Dean Paul Martin Jr. was an American actor, singer, tennis player, and military pilot. Though his father, Dean Martin, was a well-known entertainer, he created an identity of his own with his diverse interests. Born and raised in California, US, he had achieved a number of skills by his teenage years. By the age of 14, he was part of a reasonably successful music band, and by 16, he had acquired his pilot’s license. He was also an accomplished tennis player and had played at junior ‘Wimbledon.’ Martin appeared in a few movies and film series within the short span of his career. His role as a professional tennis player, opposite Ali MacGraw, in the 1979 movie ‘Players’ earned him a ‘Golden Globe Award’ nomination. Some of his other notable projects were the TV series ‘Misfits of Science’ and the thriller movie ‘Backfire.’ He had married and divorced twice. Martin died at the age of 35, when his jet fighter crashed into a snowstorm during a routine military training flight.
Childhood & Early Life
Dean Paul Martin Jr. was born on November 17, 1951, in Santa Monica, California. He was the first of the three children of singer-actor Dean Martin and his second wife, Jeanne Biegger. He had a younger brother, Ricci Martin, and a younger sister, Gina Martin. He had four older half-siblings, namely Claudia, Craig, Deana, and Gail.
Martin studied at the ‘Urban Military Academy,’ Brentwood, California. Interested in tennis, he developed proficiency in the sport and played in a junior competition at ‘Wimbledon.’ Along with Desi Arnaz Jr. (son of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz) and neighbor Billy Hinsche, Martin formed a rock band at 14. Their band, ‘Dino, Desi, & Billy’ (1965–1968), enjoyed decent success with a few of their tracks. Their single ‘I’m a Fool’ (1965) was a hit and had reached the ‘Top 30’ twice.
He learnt to fly aircrafts during his teenage years, and at 16, he obtained his pilot’s license. During his early years, he was known as “Dino.” However, during his late teens, he came to be known by his birth name, “Dean Paul.”
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He made his first on-screen appearance during his teens, when he and his bandmates were introduced as themselves in the action–adventure film, ‘Murderers’ Row’ (1966), which starred his father in the lead role. Following this, he was seen in the lead role of ‘The Boy’ in the 1969 drama film ‘A Boy… a Girl.’
Martin starred as a professional tennis player, opposite Ali MacGraw, in the Anthony Harvey-directed romantic drama ‘Players’ (1979), which was about a young tennis player’s involvement with an older woman. This performance fetched him a nomination for the ‘Golden Globe Award’ for the ‘Best New Star of the Year – Male.’
In 1983, Martin played the role of ‘Sonny Rigotti’ in the auto-racing drama ‘Heart Like a Wheel,’ directed by Jonathan Kaplan. He was part of the ‘NBC TV’ science-fiction comedy ‘Misfits of Science’ (1985–1986), in which he worked alongside Courteney Cox. In the 1987 drama film ‘Made in U.S.A.,’ he starred opposite Katherine Kelly Lang of ‘The Bold and the Beautiful.’
Martin appeared in the mystery thriller film ‘Backfire’ along with Keith Carradine and Karen Allen. However, the film was released in 1988, after his death.
In 1980, Martin joined the ‘California Air National Guard.’ In 1981, he completed his undergraduate pilot training at the ‘Laughlin Air Force Base,’ Texas. He started his service as a second lieutenant and was a captain at the time of his death.
Family & Personal Life
He had the reputation of a “playboy” and had dated Candace Burgen, Tina Sinatra, and others. He also drove racing cars and flew Learjets.
Martin got married to actor Olivia Hussey on April 17, 1971. Their son, Alexander Gunther Martin, was born on February 12, 1973. The couple divorced in 1978.
On January 8, 1982, Martin married ‘Olympic’ gold medal-winning figure skater Dorothy Hamill. They divorced in 1984.
Martin had over 400 hours of experience in flying the ‘F-4C Phantom’ jet fighter aircrafts and was considered an expert pilot. On March 21, 1987, he went on a weekend training flight with his unit (the ‘Air National Guard’s ‘163rd Tactical Fighter Group’) based at the ‘March Air Force Base’ in Riverside, California. He was accompanied by his weapons systems officer, Capt. Ramon Ortiz. The fighter jet took off at 1:45 pm. His son Alex (12), saw him off. After 10 minutes, at a height of nearly 11,000 feet, his jet disappeared from the radar over the snow-covered slopes of Mt. San Gorgonio in the San Bernardino National Forest. There was already a 6-foot cover of snow on the ground when the plane disappeared, and a snowstorm that night resulted in 2 more feet of snow. The plane wreckage was found only after 5 days.
He was interred in the ‘Los Angeles National Cemetery,’ Los Angeles, California.