Dean Martin and Kim Novak
Kiss Me, Stupid

The Dean Martin Centenary Blogathon

Welcome to the Dean Martin Centenary Blogathon! hosted by Musings of a Classic Film Addict

Directed by Billy Wilder, Kiss Me, Stupid (1964) opens at the classic showplace the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas. An entertainer named Dino performs in a showroom. He croons “S’Wonderful by George and Ira Gershwin, tells risqué jokes and mugs with long-stemmed showgirls. It’s probably a good representation of his nightclub act at the time.

Dino (he’s never referred to as Dean Martin) is in a rush to get out of Vegas because of too many women and too little time. A roadblock detours him off the interstate. He stops for gas at a small town called Climax. It’s a promising setup.  Unfortunately, it’s downhill from there. The movie clunks to a halt along with Dino’s Dual-Ghia roadster.

Orville (Ray Walston), a piano teacher and Barney (Cliff Osmond) the gas station attendant are amateur songwriters. They hatch a plot to keep Dino in town long enough to sell him their songs. Their half-baked material is better suited for the 20s not the 60s when rock and the Beatles ruled.

Orville is extremely jealous. He suspects that everyone in town is sleeping with his lovely wife Zelda (Felicia Farr), from the milkman to his fifteen year old piano student. Orville’s insecurities are played for laughs but it’s painful to watch. Walston, especially good in Damn Yankees (1958), is a brilliant comic actor. His character here is amusing at times though hard to take, overall.

Dino suspects the oafish Barney has messed with his Italian convertible. The singer isn’t mechanically inclined so can’t prove it. He reluctantly agrees to stay overnight at Orville’s place. Martin’s delivery is perfectly timed as the swinger resigns himself to an unplanned “vacation” in a hick town. Filmed by veteran cinematographer Joseph LaShelle, the sets are intentionally drab. After the fast paced opening, don’t expect much visual excitement.

Because he doesn’t like the idea of lecherous Dino in the house with Zelda, Orville picks a fight so she’ll go to her mother’s place. He hires Polly the Pistol (Kim Novak) a cocktail waitress at the Belly Button roadhouse to impersonate Zelda. It’s a convoluted device to bring Novak center stage.

With a Jersey accent, Polly is a variation on Judy, Novak’s character in Vertigo (1958). Polly has a perpetual runny nose (possibly a nod to “Adelaide’s Lament” in Guys and Dolls though that may be a stretch). Polly is ultimately a sad character used by men. Novak and Martin play off each other with some clever bits as Polly fends off Dino. The movie is ostensibly a comedy but like Wilder’s better known The Apartment (1960) shows a darker side of male behavior along with the laughs.

Any Billy Wilder film has some merit, but I would sample it on youtube to see if it’s your cup of tea before springing for the blu ray. I’d like to hear other thoughts on this movie.

Thanks to Musings of a Classic Film Addict for hosting. Visit her site for links to more posts on the fabulous Dean Martin!

9 thoughts on “Dean Martin and Kim Novak
Kiss Me, Stupid

  1. I’ve never really been a fan of this movie. Wilder’s cynical comedy comes off too forced here, and Dean’s character is just too much of a jerk. Then again, almost every character in the film is unappealing. (Dan from The Hitless Wonder Movie Blog)

    • Thanks for commenting and I’ll check out your site. Zelda is the most sympathetic character but we don’t see much of her after the second act.

  2. I ought to watch this just for another chance to see Felicia Farr. Saw her in “3:10 to Yuma” and found her very attractive. Of course, seeing Dean Martin, is a draw, too… Good review.

    • Thanks for the tip about Felicia Farr. I’ve only seen the remake of 3:10 to Yuma. I’ve been meaning to check out the original.

  3. This film was very cynical, and with a lot with innuendo and risky moments. Jack Lemmon was supposed to be the star, not Ray Walston, but had to drop the offer. Peter Sellers started recording scenes but was fired. Any of them would have worked fine as Orville!
    However, I still think Willer’s biggest misstep was Love in the Afternoon – it’s romantic, but cringy to see Audrey and Gary Cooper having a romance.

    • I didn’t know that about the casting. I’m trying to imagine Lemmon or Sellers in that role! I’m also not familiar with Love in the Afternoon–May/December seems like a common male screenwriter fantasy.

  4. Actually, Sellers was not fired, he had a heart attack during shooting. Supposedly he was “brilliant” in the role, but one wonders how the Sellers-Cliff Osmond pairing would have worked…Sellers is probably the most believable from the standpoint of having a “skank” for a wife, however. Walston is way too frantic and too geeky for a lead role of this type–he’s much better suited to being “supporting sleaze” as he was in The Apartment.

  5. Hi, Just came across your blog because I just saw The Crimson Kimono and noticed your review for Kiss Me, Stupid…which I just reviewed today.

    I think we’re two of the few current bloggers who don’t think Kiss Me, Stupid is a misunderstood masterpiece ; )
    Totally agree that it starts off stylishly, but once we’re stuck in Climax, the movie becomes stuck, too. The ending is wrapped up well, though. Very cleverly and provocatively for its time.

    The real bright spot is Felicia Farr, what a charmer… she and Jack Lemmon made a great couple.

    Dean Martin, one of those singers who’s a natural actor, does what he can.

    Kim Novak is no Marilyn Monroe, who would have shined in this.

    Ray Walston really sinks the movie for me. He’s far too old for the two lovely ladies around him and is one-note and annoying. Jack Lemmon or Peter Sellers would have done much better.

    Cheers that I found your blog. And here’s my review on “Kiss Me, Stupid” :


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