Appellate Judge James A. Stewart had a ginger ale in hand as he watched this double-feature. Perhaps he should try apple juice next time, like Dean Martin would.
"I want people to think that I'm flighty and irresponsible—and
No, Dean Martin wasn't a drunk. His son pointed out that the drink he always had in his hand was apple juice. Still, his reputation as the unflappable boozer of the Rat Pack—that gang that included Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop, and Peter Lawford—lives on today. It saw him through movies, nightclub performances, a crooning career, and a long-running TV variety show. It's a persona that you recognize immediately, from the first time you see champagne bubbles form words in the opening credits to Who Was That Lady?.
When he first came on the scene, though, Martin was the straight man to goofy, childlike Jerry Lewis—until a dispute boiled over on TV on Colgate Comedy Hour. It's hard to imagine those two dissimilar actors working together, but you can see Martin's flair for comedy in the Dean Martin Double Feature.
Facts of the Case
The Dean Martin Double Feature features two movies:
Who Was That Lady?
That's how the FBI agent on the case summed up the results of David's lie to his wife Ann (Janet Leigh, Psycho)—a lie supplied by his buddy Mike (Dean Martin, Ocean's Eleven). It seems that Ann walked into assistant professor David's Columbia University science lab just as a student decided to plant a kiss on the prof. Ann's not even going to listen to his explanation—she wants David (Tony Curtis, Operation Petticoat) out of the house that night. So naturally David calls Mike the TV writer to help him out.
David has a great idea—one of those ideas that you just know is going to set off a lot of farcical complications; he suggests that David tell Ann that he's an undercover FBI agent. He demonstrates in an if-I-tell-you-I'll-have-to-kill-you way, convincing David before he tells him, "Me in the FBI? I couldn't even be in the Eagle Scouts, you jackass." To sell the story, Mike rounds up props at CBS where he works so that he can show Ann a "real" FBI card and revolver.
That's one of the problems, since the prop man gets suspicious and thinks Mike and David are going to pull off a crime. He calls up the FBI and tells them what he saw. Worse yet, Mike has decided to push things, setting up himself and David for a double date with two hot gals to give him a taste of the "home cooking and outside romance" he can enjoy, thanks to Mike's little story. David doesn't want to go along but—as Mike expected—Ann's pushing him out the door herself.
Naturally, David and Mike are going to find themselves dealing with real FBI agents, real foreign spies, and real trouble—especially since Ann has figured out that David didn't take his gun with him and wants to take it to him while he and Mike are wining and dining the two women.
How to Save a Marriage (And Ruin Your Life)
A Dean Martin movie with a theme ("The Winds of Change") sung by the Ray Conniff Singers? The tune, which will strangely lurk in your mind for years to come like "Windmills of Your Mind," is a bad sign. Marriage appears to be one of the primary targets of the 2003 sex farce spoof Down with Love, but this actual 1960s sex farce sends its looniness careening over the top with a breeziness that Love couldn't actually top. The battle of the sexes winds up with Stella Stevens leading a fight for mistresses' rights, even though the man she's sparring with isn't even married.
Stevens plays Carol, a department store worker who delivers a package on her way home, only to find that it's going to her boss's mistress—and he's the one who opens the door to collect it. Martin plays Dave, the boss's buddy, a confirmed bachelor who decides to save his friend's marriage when Harry's wife Mary tells him she's discovered the affair.
"Why is it the only time a wife knows how you feel is when you feel it for another woman?" Harry asks Dave. Harry explains that the affair follows years of his marriage going sour.
Meanwhile, one of Harry's colleagues, bitter about Carol taking a promotion that he'd promised to his mistress, is claiming that she's been fooling around with the big guy. When Dave hears this one, he trails Carol to see just what sort of woman she is. Through the typical sex farce mistakes, Dave thinks she's a gold digger waiting for a better offer—and Harry talks Dave into giving it to her, saying he'll give up his mistress if the woman accepts Dave's offer.
