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Monday, July 27, 2015

Laughs Are Light From This Ring-A-Ding Trio


Who Was That Lady? (1960) Is Sure Enough An Old Joke

I kept thinking of Psycho while watching this, same year after all, with three overlapping cast members (Janet Leigh, John McIntire, Simon Oakland), Lady hewing to formula as Psycho upset all of a public's expectation. We could wish better things for Dean Martin at swinger summit, he being pretty much the character here that Billy Wilder would carry to extreme with Kiss Me, Stupid a few years later. That's what great directors did: take clay tepidly molded by others and ease pedals to the floor; Hitchcock would manipulate Anthony Perkins' persona for Psycho and crack mold so an establishment Hollywood could never use it again. A Light-Hearted Leer At Love Among The Adults was how Lady was sold. There'd been popularity as a Broadway play. Today it yields more curiosity than laughs, 115 minutes an excruciating haul. Naughty humor was in vogue around '60, Pillow Talk and Operation Petticoat having paved way for suggestive dialogue and situations.


Whenever there was call for goodtime girls back then, you got either Joi Lansing or Barbara Nichols. Who Was That Lady? tenders both. The picture could as easily be another Martin and Lewis comedy, Jerry doing the Tony Curtis part with sex toned down (Lady, in fact, anticipates Boeing, Boeing). Aggrieved onscreen wife is Janet Leigh, similarly so in private life with more-less estranged Curtis. Lady is one of those projects where you read about water gun fights among the cast between scenes and, according to Leigh, spontaneous and "inventive" humor they'd ad-lib before cameras. All well and good if you're Dean Martin with inborn wit, but his co-stars apply frivolity with heavy hands, particularly Leigh, who wasn't gifted along such lines. Still, there is interest, for night clubs, street exteriors, and 60's lifestyle, if not gaiety in proceedings, this a case for most comedy from that period, especially ones that dealt in Light-Hearted Leers at Love.

9 Comments:

Blogger Mike Cline said...

Ah, the wonderful JOI LANSING, who plotted with a George Reeves Superman to catch a notorious criminal.

And BARBARA NICHOLS, stripper Chickadee LaVerne on The Beverly Hillbillies.

Love them both.

11:27 AM  
Blogger Kevin K. said...

Movies like this always seem like they were written by 10 year-olds who just learned their first dirty joke.

11:56 AM  
Blogger CanadianKen said...

I guess I like this one a bit better than you. It's no world-beater but I chuckled a little more than I expected to. And thought Leigh and Curtis entered into the spirit of the thing with commendable flair. The one thing I really do love about the picture, though, is the teaming of Barbara Nichols and Joi Lansing. They're a flashy sister act in it and somehow the movie captures what's best - and most endearingly funny - about both actresses. Nichols, with her suspicious squawk, is the brains of the outfit as it were, Lansing the naive junior traffic stopper. And the dynamic between them is ... well ... pretty dynamic. I'd have liked to see them in their very own vehicle. And what a glamorously groomed eyeful they make. Especially Lansing. I always liked her but she never, never looked better than she does here.

12:41 PM  
Blogger David Simmons said...

"Can they act?"
"Like bunnies!"

4:05 PM  
Blogger Donald Benson said...

Growing up in that era, I sort of recall big studio "sex comedies" being about:
-- Somebody trying (unsuccessfully) to have sex
-- Somebody thinking (incorrectly) somebody is having sex
-- Maybe, just maybe a winking hint married people have sex
-- Sexy bimbos and/or comic playboys who may be having sex, but not in this movie

If they were really daring, it might be left uncertain whether sex happened or not.

This is why the James Bond movies were such a hot deal. They may not have been any more explicit than the comedies, but it was darn clear Bond was Getting Some.

7:58 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

I first saw this on a Saturday night late show when I was about 15 or so. I thought it might be the funniest movie ever made, particularly the ending in the flooded basement. If I'd been making Best Of lists at the time, this surely would have been up there with MY MAN GODFREY and NIGHT AT THE OPERA as the best comedies I'd yet seen.

I finally saw it again about 20 years later and, for the life of me, couldn't imagine what I'd found so funny. I must have been in a great and receptive mood that one night. Wish I could bottle that.

1:10 PM  
Blogger MDG14450 said...

I have a hard time getting through most 60s big studio comedies. There doesn't seem to be anything that would appeal to anyone.

10:00 AM  
Blogger tomservo56954 said...

They just showed it on one of my sub-carrier channels...I tried to get into it but couldn't.

Donald...commentator Ethan Mordden described these playing at sex 60's Hollywood comedies "nun movies"

Paul

10:28 PM  
Blogger dino martin peters said...

Mr. McElvee, very cool comments on "Who Was That Lady." We deeply appreciate your kudos to our one and only Dino. Know that your reflections are bein' shared this day at ilovedinomartin.

10:58 AM  

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