Tuesday, March 14, 2017



Martin and Lewis in the massage scene from Artists and Models 

The 1950's comedy team of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis featured Dean as the suave crooner who romances the ladies and Jerry as the goodhearted goofball who specializes in slapstick comedy. After the team broke up in the late 50's, Dean and Jerry were equally successful on their own, but that's another story. I think there should be a Dean and Jerry movie on the 1001 list and I suppose Artists and Models is as good as any.

The plot involves Dean as a struggling painter and Jerry as a struggling children's author who has an obsession with a comic called Vultureman. The movie features a lot of mistaken identity. Part of that is the mysterious Bat Girl whose secret identity turns out to be a secretary played by Shirley MacLaine. Successful artist Dorothy Malone has a thing for Dean...but doesn't want Dean to know...There's also the twist about Jerry reciting the Vulture's storyline in his dreams, and well, forget the plot. The important parts of the film are the gags. The most successful is the fact that Jerry has to go down several flights of stairs every time he has to answer the phone in their apartment. There also is a massage scene where people in the room continue to pile on and get tangled up and is pretty funny, too.

At War With the Army, That's My Boy and Money from Home are other movies of the team I've seen.

The women decide to join the picket line Salt of the Earth

This is the second time I've seen Salt of the Earth. It is a movie to be seen for it's historical importance as well as it's storyline. The story is about poor Mexican mine workers picketing for better wages. When many of the workers are jailed or become cognizant of the fact that they are no good to their families on the picket lines, their wives take over the picketing. At that point,  the movie begins to take on a bit of a feminist bent. My favorite scene in the movie is the Union meeting where the women bring up the idea of taking over the picketing and eventually convince most of their husbands to go along with it.

In the tradition of neo-realism, the majority of the performers in the film are non-professional actors (Will Geer is an exception.) Salt of the Earth was blacklisted for years.because of its union ties and use of blacklisted performers. Despite not being seen for years, the film eventually gained an underground cult following. The first time I had heard about it was in Danny Peary's Alternate Oscar book where he dubs Salt of the Earth the Best Picture of 1954. Of course, it is also in the 1001 movies book. It's definitely in my book, too.  

The lovely but deadly Peggy Cummings in Gun Crazy

The 1949 United Artist film noir Gun Crazy has a lot going for it. It's the story about a young sharpshooter named Bart who has a thing against killing despite his talent. He gets involved with a female sharpshooter named Laurie  who has no such reservations. Laurie leads Bart into a life of crime, in the tradition of other film noirs such as Double Indemnity and Detour. The story is brisk and fast (86 minutes). The leads of the affable John Nall and the deadly Peggy Cummings are solid. I also liked many of director Joseph H. Lewis's touches, primarily the shots from the back seats of Bart and Laurie's getaway car at the end of each robbery. I'm certainly a noir fan and I'll add Gun Crazy to my list of favorites of the genre.

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