Dean Martin

At War with the Army (1950, Hal Walker)

I wonder what At War with the Army would be like if it were funny. I also wonder what it would be like if director Walker could figure out how to open up a scene. Sure, the whole thing is shot on limited exteriors and then the same interiors–it takes place on an army base–but Walker just goes through the same shots over and over again. Worse, there are musical numbers and Walker is even more inept at their staging. The first one, in the mess hall, is a no brainer but Walker flops with it.

Paul Weatherwax's editing is solid and it hints at how the scene could have been a whole lot better.

The script is the next problem. Even though the script is from the film's producer, Fred F. Finklehoffe, it plays like he doesn't understand the difference between a movie and a stage play. The long scenes, full of repeated character gags and annoying contrivances, drag. It's curious to see fast-talking Mike Kellin and Jerry Lewis plow through their lengthy dialogue deliveries to fill time.

The script sets up Lewis, Dean Martin and Tommy Farrell as the most likable characters in the film, but mostly because no one else is at all endearing. With Lewis, there's the oddity of him being sympathetic because lead Martin is gently nasty to him. But it's not enough to make Army worthwhile.

As for Martin, he delivers the lousy dialogue really well. Again, not enough to make the movie worthwhile.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Hal Walker; screenplay by Fred F. Finklehoffe, based on the play by James B. Allardice; director of photography, Stuart Thompson; edited by Paul Weatherwax; produced by Finklehoffe; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Dean Martin (1st Sgt. Vic Puccinelli), Jerry Lewis (Pfc. Alvin Korwin), Mike Kellin (Sgt. McVey), Jimmie Dundee (Eddie), Dick Stabile (Pvt. Pokey), Tommy Farrell (Cpl. Clark), Frank Hyers (Cpl. Shaughnessy), Danny Dayton (Supply Sgt. Miller), William Mendrek (Capt. Ernest Caldwell), Kenneth Forbes (Lt. Davenport), Paul Livermore (Pvt. Jack Edwards), Ty Perry (Lt. Terray) and Polly Bergen (Helen Palmer).


Something’s Got to Give (1962, George Cukor)

I wonder how Something’s Got to Give plays if you haven’t seen My Favorite Wife (Give was a remake). This thirty-seven minute edit of footage of Marilyn Monroe’s last–unfinished–film is a disjointed suggestion of what might have been.

Monroe’s good in her part, though she doesn’t have a lot to do in the footage. There’s a lot with Cyd Charisse as Monroe’s rival, expect Charisse is awful and her character’s a harpy anyway. It’s unbelievable Dean Martin would be interested in her, much less marry her.

Give probably would have been most interesting for Martin. He’s sans ego for the most part, playing a man plagued with insecurity and impotence.

The film appears to be rather well-produced, except Tori Rodman. Rodman compiled the footage decades later, mimicking the era well, but it’s a soulless effort.

John McGiver is hilarious as a judge who spars with Martin.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by George Cukor; screenplay by Arnold Schulman, Nunnally Johnson and Water Bernstein, based on a screenplay by Bella Spewack and Sam Spewack; directors of photography, Franz Planer and Leo Tover; edited by Tori Rodman; music by Johnny Mercer; produced by Henry T. Weinstein; released by Fox Home Video.

Starring Marilyn Monroe (Ellen Wagstaff Arden), Dean Martin (Nick Arden), Cyd Charisse (Bianca Russell Arden), Wally Cox (Shoe Salesman), John McGiver (The Judge), Phil Silvers (Johnson), Tom Tryon (Steven Burkett), Alexandra Heilweil (Lita Arden), Robert Christopher Morley (Timmy Arden), Grady Sutton (The Judge’s Clerk), Eloise Hardt (Miss Worth) and Steve Allen (The Psychiatrist).


Airport (1970, George Seaton)

While it did start the seventies disaster genre, Airport barely qualifies. The first hour of the film is excruciating soap opera melodrama—airport chief Burt Lancaster is stuck in a loveless marriage with harpy Dana Wynter, so he’s got a flirtation going with widowed Jean Seberg. His sister, played by Barbara Hale, is stuck in a loveless marriage with pilot Dean Martin, who’s carrying on with stewardess Jacqueline Bisset.

Lancaster is only stepping out on Wynter because she’s awful to him… Hale’s great to Martin, but she’s barren, so it’s tacitly agreed he’s expected to step out. Seaton’s script is really direct about that point—it’s Hale’s fault.

Casting Martin as a megalomaniac pilot is an interesting choice. His performance is awful, but it’s appropriate. Once the disaster kicks in, however, he gets a little better.

Lancaster looks disinterested and bored with the film; Seberg is okay, though her role is seriously underwritten. The first half of the film belongs to Helen Hayes, playing a stowaway. She’s the best thing in the film.

Maureen Stapleton’s good (though the script fails her); Whit Bissell probably gives film’s second best performance.

The second half, the disaster part… is actually somewhat worse. It moves faster, but it’s less competent as Seaton make Martin into an angel.

Seaton’s direction is awful. Though the film clearly has a budget, he shoots the interiors like he doesn’t. His Panavision composition is shockingly inept.

Combined with Alfred Newman’s truly atrocious score, Airport is a miserable viewing experience.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by George Seaton; screenplay by Seaton, based on the novel by Arthur Hailey; director of photography, Ernest Laszlo; edited by Stuart Gilmore; music by Alfred Newman; produced by Ross Hunter; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Burt Lancaster (Mel Bakersfeld), Dean Martin (Capt. Vernon Demerest), Jean Seberg (Tanya Livingston), Jacqueline Bisset (Gwen Meighen), George Kennedy (Joe Patroni), Helen Hayes (Ada Quonsett), Van Heflin (D.O. Guerrero), Maureen Stapleton (Inez Guerrero), Barry Nelson (Capt. Anson Harris), Dana Wynter (Cindy Bakersfeld), Lloyd Nolan (Harry Standish), Barbara Hale (Sarah Bakersfeld Demerest), Gary Collins (Cy Jordan), John Findlater (Peter Coakley), Jessie Royce Landis (Mrs. Harriet DuBarry Mossman), Larry Gates (Commissioner Ackerman), Peter Turgeon (Marcus Rathbone), Whit Bissell (Mr. Davidson), Virginia Grey (Mrs. Schultz), Eileen Wesson (Judy Barton) and Paul Picerni (Dr. Compagno).


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