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!