Billy Wilder is easily one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. Films like Double Indemnity, Sunset Boulevard, and The Apartment (just to name a few) lock him on that list. However, with 27 films under his director’s belt, they can’t all be hits. I think Kiss Me, Stupid (1964) might be one of those.
I’m not saying Kiss Me, Stupid is a bad film, far from it. Yet, it seems to lack that certain something that rockets those other films straight to the top. The acting across the board is solid and it’s well shot. I think it’s the story that loses it’s some points.
The movie is about two song writers, Orville (Ray Walston) and Barney (Cliff Osmond) who live in a small town in Nevada. When his car breaks down in said small town, Las Vegas crooner, Dino (Dean Martin basically playing a sleazier version of himself… unless he was really that sleazy in real life.) is at the mercy of these two as they try and convince him that he should buy one of their songs.
Orville is a crazy jealous guy. His wife, Zelda (Felicia Farr), is gorgeous. Far too gorgeous for a guy like him and he knows it, so he’s convinced she’s going to leave him first chance she gets. When Barney convinces Dino to stay at Orville’s house, Orville freaks out because his wife has loved Dino’s music since she was a teenager and Dino is a lecherous womanizer, who makes it pretty obvious that he wants to sleep with Orville’s wife even before he meets her.
Barney hatches a plan: Orville starts a fight with Zelda, on their fifth year anniversary, to get her out of the house. Meanwhile Barney goes down to the local saloon/brothel and picks up his favorite lady of the evening, Polly the Pistol (Kim Novak). Barney brings Polly back to Orville’s so that she can pretend to be Zelda. The thought being, if Dino sleeps with Polly, thinking it’s Zelda, then he’ll buy one of their songs and the real Zelda won’t have cheated on her husband. Confused yet?
Good, cause so are most the characters throughout the film. As the film first gets going, it’s a little frustrating, because Orville is so caught up in his own jealous fits that he doesn’t realize how much his wife actually loves him. Then later as the film gets on, you start to realize that Polly kind of likes Orville for some reason and you don’t want Dino to sleep with her either. The film goes from frustrating to sad as nothing seems to be going right for any of the characters.
Without ruining anything, the film does have a pretty satisfying ending, but it’s a bit of a painful road to get there. Therein lies my confusion about the film. Did I not like the film because it was so frustrating, or was the film so good, the characters so well developed that I felt frustrated for them? Was this Billy Wilder’s intention to make me feel this anxious throughout the film? If so, then it was a job well done.
So yeah, I wouldn’t call Kiss Me, Stupid one of Wilder’s classics, but it’s still a pretty good film, if you like films that make you feel a little frustrated. I realize how confusing that sounds, but there you have it.
The film is presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio and DTS audio. Billy Wilder really knows how to shoot a film, and this one is no exception. The film looks and sounds great.
You get the original trailer.
This might not have been a favorite of Billy Wilder’s films for me, but I still recognize that it’s a pretty good film. I don’t Orville deserves the ending he got, but that did not distract from my overall appreciation for the film.
Olive Films presents Kiss Me, Stupid. Written and Directed by Billy Wilder. Songs by George and Ira Gershwin. Starring: Ray Walston, Dean Martin, Kim Novak, Felicia Farr and Cliff Osmond. Running time: 125 min. Rating: PG-13. Released on DVD: February 17, 2015
Tags: Billy Wilder, Dean Martin, Kim Novak, Kiss Me Stupid, Ray Walston