Category Archives: 1950s

Some Like It Hot

Cropped screenshot of Marilyn Monroe from the ...

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One of the golden rules in comedy is that men dressed in women’s clothing are universally funny. I don’t know why this is but it is the premise of the humour in Some Like It Hot. Unlike most other films that feature men dressed in drag, this is not just a one joke comedy, and is one of the funniest films ever made. After Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon witness a gangland shooting, they disguise themselves as female musicians to get away from the gangsters.

Whilst they are pursued by ‘Spats’ (played by George Raft) and his gang they meet up with Sugar Kane, played by Marilyn Monroe. The fun begins when Joe/Josephine, played by Curtis, falls for Sugar.

Jack Lemmon is hilarious in this movie as Gerald/Daphne, and the closing line by his/her fiancé when it is revealed that Daphne is a bloke, is one of the funniest in movie history.

Nobody’s perfect!”

One of the things that I found interesting was the casting of Raft as Spats. In real life Raft was a low-level hoodlum before he became an actor in the late 20s, and rose to prominence in the original Scarface. One of the in-jokes that I found funny was when Spats chides a rival gangster who is constantly tossing a coin, something that Raft’s character did in Scarface. In another scene he picks up a grapefruit and looks as though he is going to squish it into someone’s face ala Jimmy Cagney in The Public Enemy.


The Defiant Ones

Cover of "The Defiant Ones"

Cover of The Defiant Ones

Directed by Stanley Kramer
Produced by Stanley Kramer
Written by Nedrick Young (story)
Harold Jacob Smith
Starring Tony Curtis
Sidney Poitier
Theodore Bikel
Cara Williams
Cinematography Sam Leavitt
Editing by Frederic Knudtson
Distributed by United Artists
Release date July 1958
Running time 97 minutes
Country United States
Language English

The Defiant Ones is a brilliant film featuring great performances by Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis. The premise of the film is that two prisoners, one black and one white, have escaped from a chain-gang whilst still chained together. The film examines the issues of race and racism in 1950s America. Both actors are in fine form and the movie is quite entertaining and interesting.


Abbott & Costello Meet The Invisible Man

Directed by Charles Lamont
Produced by Howard Christie
Written by Frederic I. Rinaldo
John Grant
Robert Lees
Hugh Wedlock Jr
Howard Snyder
Starring Bud Abbott
Lou Costello
Nancy Guild
Arthur Franz
Music by Erich Zeisl
Cinematography George Robinson
Editing by Virgil Vogel
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date March 19, 1951
Running time 82 min.
Country United States
Language English

Abbott & Costello Meet The Invisible Man is a hard film to categorize. You’d think that with Abbott & Costello in the film it would be a comedy but it isn’t particularly funny. It is amusing in parts but in others the jokes seem very tired. Perhaps this is because I have watched a few A&C films these past few months and can see how they reused gags over and over and over again.Thankfully Lou is so likable and amusing, and he even gets the upper hand on Abbott in a few scenes.

The movie does work sort of as a mystery/suspense type of film or as sci-fi and to be truthful it’s entertaining enough. It’s still a lot better than the later film where the boys met The Mummy, but it is a huge fall from their classic films of the mid-1940s. The film does also contain lots of references to the earlier Invisible Man films.


The Geisha Boy

Directed by Frank Tashlin
Produced by Jerry Lewis
Written by Frank Tashlin & Rudy Makoul
Starring

Jerry Lewis as Gilbert Wooley
Marie McDonald as Lola Livingston
Sessue Hayakawa as Mr. Sikita
Barton MacLane as Major Ridgley
Suzanne Pleshette as Sergeant Pearson
Nobu McCarthy as Kimi Sikita
Robert Hirano as Mitsuo Watanabe
Ryuzo Demura as Ichiyama
The Los Angeles Dodgers as Themselves

    Distributed by Paramount Pictures
    Release date December 23, 1958
    Running time 99 minutes
    Language English

    The Geisha Boy is another of those Jerry Lewis films that I would have watched several times as a kid. It is currently available on DVD for $5 from Big W. It is mildly entertaining, despite a few politically incorrect gags from Jerry. There are a few good gags with Jerry and his rabbit, although these do wear a little thin after the first half an hour of the movie. Thankfully after this point the rabbit jokes are used quite sparingly. The relationship between Jerry and the little Japanese kid is a bit schmalzty and the scene at Tokyo airport paints Jerry as being a huge jerk, but otherwise this is an amusing film that is quite enjoyable.

