Kiss Me, Stupid [1964]

Director: Billy Wilder
Stars: Dean Martin, Kim Novak, Ray Walston
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Runtime: 119 minutes

In 1964 director Billy Wilder was at the top of his game. Following a string of hits that had begun in 1959 with Some Like It Hot, he now intended to direct a bawdy boudoir farce in the grand tradition of the French theater. The contorted plot involves one Orville J. Spooner, an aspiring song writer (originally to be played by Peter Sellers, but replaced by Ray Walston after Sellers suffered a heart attack, which he partly blamed on Wilder), and his crazed lyricist, buddy Barney Milsap. Together they toil away in the town of Climax, Nevada, Orville working as a piano teacher and Barney pumping gas across the street. Along comes Dean Martin, playing a thinly veiled caricature of himself, who just wants to fill up his tank. Instead, the songwriting duo rig his car so he's forced to spend the night at Orville's, giving the dolts a chance to pitch their songs. But Dino also wants Orville's wife. No problem! They hire Polly the Pistol (Kim Novak), the local prostitute, to masquerade as her. Thus begin the high jinks. The film plays like an extended dirty joke that could have been told around the office water cooler in 1960. It was a colossal failure both critically and commercially, and was banned by the Catholic League of Decency, to boot. Nonetheless, the film has aged well and was ahead of its time (think of it as the grandfather of Caddyshack and the great-grandfather of There's Something About Mary). Wilder eventually renounced the film and moved on. --Kristian St. Clair

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