Artists and Models (1955)

“The not-so-handsome ones — they make the best husbands, you know. Other women don’t want them.”

Synopsis:
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.

Genres:

Review:
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

Must See?
Yes, simply to have seen a representative Lewis and Martin partner-flick.

Categories

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

Links:

One Response to “Artists and Models (1955)”

  1. Not a must.

    The good news is it’s not as godawful as Tashlin’s next Martin/Lewis flick, ‘Hollywood or Bust’. By comparison, ‘AAM’ is watchable. Tashlin actually (and thankfully) has Lewis reined in a little (not enough, of course, but enough to remove ‘fingernails on a blackboard’ excess). I don’t find MacLaine “annoying” here – in fact, a highlight for her is her version of “Innamorata”, which (tho it goes on a bit long) serves to make Lewis somewhat pleasingly playful instead of overwhelming.

    I actually prefer the second half of the film – which begins with Martin’s ‘Lucky Song’, performed (including tap dancing!) in a mildly charming manner with children. There’s a bit more weight in the latter section, which more or less culminates in the film’s successful (and wonderfully colorful) theme song. (Unfortunately, Gabor doesn’t quite have the stuff as a spy. And Mayehoff, tho effective, is under-used – but he’s given a nice running gag: passing off his mistress as either his cousin or anything other than his mistress, while she sits eating whenever she’s seen. I couldn’t decipher whether it’s always the same mistress; not that it matters.)

    The best thing about ‘AAM’ is its use of color – in almost every detail, the film is either tastefully designed or appropriately cartoon-ish. And Tashlin never stops looking for a place to throw a sight gag (a fun one has a baby in a carriage, unseen, reading a comic book).

    This may all start to sound as though, ‘AAM’ is at least a once-must. Alas, I wouldn’t say so. Tashlin’s visual talent demands material that is up to the corresponding challenge. Proof of that rests with his masterpiece, ‘The Girl Can’t Help It’.

    [NOTE: I did notice the ‘homosexual tension’, tho, to me, those moments come off more like when a masculine guy is seen wearing a dress; he’s still seen as masculine. Lewis is such a man-child that he really has no sexuality at all. Watching Martin and Lewis here made me think of something else: I wondered if Neil Simon had seen this film and if it at all served to inspire his creation of ‘The Odd Couple’.]

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.