Comic Relief with Artists and Models (1955)

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This has been a rough week. And when the bad news starts to outweigh the good I like to escape my worries with a great comedy that makes me laugh out loud and allows me to forget my troubles for a few short hours. I recently found some comic relief in my favorite Martin and Lewis film, Frank Tashlin’s ARTISTS AND MODELS (1955). I grew up watching this brilliant musical satire and it never fails to put a big goofy grin on my face. Your own mileage will vary of course but here are 10 reasons why you should consider watching ARTISTS AND MODELS today.

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1) The Color Palette

Frank Tashlin was a Technicolor master and in ARTISTS AND MODELS it seems like every frame of his film is awash in deep reds, vivid blues and bright yellows. This is typical of many of Tashlin’s films but the plot of ARTIST AND MODELS, which involves an artist (Dean Martin) and his comic book obsessed roommate (Jerry Lewis), seems like it was designed to give Tashlin the opportunity to play with a broad color palette and create eye-popping imagery that literally jumps off the screen.

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2) Shirley MacLaine as The Bat Lady

The Bat Lady is a fictional comic book heroine that Jerry Lewis’ character is obsessed with. Shirley MacLaine plays an artist’s model who portrays the Bat Lady but at one point in the film her costume is stolen by Eva Gabor. Both women look fabulous as the mysterious masked heroine but Gabor lacks MacLaine’s offbeat charm and girl next door sex appeal. The Bat Lady is MacLaine’s character and she owns it.

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3) Eddie Mayehoff as Mr. Murdock

Eddie Mayehoff was a very funny man who appeared in some of Martin and Lewis’ best comedies including THAT’S MY BOY (1951) and THE STOOGE (1952). In ARTISTS AND MODELS he plays a shrewd comic book publisher and is responsible for some of the films biggest laughs. Mayehoff’s memorable office exchange with Lewis is one of most hilarious things I’ve ever seen thanks to the cartoon-like antics of both men and Tashlin’s creative direction.

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4) Dean Martin sings “The Lucky Song”

For my money this isn’t just one of the movie’s best musical numbers, it’s also one of the best moments in Dean Martin’s film career. Martin plays a starving artist who decides to illustrate comic books to make a buck and after getting his first big paycheck he belts out “The Lucky Song.” This upbeat number seems tailor-made for the man and his distinctive baritone voice. It’s a joy to watch him strut down the street while giving away his money and handing out free comic books to kids who eventually end up dancing with him. It’s also shot beautifully by Tashlin and you can watch it here.

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5) The Telephone Call

One of the film’s funniest moments involves Lewis answering a phone call for Martin while he’s busy taking a bath. Because they live in an apartment without an elevator, Lewis is forced to run up and down the stars numerous times asking questions until he finally runs out of breath. What follows is a exchange where Lewis breathlessly tries to explain the phone message to an increasingly frustrated Martin. This is a wonderful example of why the comedy team of Martin and Lewis was so successful.

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6) Anita Ekberg as “Anita”

I love Anita Ekberg and although she only appears briefly in ARTIST AND MODELS the Swedish actress manages to make a big impact playing Martin’s ex-love interest. This was Ekberg’s sixth film appearance but one of the few where she was actually credited and given some lines to say. The exotic statuesque blond looks like she stepped off the pages of a comic book and effortlessly becomes part of the film’s fanciful landscape.

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7) The Chemistry Between Jerry Lewis & Shirley MacLaine

Shirley MacLaine is Jerry Lewis’ love interest in the movie and the two have great chemistry on screen. In My Lucky Stars: A Hollywood Memoir, MacLaine describes her days on the set in heartbreaking detail explaining how Martin and Lewis were bickering constantly. This would eventually lead to the comedy team’s split but MacLaine obviously had respect for both men and admitted that she found Jerry Lewis “sexy.” I think this is evident when you watch the movie. They appear in one of the film’s best musical numbers together where MacLaine sings “Innamorata (Sweetheart)” and attempts to seduce the clueless Lewis with her dance moves. Unfortunately MacLaine and Lewis never worked together again but that makes their moments together in ARTISTS AND MODELS all the more special. You can watch them in ”Innamorata (Sweetheart)” here.

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8) Hospital Twister

One of the film’s funniest gags takes place in a hospital after Jerry Lewis’ character injures his back. Somehow Lewis and Martin end up in an impromptu game of twister with a group of nurses and therapists on a massage table.

