Showing posts with label Dean Martin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dean Martin. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

TCM: Dean Martin: King of Cool

Premiering this week on Turner Classic Movies is the excellent documentary Dean Martin: King of Cool. Directed by Tom Donahue and produced by Ilan Arbodela, this film chronicles the life and career of Dean Martin, from his early days singing in the nightclub circuit, becoming one half of the outrageously popular comedy duo with Jerry Lewis, to his film career, his time with the Rat Pack and his personal struggles. We learn about how Dean Martin went from being part of a close knit Italian community in Steubenville, Ohio, to making waves in Hollywood and Las Vegas. Martin was the epitome of cool and part of this was his sense of mystery. He kept everyone, including his family members, at arms length. He went by the notion of "keep yourself to yourself" and lived his life as a menefrigista (he who doesn't give a f***). Martin was also just an extraordinary talent. He mastered singing, drama, comedy and dance, was the consummate host and improvised with the best of them. There were no mistakes. He kept rolling with the punches and everyone loved his mesmerizing personality.

“What an incredible, joyous labor of love it has been to tell the story of one of the 20th Century’s greatest entertainers... The more I learned, the greater and deeper my appreciation and affection for this man became.” — Tom Donahue


What's truly extraordinary about this documentary is the sheer number of people who were interviewed. Half the fun is seeing so many familiar faces, including Martin's peers, friends, family and even classic film authors (whose books I've reviewed on this blog!). 

Notable talking heads include:
Deana Martin
Norman Lear
Bob Newhart
Frankie Avalon
Regis Philbin
George Schlatter
Dick Cavett
Barbara Rush
Florence Henderson
Peter Bogdanovich
Angie Dickinson
Lainie Kazan
Carol Burnett
Barry Levinson
Todd Fisher
Jon Hamm
James Kaplan 
Jeanine Basinger
Henry Jaglom
and many many more

Hearing from them alongside family members and those who inhabited Dean Martin's world really add to this documentary. It also includes audio recordings, never-before-scene archival footage and film and television clips from Martin's numerous appearances. There are a couple controversial figures included in the interviews as well as a few whom have since passed away. The film loses a bit of steam in the second half and gets quite sad when we get to the most difficult years of Martin's life. But overall it was incredibly enjoyable. Definitely a doc I'll be watching again and again.

Dean Martin: King of Cool airs Friday November 19th with an encore screening Friday November 26th. Check out the dedicated Dean Martin line-up programmed for each evening:

Friday, November 19

8 PM ET — Dean Martin: King of Cool (2021)
9:30 PM ET — The Caddy (1953) – A master golfer suffering from performance anxiety caddies for a man he's taught everything.
11:15 PM ET — Rio Bravo (1959)

Friday, November 26

8 PM ET — Ocean’s 11 (1960) 
10:15 PM ET — Robin and the Seven Hoods (1964)
12:30 AM ET  Dean Martin: King of Cool (2021)

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Bells Are Ringing (1960)

"I'm in love, with a man.
Plaza o double four double three.
What a perfect relationship.
I can't see him, he can't see me.
I'm in love, with a voice.
Plaza o double four double three.
What a perfect relationship
I talk to him, and he just talks to me."

During the late 1950s things weren't looking up for actress Judy Holliday. Her marriage to David Oppenheim was over. She had been summoned by the House Un-American Activities Committee and although she wasn't blacklisted her movie career suffered as a result. Things needed to change for the better and quickly. In steps in her good friends Adolph Green and Betty Comden, the writing duo behind many stellar musicals on stage and on the big screen. Inspired by Holliday's time as a switchboard operator at the Mercury Theatre, Comden and Green create a musical with her in mind. It becomes a huge hit on Broadway with over 900 performances before MGM picks it up and adapts it for screen. The end result is a sparkling musical that serves as a last hurrah for the brilliant Judy Holliday: Bells Are Ringing (1960).

