy to the chairman of the board in Frank Sinatra's "Rat Pack," Martin followed in the tradition of Sinatra, Perry Como and other Italian singers, frequently commenting that they all copied the style of veteran crooner Bing Crosby. Among Martin's gold records were "That's Amore" in 1953, "Return to Me" and "Volare" in 1958, and what became his theme song, "Everybody Loves Somebody" in 1964.
Over the years, the multifaceted Martin, whose rugged Italian good looks and melodic baritone voice charmed women but also appealed to men, perfected an on-camera and onstage image of the laid-back alcoholic.
More than one guest on his phenomenally popular television variety show, which regularly attracted 40 million viewers from 1965 to 1974, went to Martin's dressing room after the show expecting to find a paralytic drunk only to be offered coffee and cake. The glass that Martin carried onstage usually contained nothing stronger than apple juice.
"You son of a bitch," one guest said, cracking up the joke-loving star, "you're stone-cold sober!"
Although he was best known for comedy, Martin's more than 50 films include a handful of critically acclaimed serious acting roles — "The Young Lions" with Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift in 1958, "Some Came Running" with Sinatra in 1959, and Howard Hawks' "Rio Bravo" with John Wayne, also in 1959.
Before his successful solo career, Martin was part of a legendary comedy team with Jerry Lewis. The men — who later split bitterly — met in 1946 when both were appearing at the Glass Hat in New York. Soon after, they were put on the same bill at the 500 Club in Atlantic City, N.J.
They made up their own material, with Martin attempting to sing while Lewis interrupted as a bumbling busboy.
"Two of the greatest turnin' points in my career were, first, meetin' Jerry Lewis, second, leavin' Jerry Lewis," Martin said in 1967. "I became a real actor because of these two things."
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