    I can also see that Jim Carrey stole much of his schtick from Jerry Lewis by watching this film.


    3 Ring Circus

    Directed by Joseph Pevney
    Produced by Hal B Wallis
    Written by Don McGuire & Joseph Pevney
    Starring Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis
    Joanne Dru
    Zsa Zsa Gabor
    Sig Ruman
    Distributed by Paramount Pictures
    Release date December 25, 1954
    Running time 103 minutes
    Country United States
    Language English

    3 Ring Circus is the only Martin & Lewis film that is currently not available on DVD. I’m not sure why that is but I remember when I was a child that Channel 7 or 10 would show this movie over and over on a Sunday afternoon. It’s probably the Martin & Lewis film that I have seen the most times and despite not having seen it for a couple of decades (or more) I still remember parts of the film quite vividly. (Although I do remember seeing Hollywood Or Bust quite a lot of times on TV too!)

    This is of course the film set in a circus where Jerry Lewis gets to don a clown costume and the boys get to duet on Puncinello. He dreams of being a clown but first has to earn his stripe in the circus by doing odd jobs such as training as a lion tamer or washing the elephants. It’s just an excuse for Jerry to display his goofy humour.

    The film is not great but it is OK and better than a lot of other Martin & lewis films. As a kid I never noticed this but the film is very clichéd and the ending especially is very schmaltzy. This is at the orphans benefit where there is a little girl, in braces, who just won’t laugh at Jerry the clown no matter what he does. Personally I don’t blame her for not laughing at the clown as nothing he does is particularly funny, but the schmaltzy part comes when Jerry starts crying because of his failure to make the girl laugh, which causes her to laugh hysterically. One thing came across my mind as I watched this scene, perhaps the little girl is not really sad at all, maybe she’s just someone who cruelly gets her kicks out of the misfortune of others.

    It’s also good to see Zsa Zsa Gabor, Kathleen Freeman and Elsa Lanchester in the film too, although with the exception of Zsa Zsa they are relegated to what are virtually cameo roles.

    I have always been fascinated by circuses and clown in particular. I have always had a love/hate feeling for clowns and dreamt of being a clown when I was a kid, despite (or maybe because) of the fact that many clowns seem so evil. I always wonder just why they feel they need to hide their identities behind their makeup ala James Stewart in The Greatest Show On Earth.

    I guess that this film could have been the beginning of the end for the Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis team as this seems to be the film where Jerry started to become a lot more self-indulgent with his comedy and takes up a lot of the spotlight, instead of concentrating on the equal partnership with Dean that brought him his initial fame. Dean is relegated to the background for much of the film. There also was allegedly a lot of tension on the set between Dean and Jerry and many people have speculated that this could be the reason why this film has never been released on DVD (or home video), although that does not explain why Hollywood or Bust is on DVD, as that is the final film the duo made and the one that Jerry has found too sad to watch. It would still be good to see released onto DVD as although it isn’t hilariously funny, it is still quite interesting and entertaining. Kids will probably love this film.


    Abbott & Costello Meet The Mummy

    Directed by Charles Lamont
    Produced by Howard Christie
    Written by John Grant
    Starring Bud Abbott
    Lou Costello
    Marie Windsor
    Michael Ansara
    Music by Joseph Gershenson
    Editing by Russell Schoengarth
    Distributed by Universal Pictures
    Release date June 23, 1955 (U.S. release)
    Running time 79 min.
    Language English

    This is not Abbott & Costello’s finest hour. They look very old, especially Abbott, and the jokes are old and stale. It’s not scary either, while the mummy looks just like a guy wrapped in bandages. It is watchable but that is the best that I can say about it, this was Abbott & Costello’s second last film together.


