Kiss Me, Stupid (1964)

by Paul on September 23, 2012

Post image for Kiss Me, Stupid (1964)

★★

 

I love Billy Wilder movies. He was a brilliant filmmaker, and many of his movies are among my favorites. With that beingKiss Me, Stupid said, Kiss Me, Stupid (1964) is the worst Wilder movie I have ever seen.

It is the story of a famous Italian singer, Dino (Dean Martin), who is traveling from Las Vegas to Los Angeles, to film a movie. After taking a detour he ends up in Climax, Nevada, where he meets a gas station attendant (and aspiring song writer), Barney (Cliff Osmond), who sabotages Dino’s car in order to keep him in town. Barney takes Dino over to his song-writing partner, Orville’s, home to spend the night. Orville (Ray Walston) is supposed to play their songs and Kiss Me, Stupidconvince Dino to buy them.

Orville quickly learns that Dino is obsessed with sex, so Orville starts a fight with his wife (Felicia Farr) and convinces her to sleep at her parents’ home. Barney goes out to the nearby roadhouse (The Belly Button) and hires waitress/prostitute, Polly “The Pistol”, to pose as Orville’s wife. Now Orville is able to parade his “wife” around Dino, convincing him buy their songs in exchange for sex with her.Kiss Me, Stupid

This movie suffers from a number of problems, not the least of which is the immorality of every character in the story. Perhaps there really are people like this, who find themselves in these crazy situations. I, for one, am not one of them, and I can’t find any way to identify with any of these characters. In The Seven Year Itch, Wilder is able to tell a story about a man wanting to have an affair, and it plays out funny because he is likable and remains loyal even though it is difficult. Kiss Me, StupidEven though he has improper impulses, he doesn’t act on them. In Kiss Me, Stupid Wilder’s characters are so completely out of control that they never think before acting, and time and time again they make their lives worse by simple refusing to stop and think.

The first half of the movie is extremely funny, but as it progresses and you see where they are heading, it becomes increasingly more unsettling and uncomfortable. Dean Martin is extremely funny, in a role that is basically just making fun of himself. (A parody of Dean Martin by Dean Martin). The role of Polly was obviously written forKiss Me, Stupid Wilder alumni Marilyn Monroe, but when she died in 1962, Wilder had to find someone else. Kim Novak seems to play her role as Marilyn Monroe playing the role of Polly, and although she does a decent enough job, it left me feeling sad and wishing Marilyn could have done it herself.

I know that Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond wrote several great comedies together, but I don’t think this one plays as well as their others. I read that originally they had written the lead of Kiss Me, StupidOrville for another Wilder favorite, Jack Lemmon, and perhaps with Lemmon and Monroe, teamed with Dean Martin and Lemmon’s wife (Farr), everything could have come together better, but unfortunately it didn’t work out that way and Kiss Me, Stupid comes off as disturbing more than funny.

One thing that is proved by Kiss Me, Stupid, is that every song (yes, every song) sounds better when sung by Dean Martin.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

R.A. Kerr September 25, 2012 at 7:24 PM

I have never bothered to watch this movie for one shallow reason: I always thought the title was insipid and not worthy of Billy Wilder’s talents. Now that I’ve read your review, perhaps I wasn’t too far off the mark…

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Paul September 25, 2012 at 10:47 PM

I think you have made an excellent decision.

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