Naturally, Dave's proposal is seen as a marriage proposal. When he figures out his mistake, he can't just dump Carol, but he doesn't want to give up his happy bachelor life. Like Martin's character in Lady, he comes up with a story—and makes things much, much worse.
Dean Martin's got a persona and he's sticking with it, but it can't be as easy as he makes it look. If you watch closely, you notice that he's always adding a little extra something with an expression or a gesture. The way he handles a prop revolver in Who Was That Lady? for effect as Janet Leigh says, "I'd bet my life that's not an FBI card," for example. The bits of business—Mike sampling alcohol in the lab, a lit cigarette lighting up a dark room—back up Martin's cool character, even if you're not quite aware of it. Martin manages to look unruffled and dignified even amid the third-act silliness of both movies.
In Who Was That Lady?, Dean Martin has two expert foils in Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh. As the nervous professor, Curtis is as good with expressions and gestures as Martin, smoothly mixing drinks in a chemistry lab or dropping hints of his anger to Mike as things start to spin out of control. Leigh plays it broader as the wife kept out of the loop. The direction's fairly straightforward, but it does let you follow the small stuff that the actors do to make their parts sing.
From the start of this one, there's sex in the air, though it's only hinted at. Watch that leggy beauty, her face unseen, sashay through the opening sequence before she plants a kiss on the unsuspecting David. Later on, the trail left by David and Ann on their way to the bedroom tells the story of the night they had. As you'd have expected in 1959, the happy ending reinforces the importance of the marriage vow, though.
The marriage vow is a little wobbly in 1967, when Stella Stevens joins Martin for How to Save a Marriage, but it does get reinforced, sort of, eventually. Stevens makes Janet Leigh look positively restrained as the woman who's madly in love with Dave in early scenes, then just mad as hell as she sees through Dave's lies and plots vengeance. Still, she's damned funny and has enough charm to make it semi-understandable when Dave fails to flee the country under an assumed name at the end, marrying her instead. (Though the antics get quite absurd, the movie's predictable enough that mentioning Dave's vows shouldn't be much of a spoiler.) Eli Wallach isn't bad, but he doesn't have the same buddy chemistry with Martin that Tony Curtis had. Among the actors in smaller parts, Jack Albertson stands out as a widower who advises Carol about love and marriage.
As you'd expect, the stories in both movies take place in an upper-crust New York of skyline-view loft apartments and nightly visits to fancy restaurants and bars, with martinis flowing and cigarettes aglow, one in which real concerns don't play much of a part. As escapism, it's as much fun as it was in the 1960s, as you might guess by the fact that a modern version of New York hip has surfaced in Friends and Sex and the City.
The transfers are good on both the black-and-white Lady and the color Marriage, and the sound quality's good as well.
Extras are non-existent on this disc.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Why didn't David just tell Ann he'd been surprised by the kissing student in Who Was That Lady?? Why did any of these characters do anything they did in How to Save a Marriage (And Ruin Your Life)? The plots here are unlikely and razor-thin, counting on Dean Martin's charm to carry them along. Martin's charm is considerable, though, even when he's playing a womanizer you'd shun in real life in Who Was That Lady?
Who Was That Lady? turns out to be the sharper of these two farces, though Martin and Stevens carry How to Save a Marriage so well that you'll laugh out loud in spite of yourself.
Not guilty, though logic tells me I should convict these movies of just not making any sense. But if you were looking for movies that made sense, you probably wouldn't be reading about these now, would you?
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Other Reviews You Might Enjoy
Scales of Justice, Who Was That Lady?
Perp Profile, Who Was That Lady?
Distinguishing Marks, Who Was That Lady?
Scales of Justice, How To Save A Marrige
Perp Profile, How To Save A Marrige
Distinguishing Marks, How To Save A Marrige
Review content copyright © 2006 James A. Stewart; Site design and review layout copyright © 2013 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.