Monday, June 05, 2006

Everybody Wants Somebody Some Time

The Billy Wilder Centennial

The Billy Wilder comedy Kiss Me, Stupid is a middling entry in the directors cannon, and a film that generated some degree of ill-will against its creator in the Hollywood community. Enough people found this lightly tawdry comedy objectionable, that Wilder later commented that he made sure that his next film, the 1966 Matthau/Lemmon pairing The Fortune Cookie, have a fairly straight forward moral along conventional lines. But back to Stupid.

Kiss Me, Stupid stars Ray Walston and Cliff Osmond as a piano teacher (Orville J. Spooner) and service station operator (Barney Milsap) respectively. The two men live in the small town of Climax, Nevada (yes Wilder intended the name to have a double meaning), where they collaborate on song composition in their spare time, hoping to one day make it big. An opportunity to do just that comes along when a popular singer(Dean Martin who is playing a stereotyped version of himself, though in the film he is always referred to by his nickname of 'Dino') runs into some car trouble while passing through town.

With Dino being put up in Orville's house for the night while Barny 'fixes' his 'broken' car, the two anticipate having an easy time forcing the crooner to listen to their tunes, which they are sure he will love. However the sex-manic singer is more interested in finding a little action in the form of Mrs. Spooner, whose black negligee he stumbles upon, then in discovering new compositional talent. So Barny comes up with the idea of replacing Orville's wife Zelda (Mrs. Jack Lemon, Felicia Farr) for the night with Polly the Pistol (Kim Novak), a prostitute/waitress who works at towns only night spot. Mel Blanc also appears in a small cameo as Mrs. Spooners dentist.

The film contains all the standard Wilder/Diamond characters types, the schemer (Osmond), the dreamer (Walston), the womanizer (Martin), the prostitute with the heart of gold (Novak), and the idealized women (Farr). While all the pieces are there its still pretty mechanical, I mean I enjoyed it, it didn't disappoint, but it contained nothing the director hadn't done better in an earlier film. Compared to Wilders some what similar theatrical release of the previous year, that lost gem of a comedy that is Irma La Douce, Kiss Me, Stupid is merely an after thought.


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