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9) Dorothy Malone as Abigail Parker

Dorothy Malone plays a successful comic book artist and the creator of The Bat Lady who eventually falls for Dean Martin’s character. While her story arch takes a conventional nosedive towards the end of the film, it’s fun watching her play a single woman working in a field that’s often dominated by men.

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10) Martin and Lewis sing “Artists and Models”

The film’s big splashy musical number is “Artists and Models” and it’s sung by Martin and Lewis. You’d never guess from watching this film that the daring duo were about to make their last film together and in many regards “Artists and Models” is their swan song as one of Hollywood’s most fascinating and successful comedy teams. It’s a catchy tune written by Harry Warren and Jack Brooks sung on an amazing set and filmed with panache by Frank Tashlin. Tashlin makes the most of his technicolor palette here while Martin and Lewis seem to be having the time of their lives surround by a bevy of beautiful actresses all dressed in spectacular costumes.

There are plenty of other reasons to enjoy ARTIST AND MODELS so if you haven’t had the opportunity to see this subversive and stylish musical comedy do yourself a favor and give it a look. It’s available on DVD and currently streaming at Amazon.

22 Responses Comic Relief with Artists and Models (1955)
Posted By Byron : April 18, 2013 6:52 pm

The little girl in the polka-dot dress who dances with Dean in “The Lucky Song” is Sharon Baird – one of the original Mouseketeers.

Posted By Byron : April 18, 2013 6:52 pm

The little girl in the polka-dot dress who dances with Dean in “The Lucky Song” is Sharon Baird – one of the original Mouseketeers.

Posted By DevlinCarnate : April 18, 2013 7:18 pm

Tashlin started his career with Tex Avery at MGM…so no surprise at the the broad “winking” slapstick in his films…they never fail to bring a chuckle or guffaw….they are cartoons in a sense,but wonderfully rendered

Posted By DevlinCarnate : April 18, 2013 7:18 pm

Tashlin started his career with Tex Avery at MGM…so no surprise at the the broad “winking” slapstick in his films…they never fail to bring a chuckle or guffaw….they are cartoons in a sense,but wonderfully rendered

Posted By Quarlo : April 19, 2013 6:15 am

I was never a fan of musicals, born in ’65 they were beyond my era. But there are a couple of things that always touch me about movies like this. One is that Dean Martin will still be called one of the coolest cats out there a hundred years from now. And the other is that movies made now trip over themselves about how serious and deep they are, the comedies beg you to notice how funny they are. But a movie will never be made again that, like this, shows how they seem to enjoy what they do.

Posted By Quarlo : April 19, 2013 6:15 am

I was never a fan of musicals, born in ’65 they were beyond my era. But there are a couple of things that always touch me about movies like this. One is that Dean Martin will still be called one of the coolest cats out there a hundred years from now. And the other is that movies made now trip over themselves about how serious and deep they are, the comedies beg you to notice how funny they are. But a movie will never be made again that, like this, shows how they seem to enjoy what they do.

Posted By Marty : April 19, 2013 9:54 am

While The Caddy, Living It Up and You’re Never Too Young are my favorite Martin & Lewis pictures, I’d put Artists & Models as the Number 4 choice. It has that mid-50s VistaVision and Technicolor Paramount hallmark big look. I know there is a ton of folklore about the team’s relationship in this late stage of their partnership — and rumblings from the two female stars about working with the team. And yes, Tashlin finally found the perfect human — Jerry Lewis — an animation cel “in the flesh”.
Between the bathtub scene and the hospital “twister” have you ever seen two comedians so intimately physical with each other? And not just in this picture, but virtually all of them.
I think the picture could have been about 15 minutes shorter (mostly reducing some of Lewis’ shreiking) but I wouldn’t cut a second from the big finale number.
When I watch the team’s pictures or Colgate Comedy Hour shows, I really enjoy watching Dean, because I know, deep down he was a handsome, singing COMIC rather than Jerry’s mugging, screaching one. Too bad it was suppressed the more famous the team got.

