Lifting the lid on the Rat Pack

They called themselves "The Clan" and "The Summit". The press termed them the "Rat Pack", after the group of roistering friends who had attached themselves to Humphrey Bogart a decade earlier. Bogart and his coterie, which included Frank Sinatra, were never photographed at play. Their successors – Frank Sinatra again, but this time with Peter Lawford, Sammy Davis Jnr and Dean Martin – were, in private snaps never intended to be published. The images have now been recovered from a cardboard box of negatives found in a photographic agent's office.

The shots were taken by friends and members of their inner circle at pool parties, beach house gatherings and backstage congregations, and have now been published in a limited edition book by Reel Art Press simply entitled The Rat Pack, which sells for a cool £400 to £5,000.

To their fans, they show them relaxed and having fun, with an intimacy denied by studio portraits. To us today, they show a different era, not just in the clothes, the ever-present hard liquor and the half-smoked cigarettes, but in the sense of male camaraderie. Their successors today are just as dissolute, and a great deal more photographed. But their antics tend to be more solitary and their looks more melancholy.

The original band was reputedly named by Bogart's wife, Lauren Bacall, who was appalled at the sight of her spouse and friends staggering back from a night out in Las Vegas. By reputation the members of the Sixties "Rat Pack" were just as hard-drinking, high-living and high-spirited. These private shots show that the image was true.

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