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Archive for the ‘Dean Martin’ Category

Bandolero

02 Feb

Bandeolero – Directed by Andrew V. McLaglen. Western. A jailbreak, the abduction of a beautiful woman, a chase through Mexico badlands, brother against brother. 106 minutes Color  1968

* * * *

Really curious how appealing Dean Martin remains after all these years – even in a Western. He was a man whose languor required him to be out of place everywhere but in a nightclub and even then only at three in the morning. He has no sense of period style. But still there is something inwardly graceful, kind, humorous, and sadly sensual about him that makes him acceptable, as though it were the settings themselves that were miscast and he not. One roots for him. And of course one roots for Jimmy Stewart, even when, as in these later films of his, he is playing curmudgeons and cranks and hard-hearted dudes and where his character does not hold the romantic reins – in this case leading to the sex-witch Raquel Welch, who is herself humanly appealing aside from her flabbergasting figure. George Kennedy moons over her, and early on she has a great scene where she describes how she was sold as a child into prostitution by her father, and then sold again. A very well written scene, and worth watching for the writing and for the way Welch plays it. The filming is strong, a mixture of sound stage and stark out of doors Southwest. Stewart once again rides his beloved horse Pie. At the time it came out I was not watching Jimmy Stewart films any more; I had turned to Brando. Visiting them for the first time now, I find them better than I would have expected.

 

Ocean’s Eleven – Sinatra Version

30 Jan

Ocean’s Eleven – Sinatra Version — directed by Lewis Milestone. Caper Flick. Eleven chums from WW II convene to rob 5 Las Vegas Casinos. 127 minutes Color 1960.

* * *

As hackneyed a piece of direction as you could wish to see, this picture brings Frank Sinatra, that master of self-satisfaction, as the old sergeant gathering his cadre for a heist. The piece is very well constructed and wittily written, but the mixture of non-actors with professionals with a few cameos thrown in makes the adventure stagger along like a drunkard. Set beside the suave George Clooney versions of this, with his cast of brilliant actors, this ur-version looks dated and dumb. And it is. None of the actors seem able to deliver their lines with any aplomb. On the list of professionals, we have the genius of Akim Tamiroff as the worry wart, Dean Martin who with a few paltry songs manages to sustain his suavity as a lounge act singer, Ilka Chase as the rich mother of that Duke Of Eurotrash, Peter Lawford, and Cesar Romero who brings the humor of his massive authority to the role of a mafia don. Others who get by without disgracing themselves are Richard Conte who is, as usual, straightforward in his part, and Sammy Davis Junior, who gets by, as usual, on a superabundance of natural talent. Shirley MacLaine overdoes a soused chick for us, and Red Skelton is absolutely on the money as a gambling addict. The rest of the cast, including Peter Lawford, we shall not shame by mentioning.

 

 

Rio Bravo

31 Oct

Rio Bravo — Directed and Produced by Howard Hawks. Western. A sheriff, a teen-aged gunslinger, a drunken deputy, and a crippled coot hold out for justice while keeping the land baron’s brother captive. 241 minutes Color 1959.

* * * *

People often confuse an actor with the role he plays, and this was never more plainly illustrated than in the case of John Wayne. Because everyone could play cowboys and Indians when they were kids, they assumed John Wayne didn’t have to be a very good actor to do it too. Besides, they learned it from him. He pretty much all the time played a cowboy and never got killed and was the hero. And so everyone who liked him got caught up with those constant features of his roles. He shed the light of the role he played. He mesmerized males. Which means he was beyond examination. Which means he was beyond criticism. He was larger than life which means he was a God. But if you look at Wayne in this, or probably any picture after Red River, you can see what a good actor he was. How he listens to the other characters, how he restrains himself, how he gives over scenes to other actors. In this one he has some particularly effective scenes with Angie Dickinson, who is no relation to Emily Dickinson, and who plays an itinerant gambling lady of indeterminate virtue. Watch how he responds to her, how baffled he is, yet how well timed with his lines. Watch to see how well the scene plays, not because of her skill, although she is the aggressor, but because of his.  She herself was not well established in her craft as yet. And so she tends to perfume her part, although it is written as though it were written for Lauren Bacall, that is, for the sort of slim deep-voiced actress Hawks liked who could play sexual insolence without turning a hair. Another actor we take for granted is Walter Brennan. Hawks made many films with him. “With or without?’ he asked Hawks when he first turned up for work. “With or without what?” said Hawks. “My teeth,” said Brennan. This performance is without and it is a shack, one of  many he  erected in his long and beautiful career. Brennan is the only actor to win three supporting role Oscars, and those roles are well worth examination. What he brings here is Life! Ricky Nelson cannot do likewise because he is seventeen; he has not gelled as a male yet; he is not yet a thing. And Dean Martin cannot do it either, because he is inherently not an actor at all. He is a darling man, of course, but he only comes alive half asleep on a bunk singing a little song, comes alive because he is most natural when singing. The difference between a comic and a humorist was never so well illustrated as in Martin and Lewis. Lewis is a comic; Martin a humorist, but this shows only once in a moment when he laughs with delight at the foolishness of Brennan. But he is likable enough, and so is the picture, though it is tolerably long. For 2 1/2 hours it dawdles from episode to episode, each one taking place indoors, and each one either at the saloon, the hotel, or the jail. Wayne must carry it all. But look at him. Sex feet four, long of torso, pigeon toed, and toting a presence that no actor of the present day can even come close to.

