Here in Austin, the Billy Wilder movie Kiss Me, Stupid is playing tonight as part of a series about Wilder's later films, and I suspect I am driving people crazy, trying to convince them to see it with me. I may have scared a local filmmaker at a screening of Wilder's One, Two, Three a couple of weeks ago, urging the poor man -- whom I hardly know -- to return for this film.
Kiss Me, Stupid is often considered one of Wilder's worst films, a smutfest from 1964 that helped end the Production Code in Hollywood, a black-and-white comedy that is the opposite of the sophisticated sex comedies of the early 1960s (Doris Day and that crowd). It might have been a very different movie with its original lead actor, Peter Sellers, but he was ill and had to be replaced by Ray Walston. And yet there's something about this sex comedy that's appealing to me. The cast includes not only Walston but Dean Martin, Kim Novak and Felicia Farr.
The opening credits, which you can watch via YouTube after the jump, are the only part of Kiss Me, Stupid set outside the small town of Climax, Nevada. In Las Vegas, a celebrity crooner known only in the film as Dino (Dean Martin, natch) is performing his closing-night act before driving to Hollywood. It's a glitzy Vegas nightclub, with stereotypical leggy showgirls. I sometimes wish this scene had been shot in color, like an anti-Wizard of Oz. But the comedy style sets you up perfectly for the tone of this film. It's also fun to know that not only is the song that Dino sings in the credits a Gershwin tune ("'S Wonderful") but so are all the "bad" songs throughout the movie.