The film stars Judy Holliday as Ella Peterson. She lives and works with her two roommates in a dilapidated freestanding brownstone in New York City. The three of them run a service called Susanswerphone, an answering service for everyone from artists, to local businesses to busy socialites. Ella has a soft spot for her clients and becomes personally involved with them, much to the dismay of her boss and roommate Sue (Jean Stapleton) who wants to keep things strictly business. The thing is Ella is starting to fall in love with the man behind Plaza-04433, Jeffrey Moss (Dean Martin). He's a writer working on his newest musical The Midas Touch. However he's down and out because his writing partner left him and he'd rather drink than face writing by himself. In steps Ella to save the day. Jeffrey thinks Ella is really a 60 year old lady and lovingly refers to her as "Mom". When Ella meets Jeffrey in person she pretends to be Melisande Scott and they fall in love.

A wrench is thrown in the works when two police inspectors have their eye on bringing down Susanswerphone. They suspect it's really some sort of escort service. Sue puts pressure on Ella to be on her best behavior and having a romance with Jeffrey could ruin everything. To complicate things further, Sue is smitten with J. Otto Prantz (Eddie Foy Jr.), the leader of a bookie ring who disguises his illegal activity behind the ruse of the classical music distribution company Titanic Records. Unbeknownst to the smitten Sue and her two roommates, Otto is taking bets on horse races under the guise of orders for Beethoven symphonies and the like.

Ella can't help herself. She wants to help Jeffrey but she also wants to help the dentist who dreams of  being a songwriter and local beatnik Blake Barton (Frank Gorshin) who dreams of making it big as an actor. She wants to help everyone but doesn't want hurt the business either. What's a gal to do?

Judy Holliday sneaks into Dean Martin's apartment in Bells Are Ringing (1960)

With plenty of memorable musical numbers, fun characters and a zany plot with a satisfying ending, Bells Are Ringing (1960) is sure to please. Having seen the film several times recently I've fallen completely head over heels for it. Judy Holliday is so charming. It's her final film role and her only leading part in a color movie which makes it extra special and something to treasure. My favorite numbers of hers are It's a Perfect Relationship, a delightful song you'll find yourself singing over and over again, and the somber The Party's Over. The Titanic Records/bookie scheme is brilliantly explained in It's A Simple Little System lead by Eddie Foy Jr. Let's not forget Dean Martin who has several great solo songs and duets with Holliday. In addition to Comden and Green, Bells Are Ringing features powerhouses from movie musicals including director Vincente Minnelli, producer Arthur Freed, musical director Andre Previn and songwriter Jule Styne.

Bells Are Ringing (1960) was begging to be brought out on Blu-Ray and the good folks at Warner Archive heard the call and did just that. Seeing Judy Holliday don a gorgeous red party dress in the brilliant color only Blu-Ray can bring makes the whole thing worthwhile. The Blu-Ray includes several extras including two deleted musical numbers and an alternate version of The Midas Touch scene and the film's trailer. There is also a featurette from the 2005 DVD release which includes archival footage of Comden and Green discussing the movie, an interview with Hal Linden, who was Sydney Chaplin's understudy for the role of Jeffrey Moss on Broadway, as well as an interview with actor Frank Gorshin. I love that the Blu-Ray has English subtitles and a song selection menu which gave me an opportunity to play my favorites over and over again while also learning the lyrics.

The story of this film has a somber note as well. Holliday had a rough time making the picture. Ever the perfectionist she wanted it to be just as good as the Broadway production. She had a love affair with Sydney Chaplin, son of Charlie Chaplin, and her co-star on Broadway. That relationship ended before MGM started production on the film. It was inevitable that they had to replace Chaplin. Vincente Minnelli had just made Some Came Running with Dean Martin so he was a natural choice for the role. Holliday was sick during the making of Bells Are Ringing and died 5 years later of breast cancer. It's a shame we don't have more time with her. It makes films like this all the more special.

Bells are Ringing (1960) is available on Blu-Ray from the Warner Archive. Their Blu-Rays are pressed discs and not made on demand like their DVDs. You'll definitely want to pick up a copy of this one!

Warner Archive Wednesday - On (random) Wednesdays, I review one title from the Warner Archive Collection. Thank you to the Warner Archive for sending me Bells Are Ringing (1960) for review!

Popular Posts

 Twitter   Instagram   Facebook