“The not-so-handsome ones — they make the best husbands, you know. Other women don’t want them.”
An aspiring artist (Dean Martin) and his comics-loving roommate (Jerry Lewis) fall for their beautiful neighbors, the illustrator of Bat Woman comics (Dorothy Malone) and her model (Shirley MacLaine); meanwhile, Martin gets a job writing a new comic book series, based on Lewis’s dreams — but Soviet agents are on their tail when it turns out Lewis has been dreaming secret formulas.
This Frank Tashlin-directed Martin & Lewis film (their third-to-last together) is considered by many to be their best joint effort, and it does start off with plenty of promise. Full of eye-popping Technicolor and creative sets (see stills below), the film is a visual treat, and the screenplay — which promises an effective skewering of comic books and the effect they have on avid readers — is reasonably involving at first. Less inspired are the romantic subplots between Martin and Malone (she detests him at first, then caves — natch), and between Lewis and MacLaine (who is surprisingly annoying, rather than endearing, in one of her earliest roles). Meanwhile, the storyline really begins to falter once a Cold War-era “secret formula” spy plot — with Eva Gabor as a sexy foreign agent — enters the picture. Ultimately, by its zany slapstick/musical ending, Artists and Models has worn out its welcome — but it’s still worth a look during its first half.
Note: Watch for some interesting homosexual tension between Martin and Lewis (evident in all their films together, but especially prominent here): Martin literally threatens to “divorce” Lewis; Lewis gives Martin a series of kisses on behalf of several people.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Creatively eye-popping sets
- Vibrant Technicolor cinematography
- Reasonably clever satirical skewering of the effect of comics
- Eddie Mayehoff as Mr. Murdock
Yes, simply to have seen a representative Lewis and Martin partner-flick.
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)