Mill Creek Entertainment has released a DVD of two Dean Martin romantic comedies from the 1960s, "Who Was That Lady?" and "How to Save a Marriage and Ruin Your Life.
Of the two features, "Who's That Lady?" is the far superior entry. Based on Norman Krasna's play "Who Was That Lady I Saw You With?", the modestly-budgeted B&W production offered an undemanding role for Martin, who was coming off acclaimed dramatic performances in "The Young Lions" and "Some Came Running" following his breakup with Jerry Lewis. Tony Curtis gets top billing in the film playing David Wilson, a chemistry professor at Columbia University in New York City. Before the credits finish unspooling, we see him caught in a compromising situation when his wife Ann (Janet Leigh) catches him in the act smooching with one of his students. She storms out and makes preparations to file for divorce. David pleads with her to reconsider but she won't hear of it. In desperation, David turns to his best friend Mike Haney (Dean Martin), a charismatic bachelor and serial womanizer. He also happens to be a screenwriter for CBS television and possesses a fertile imagination. Mike hatches an audacious scheme to get David off the hook. He gets a pistol from the CBS prop department as well as a custom-made faux F.B.I. identification card made with David's photo on it. The two men then tell Ann that both of them have been secretly moonlighting as F.B.I. agents for years and that the girl David was kissing was a suspected spy who he had been ordered to flirt with in order to win her confidence. Ann is initially skeptical but the appearance of the gun and I.D. card changes her mind. Suddenly, she is greatly impressed with her husband, who she now regards as a macho man. However, the lie turns into a giant headache when a real F.B.I. agent (James Whitmore) gets a tip that David has a phony ID from the agency. Adding to David's woes is Mike's insistence that they play upon Ann's gullibility by going out on more "missions" that involve seductive women. The house of cards eventually comes crashing down in a frenzied climax set in the bowels of the Empire State Building where David and Mike are mistaken by Soviet spies as real agents and kidnapped.
"Who Was That Lady?" is a pleasant time-killer that relies primarily on the deft comedic performances of the three leads, each of whom delivers the goods. There's great chemistry between Curtis, Martin and Leigh (the real-life Mrs. Curtis at the time) and the film boasts an impressive supporting cast aside from the always-impressive Whitmore. John McIntire is there along with Simon Oakland and Larry Storch as the commies. Barbara Nichols and Joi Lansing add some laughs as a couple of busty, bubble-headed Marilyn Monroe-type who Mike earmarks as dates for him and David- a plan that ends disastrously. The film, directed by George Sidney, is best in the first half when the action and characters are set in the real world. However, the film delves into slapstick elements that prove to be more distracting than amusing. Still, "Who's That Lady?" is a generally funny effort, even if it's an undistinguished one- and you get to hear Dino croon the catchy title song.
One hates to get sociological or philosophical about a lightweight sex farce like "How to Save a Marriage (and Ruin Your Life)", a
1968 trifle that nonetheless boasts an impressive cast: Dean Martin,
Stella Stevens, Eli Wallach and real-life wife Anne Jackson, Jack
Albertson and Betty Field. However, the premise of the movie is so
distinctly distasteful that it is sure to offend any self-respecting
modern woman as well as any male who isn't still walking about clad in
animal skins and clutching a club. The film has a value that is more
anthropological than comical. Wallach plays Harry Hunter, a successful
New York business executive who is unhappily married to an attractive
but shrewish wife (Katharine Bard). He finds solace by keeping a
mistress, Muriel Laszlo (Anne Jackson) in an opulent apartment. His
frequent visits there are as much therapeutic as they are sexual, with
Muriel happily gearing her entire existence toward pleasing her man. She
fawns over him, makes no demands, and pampers him constantly. When
Harry brags to his best friend and fellow executive Dave Sloane (Dean
Martin) about the joys of having a dedicated mistress, Dave sets out to
test his theory about her never straying into the arms of another man.
(One of the more cynical aspects of the script is that "kept women" are
supposed to be completely loyal to their married sugar daddies).
However, Dave mistakes another woman for Harry's mistress: Carol Corman
(Stella Stevens), an attractive young sales girl in the corporation.
When he observes her social behavior with other men, he assumes he has
proof that Harry's "other woman" is cheating on him. To get further
evidence, he decides to prove he can seduce her. Dave romances Carol
and ends up renting her a luxury apartment right next door to Harry's
real mistress, Muriel. It seems the apartment building is basically a
classy bordello that houses numerous girlfriends of married rich men. In
the film's most amusing scenario, Dave finds Carol understandably
receptive to his sexual advances (after all, he looks a lot like Dean
Martin.) Dave, however, can't take his "investigation" to the point of
actually bedding the woman he thinks Harry really loves. There are some
funny scenes in which Dave has to find a way to explain why he isn't
eager to jump into bed with Stevens, who saunters about clad in a
low-cut nightgown with a pouty look of sexual frustration on her face.
He concocts a scenario whereby he explains that he is a widower whose
beloved, late wife made him promise to never make love to another woman.
It's a sign of the times that in 1968 you could plausibly present a
plot scenario in which Carol still readily agrees to live with Dave,
quit her job and devote her entire life to pleasing him. Naturally,
complications ensue and she discovers she has been lied to. The script
presents "liberated women" as those scorned mistresses who band together
in order to force their sugar daddies to give them legally binding
pension plans to get them through their later years, when they will have
been discarded in favor of younger women. It's enough to give Gloria
You don't have to be a knee-jerk liberal to wince at the entire
tasteless scenario of this film. Not helping matters is director Fielder
Cook's insistence that the always-watchable Wallach play his role in an
"over-the-top" manner that is only matched by Betty Field's equally
hysterical portrayal of an older, scorned mistress looking to wage war
on all males. Usually, one doesn't analyze the production design in a
romantic urban comedy, but it bears mentioning that, aside from a few
second unit shots in New York City, there is absolutely nothing that
suggests the look or feel of the city. A sequence showing the exterior
of Dave Sloane's private club looks more like London than Gotham and the
film has a rather cheesy feel to it, given the abundance of interiors.
On the positive side, Martin and Stevens exude some real chemistry and
there are a few scattered laughs. However, for the most part, this is a
laborious exercise that celebrates an era in which women's fates were
tied to dependency on the man in their lives. In the era of the #metoo movement, the movie acts as an unpleasant reminder of a happily-bygone time in which women were just supposed to grin and bear sexual harassment.
The Mill Creek release features fine transfers for both films but there are no bonus extras.