I get mesmerized by Hitchcock's Vertigo, a tale of love, obsession, deception and duplicity. I do believe it's the first Hitchcock film to use animation in its storyline. That comes in the very Freudian dream sequence that the emotionally and physically injured detective has. He's played by James Stewart.
Kim Novak was a top Hollywood blonde in the 1950s, just like Marilyn Monroe was. Monroe was more the international sex symbol superstar, a masterful screen comedienne with a gift for musical comedy. Novak was more introspective in attitude, a cooler, poised, more neurotic young blonde who was a better fit for dramas like Jeanne Eagels, Middle of the Night, The Man with the Golden Arm, Picnic and Vertigo. Although, she did star in entertaining, sophisticated light comedies -- Bell, Book and Candle with James Stewart, Boys' Night Out with James Garner and she starred in the musical Pal Joey with Frank Sinatra and Rita Hayworth.
Marilyn Monroe died during production of Something's Got To Give. George Cukor was directing her in a remake of the 1940 Irene Dunne and Cary Grant comedy, My Favorite Wife.
Cyd Charisse was in the role of the tiresome new wife, the role Gail Patrick played in the original.
I was a Catholic youngster in L.A. when this movie was in production, when it was released and when Catholics were forbidden to see it. Seriously. Peter Sellers was playing the hyper and suspicious piano teacher husband, Orville, who's half of a struggling songwriting team in Nevada. He had a mild heart attack and had to withdraw from the project. He was replaced by Ray Walston, seen in Wilder's The Apartment. Dean Martin, as himself, spoofs his own Rat Pack hipster image -- and he's a hoot. Kiss Me, Stupid also lampoons Kubrick's Lolita. We see a sign for a town called "Climax" and there's a phallic-shaped cactus plant in a front yard.
Swinger Dino has finished a sold-out engagement. Now he wants a few drinks and some horizontal recreation.
Billy Wilder's Kiss Me, Stupid was rated "Condemned" by the Catholic Legion of Decency. Catholic moviegoers were told that they would be committing a major sin if they went to see it. I kid you not. Catholics were essentially told that if they saw this sexy comedy and, afterwards, died of a sudden heart attack before confessing to a priest that they'd seen Kiss Me, Stupid, their souls would go directly below. You could be in Eternal Damnation sitting on a hot bench right next to high-ranking Nazi officers simply because you saw Billy Wilder's Kiss Me, Stupid.
All the suggestiveness and the risqué sight gags seem tame today in comparison to what we've heard on a typical episode of Two and a Half Men, the prime time CBS sitcom that's been on for over 10 years. I think that Vatican veto on Wilder's movie came because Kiss Me, Stupid has a happy ending. No one got hurt. Fantasies came true. Love prevailed. If Polly the Pistol had been killed by a drunk driver as drove back to work at the cocktail lounge, the church would've been satisfied. The "woman of loose morals" would've been punished. But that didn't happen. She was treated with humanity. She was treated sweetly. That's the way she treated Orville.
Is Kiss Me, Stupid in a class with Wilder's The Apartment, Some Like It Hot or the first Hollywood film he directed, The Major and the Minor starring Ginger Rogers? No. But it's not totally bad. I've seen worse. One example is Need For Speed, a movie I paid to see this year so I could review it on TV. I'd rather keep a dental appointment during a New York City snowstorm than sit through that clunker again. I believe that the Catholic Legion of Decency action plus the critics' displeasure kept folks from seeing Kim Novak stretch herself as an actress and show a talent for screwball comedy that was never tapped during her Columbia Pictures time in the 1950s. Never before was she as outgoing, kooky and lovable in a role as she was for Wilder. Novak created a nice character. Polly the Pistol may not be the brightest bulb in the lamp, but she is honest. And kind. There's a radiance about Polly when she's wearing a simple dress and acting like a housewife in the kitchen. And, I'll admit it, my heart is touched watching Polly when Orville sits at the piano, plays and sings the tender Gershwin tune, "All The Livelong Day." Novak and Walston play that scene beautifully. Polly loved her temporary time as a housewife.
When I've heard people criticize Kiss Me, Stupid in conversation, I've never truly felt that they were speaking from an honest place. I always had the feeling they were repeating reviews they'd read by noted critics and wanted to come off as urbane instead of forming their own opinions and independent observations.
I saw actor Laurence Fishburne in a special TCM conversation with film critic Elvis Mitchell. Fishburne praised Dean Martin's performance in Kiss Me, Stupid. How refreshing it was finally to hear another viewpoint about something relative to that Wilder comedy. He spoke from an honest place. Given that Kiss Me, Stupid was a scandalous comedy for its time, I'm surprised it hasn't been remade. Maybe it's just as well is hasn't been redone. A Kiss Me, Stupid remake would probably cast Vince Vaughn in the Dean Martin role. Vince Vaughn as Vince Vaughn from Swingers. Heaven only knows how today's Hollywood would re-imagine the Ray Walston and Kim Novak characters.
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