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The Silencers

06 Dec

The Silencers – directed by Phil Carlson – a parody of Bond. — 102 minutes color 1968

* *

Do you find garage doors fascinating? Like them this film is a gadget, not without its grumbling use and occasional comical breakdown. And it itself is full of gadgets, huger doors, fatter death-rays, wilder amo. If you fire this revolver it will shoot you in the chest, if you press that button you will find a naked tomato in your bathtub. Of course, the hugest garage doors are the false eyelashes of the babes. They come crashing down, dislodging civilizations. Step back from them. Dean Martin certainly does. He is wise and unperturbed by the sexual affront they present and the cavernous décolletage they awn. Ah, for the peace of refusal which seems to be his, as he plays in this, the first of the Matt Helm mock-Bond series. Nowadays we don’t have leading ladies such as Stella Stevens whose hair is dyed Irish Setter and held in place with Gorilla Glue. She’s Helm’s fumbling side-kick, called that, I suppose, because she keeps kicking him in the side. Martin is some kind of easy dish, like spaghetti, pleasant and not without nourishment, easy to take. He never asks to be liked and so is likeable for it. He strolls through bullet-hails with benificent nonchalance. Daliah Lavi presents hair piled on the back of her head as though concealing a rocket launcher. Dozens of ladies, equally coiffed and lashed throw themselves at Martin’s head, but he retains his incredulity as to the animal fervor they advertise, as any normal intact male would. Their ferocious armamentarium promises pornography, that is to say, unearned nudity. And, since the film begins with a series of strip-teases, we are able to sustain no virginal delusions about what is to follow. Even when the miraculous Cyd Charisse performs. Two numbers are given her, miserably choreographed, vilely costumed, but her dignity, her alacritous genius, and the natural placement of her hip-bones conquer the drooling mess.

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Scared Stiff

29 Jul
Scared Stiff — directed by George Marshall — an heiress to a haunted Cuban castle is threatened on all sides and warned to stay away. Martin and Lewis ride to her rescue — black and white 1953
* * *
A remake of Ghost Breakers of 1940, and directed by the same director, and evidently using the same great sets for the castle, and some of the original takes, this Martin and Lewis version takes a great deal more effort, because, in the original, Bob Hope played both parts  —  and so the film took a good deal less time. In this version there is too much horsing around en route to Cuba. And in the original, we had that game and merry minx Paulette Goddard braving all, whereas here we have Lizabeth Scott left over from a passing noir, and she wants pep. It’s not her fault. She was wired slow. Goodness knows she throws herself into it, and does not shame herself, but it is interesting to see how different a script is required with such a change of leading lady. Goddard strips to a bra and panties at one point, and it’s choice, whereas, while Scott is beautifully appareled by Edith Head, Scott does not show her, actually excellent, figure until the swimming scene — the one where Paulette held her clothes above the water while she side-stroked to the deadly castle. Anyhow, Lewis wears on one. He plays his usual frenetic baby, and. while he is inventive and adept and agile in his awkwardness, we see is range of responses is limited because of the number of times he is asked to repeat them. We have wonderful cobwebs, though, and numerous spooks and suspects. We lack the devastatingly dangerous young Anthony Quinn as the twins — and the presence of Martin and Lewis routines, log-jammed with the already frenetic Carmen Miranda, do not supply the deficiency, despite all we hoped for Lewis’s imitation of her in CM costume. Dean Martin remains a mensch, throughout — easy, attractive, and kind. A great draw.

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