Monday, June 7, 2010

When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie that’s a birthday…

Actor-comedian-vocalist Dean Martin celebrates what would have been his 93rd natal anniversary today, and TCM is feting the man who scored a hit with one of Thrilling Days of Yesteryear’s unofficial anthems—Memories are Made of This—with a festival of his film appearances beginning at 6:00am with At War with the Army (1950), the first comedy that awarded him and his partner Jerry Lewis (pictured with Martin above) top-billing. Other Martin films to be shown include Some Came Running (1958—hey…that’d make a great title for a blog) and one of my favorites, Bells Are Ringing (1960). (To demonstrate how desperate TCM is to put this thing together, they’re also going to show one of the Bob Hope-Bing Crosby “Road” films, Road to Bali [1952]—which Martin is in for about ten seconds.)

When I was a mere sprat, I never cared much for Dino—I always felt his songs got in the way of the comedies he made with Lewis, and I associated his music with the kind of stuff my parents would listen to (they had both his Come Running Back and Welcome to My World LPs in their collection). It wasn’t until I got older that I began to appreciate how understated the man’s abilities really were—hell, his NBC television show lasted a lot longer (nine seasons, from 1965 to 1974) than anything his former sidekick ever tried…and when I watch those old movies like Sailor Beware (1951), Living It Up (1954) and Artists and Models (1955) it’s all too apparent that Martin was every bit as integral to their success as Lewis—Jerry needed Dean to be the big brother/authority figure that would keep him in check. (After the breakup, Lewis tried substituting people like Milton Frome and Kathleen Freeman in his solo vehicles…and while they weren’t without their charms [particularly Freeman] it just wasn’t the same, the French be damned.) It took me a long time for me to come around, but I recognize now that Dean Martin was an amazing talent…and the walking definition of “cool.”

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1 comment:

M.Bug said...

I have always liked Dean, even when I was a kid. It was not just for his comedic sense, but for his charm and his singing. Even now when my husband and I break out the DVDs of The Dean Martin Show, I am amazed at how natural and effortless his singing appears to be. He was and is most definitely the epitome of "cool."