Posted By Marty : April 19, 2013 9:54 am

While The Caddy, Living It Up and You’re Never Too Young are my favorite Martin & Lewis pictures, I’d put Artists & Models as the Number 4 choice. It has that mid-50s VistaVision and Technicolor Paramount hallmark big look. I know there is a ton of folklore about the team’s relationship in this late stage of their partnership — and rumblings from the two female stars about working with the team. And yes, Tashlin finally found the perfect human — Jerry Lewis — an animation cel “in the flesh”.
Between the bathtub scene and the hospital “twister” have you ever seen two comedians so intimately physical with each other? And not just in this picture, but virtually all of them.
I think the picture could have been about 15 minutes shorter (mostly reducing some of Lewis’ shreiking) but I wouldn’t cut a second from the big finale number.
When I watch the team’s pictures or Colgate Comedy Hour shows, I really enjoy watching Dean, because I know, deep down he was a handsome, singing COMIC rather than Jerry’s mugging, screaching one. Too bad it was suppressed the more famous the team got.

Posted By Linda Linham : April 19, 2013 12:12 pm

I love all the Martin and Lewis movies and this is one of my favorites. Thanks for posting. Great recap and pictures.

Posted By Linda Linham : April 19, 2013 12:12 pm

I love all the Martin and Lewis movies and this is one of my favorites. Thanks for posting. Great recap and pictures.

Posted By robbushblog : April 19, 2013 3:32 pm

I should finally get around to seeing this.

Posted By robbushblog : April 19, 2013 3:32 pm

I should finally get around to seeing this.

Posted By Dan : April 19, 2013 3:49 pm

This film sounds like great fun. Is it available on DVD?

Posted By Dan : April 19, 2013 3:49 pm

This film sounds like great fun. Is it available on DVD?

Posted By Erich : April 19, 2013 8:36 pm

Sadly, this movie is no longer available on DVD. On Amazon one could dish out approx. $ 100 for a collection of movies – a 1996 DVD release. Silly.

Posted By Erich : April 19, 2013 8:36 pm

Sadly, this movie is no longer available on DVD. On Amazon one could dish out approx. $ 100 for a collection of movies – a 1996 DVD release. Silly.

Posted By Susan Doll : April 19, 2013 9:10 pm

I love this movie. Frank Tashlin deserves more credit in film history books than he normally gets. And, I am a major Lewis & Martin fan.

Posted By Susan Doll : April 19, 2013 9:10 pm

I love this movie. Frank Tashlin deserves more credit in film history books than he normally gets. And, I am a major Lewis & Martin fan.

Posted By jodyjm13 : April 20, 2013 2:08 pm

I can’t find any reference to Tashlin and Avery working together at MGM; it is true, though, that they worked together on Leon Schlesinger’s Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies for Warner Brothers. Together, with Bob Clampett, they were instrumental in changing the LT/MM cartoons from second-rate Disney imitations to wildly innovative comedies. Frank Tashlin later helped lay the groundwork for UPA’s heavily-stylized cartoons of the 1950s. For a taste of his cartoon work, seek out “Scrap Happy Daffy” and/or “Nasty Quacks” (I’d post links, but I’m not sure if they’re allowed).

Posted By jodyjm13 : April 20, 2013 2:08 pm

I can’t find any reference to Tashlin and Avery working together at MGM; it is true, though, that they worked together on Leon Schlesinger’s Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies for Warner Brothers. Together, with Bob Clampett, they were instrumental in changing the LT/MM cartoons from second-rate Disney imitations to wildly innovative comedies. Frank Tashlin later helped lay the groundwork for UPA’s heavily-stylized cartoons of the 1950s. For a taste of his cartoon work, seek out “Scrap Happy Daffy” and/or “Nasty Quacks” (I’d post links, but I’m not sure if they’re allowed).

Posted By swac44 : April 22, 2013 3:22 pm

There’s a copy of that Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis Collection Vol. 2 on eBay right now for $75 (it also includes Living It Up, You’re Never Too Young, Pardners and Hollywood or Bust). But for die-hard movie buffs with region-free DVD players, there’s a cheap Australian DVD kicking around that you can find for between $10 – $20. Worth having, it’s such a brilliant film (as a fan of Dean & Jerry and MacLaine, it’s sheer bliss to see them collide here).

Posted By swac44 : April 22, 2013 3:22 pm

There’s a copy of that Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis Collection Vol. 2 on eBay right now for $75 (it also includes Living It Up, You’re Never Too Young, Pardners and Hollywood or Bust). But for die-hard movie buffs with region-free DVD players, there’s a cheap Australian DVD kicking around that you can find for between $10 – $20. Worth having, it’s such a brilliant film (as a fan of Dean & Jerry and MacLaine, it’s sheer bliss to see them collide here).

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