I remember the first time I ever saw Kiss Me Stupid (probably on TCM, who rescued it from the Pauline Kael Home for the Morally Depraved) and Dean Martin (as Dino) runs into a police roadblock and says What’s the matter? That Sinatra kid missing again? I knew Billy Wilder had pulled out all the stops, as the kidnapping had only happened a few months before. I always wondered what Frank said. It was a funny line, after all, and a laugh is a laugh. It was certainly funnier than anything in Robin and the 7 Hoods, which Frank was making at the time, with Dean Martin, and which the critics thought was just fine, even though it’s not especially funny, and they forgot to keep the palm trees out of the shots. Palm trees in Chicago. A lotta laughs. But Frank was distracted with the kidnapping, and who cares about a stray palm tree in a dumb movie anyway
The critics hated Kiss Me Stupid. They hated the story, they hated the script, they hated the cast (Peter Sellers was supposed to play the Ray Walston part, incidentally, but had a heart attack on the set.) I love Kiss Me Stupid. Now Irma La Douce I’m not too nuts about, it kind of drags on about an hour and a half too long, though it might have made a nice two parter sitcom–but at least that didn’t bring about the fall of western civilization like Dino’s hand in Kim Novak’s kleenex box did. The Catholic Legion of Decency went through the countryside, trying to scare up another crusade. By the hand of God the movie flopped, was pulled from the theaters, and Billy Wilder shamed and broken (he made one more minor classic, The Fortune Cookie, and then a string of box office losers), but it was too late. Pretty soon everyone is running around naked and the seventies began in a cloud of cocaine. But we know why. I’m a Poached Egg, that’s why
But then what do I know from movies anyway? I don’t even like Ingmar Bergman films. But I do know funny, and I’m a Poached Egg is funny. Maybe not the way it was intended, not as Ira Gershwin wrote it. George was working up I Got Rhythm. Ira comes in with some lyrics. George is on the melody, da-da-da-da, da-da-da-da. I’m a poached egg, Ira sings, without a piece of cheese. I’m Da Vinci, without the Mona Leez. Mona Leez? George yells, and threatens to call Cole Porter.
You had to be there.