    Forbidden Planet

    Directed by Fred M. Wilcox
    Produced by Nicholas Nayfack
    Written by Screenplay: Cyril Hume
    Story: Irving Block & Allen Adler
    Starring Walter Pidgeon
    Leslie Nielsen
    Anne Francis
    Music by Louis and Bebe Barron
    Cinematography George J. Folsey
    Editing by Ferris Webster
    Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
    Release date April 1, 1956
    Running time 98 minutes
    Country United States
    Language English

    Forbidden Planet is another 1950s classic science fiction film. It stars a very young Leslie Nielsen, Walter Pidgeon and marks the debut of Robby the Robot. It is quite interesting but very talky in comparison to some of its contemporaries. The film is perhaps more intellectual than the other sci-fi films of the era.

    It’s very interesting to see Leslie Nielsen in a serious role, 20 years before he appeared in Airplane!/Flying High! It is also interesting to see Robby the Robot before he was in Lost In Space. His voice is different here and he’s a bit annoying, but I still expected him to say, “Danger Wil Robinson!” but he didn’t.

    The alien enemy Krell is interesting too and I like the way in which it was animated. It was animated by Disney veteran Joshua Meador.

    Overall Forbidden Planet is intereting (that word again) but very talky and not as exciting in my opinion that some of the other films of the era.


    I Confess

    Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
    Produced by Alfred Hitchcock Written by George Tabori
    William Archibald
    Paul Anthelme (Play)
    Starring Montgomery Clift
    Anne Baxter
    Karl Malden
    Brian Aherne
    O. E. Hasse
    Roger Dann
    Dolly Haas
    Music by Dimitri Tiomkin
    Cinematography Robert Burks
    Editing by Rudi Fehr
    Distributed by Warner Bros.
    Release date March 22, 1953
    Running time 95 minutes
    Country United States
    Language English

    This is a Hitchcock movie where he once again revisits one of his favourite themes of someone being accused of a crime he didn’t commit. It is a theme that he would also look at again in The Wrong Man a few years later. The difference here is that the accused knows who the murderer is but cannot tell the police. The reason for this is that the accused is a priest and the murderer told him about what happened during confession. The murderer ends up framing Father Logan in order to save his own neck, while Father Logan cannot say anything in his own defence. It’s an interesting concept and the film is quite entertaining.

    There is also a documentary about the film on the DVD and as usual it features Peter Bogdanovich. I know he’s a well-known director and some of his movies are pretty good, but does he do anything these days other than appearing in documentaries about Hitchcock? He seems to be in every one that I have seen. It’s also the same with when you are watching a documentary on an old horror or sci-fi movie and you hear from Bob Burns, isn’t there anyone else?


    Living It Up

    Directed by Norman Taurog
    Produced by Paul Jones
    Written by Ben Hecht & Jack Rose
    Starring Dean Martin
    Jerry Lewis
    Janet Leigh
    Edward Arnold
    Music by Walter Scharf
    Distributed by Paramount Pictures
    Release date July 23, 1954
    Running time 100 min.
    Country  United States
    Language English

    This is another Martin & Lewis comedy from the mid-50s and while it has a few good gags I don’t think it was the teams best effort. Part of the problem was Jerry, who acts like he is about seven years old throughout the film. There is no empathy for him at all and he just does stupid stuff for the sake of doing stupid stuff.

    This was made not long before the relationship between Dean & Jerry started hitting the rocks. I wonder if this film could be a reason, as Lewis did want to start taking more control of what he did while Dean only seemed to care about getting a paycheck.


    Pardners

    Directed by Norman Taurog
    Produced by Paul Jones
    Written by Mervin Houser & Jerry Davis
    Starring Dean Martin
    Jerry Lewis
    Distributed by Paramount Pictures
    Release date July 25, 1956
    Running time 91 minutes
    Language English
    This is the Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis film where they play cowboys. I think this is one of the better Martin & Lewis comedies, perhaps because Jerry isn’t as annoying in this as he is in many of his other films (he is still annoying though!). This was of course a staple of Sunday afternoon TV back when I was a kid in the 80s thanks to Bill Collins, but I haven’t seen it for a long time.

    Even though some of the songs are kinda annoying it is still a good way to waste 90 minutes.

    This is the film where Dean and Jerry break the 4th wall at the end to reassure their fans that they were going to make films together for many more years. Things didn’t pan out that way of course as they would only make one more film together, Hollywood or Bust. By this time they were fighting and I guess that the public must have known about it, which is why they tried to reassure them. I do know that during Hollywood or Bust they weren’t on speaking terms.