Recently I just happened to catch ten minutes or so of the film [which I've seen several times] on TCM and low and behold that Alabama connection popped right up. I'd forgotten about it, so let's investigate.
The original Ocean's 11 starred Frank Sinatra and four of his fellow "Rat Pack" members: Dean Martin, Joey Bishop, Peter Lawford and Sammy Davis, Jr. Most of the film was shot in Las Vegas to give those guys something to do during the day before they took the stage for their casino shows each night. The story involves Danny Ocean [Sinatra] recruiting a group to rob five casinos simultaneously on New Year's Eve. Thrills and hilarity ensue before the final twist at the end. Angie Dickinson plays the ex-wife; Cesar Romero, Richard Conte and others fill out the supporting cast.
The state's big moment comes pretty early in the film. Danny runs into Beatrice, his ex, in the hotel, corners her in an elevator and tells her, "I've got great news!" Beatrice, almost breaking into laughter, says "Auburn beat Alabama by twelve points." Danny, of course, has a bigger bet in mind.
This appearance of the Iron Bowl in a major Hollywood production in 1960 must be one of the earliest such appearances by either school. In recent years Auburn University and its football team have numerous minor appearances in films and TV shows. There is of course the film A Love Song for Bobby Long in which two of the main characters are a former Auburn professor and a graduate student. Big Fish demonstrates some Auburn love. Auburn football games have appeared in the background of several TV shows and films. And because a production employee was an Auburn graduate, a school banner appeared for nine years on the wall of a bar often seen in the daytime serial General Hospital.
I'll let an Alabama fan explore appearances of the Crimson Tide in such media.
Jeremy Henderson of the War Eagle Reader blog, which tracks these things, explains the Ocean's 11 appearance by noting that when the film was made "Auburn was on top of the football world." That may be true as far as bookies were concerned, but would general members of the film's audience recognize the reference? After all, Auburn vs. Alabama was hardly a top college football rivalry at that time, and the first national telecast of an Iron Bowl did not take place until 1964. As far as I could determine, none of the story and screenplay writers on the film had any Alabama or Southern connections.
No matter. We'll just take the reference and enjoy the film!
But wait, there's more!! Early in the film Sammy Davis, Jr., is talking about his career path after World War II and how he got into sanitation. The only baseball clubs available to him were "down South" and "can you imagine a one-eyed third baseman in Mobile?"