Shirley MacLaine, Jerry Lewis, and Dean Martin in Artists and Models (1955)


(director/writer: Frank Tashlin; screenwriters: Hal Kanter/Herbert Baker; cinematographer: Daniel L. Fapp; editor: Warren Low; music: Walter Scharf; cast: Dean Martin (Rick Todd), Jerry Lewis (Eugene Fullstack), Eva Gabor (Sonia aka Mrs. Curtis), Dorothy Malone (Abigail ‘Abby’ Parker), Shirley Maclaine (Bessie Sparrowbrush), Anita Ekberg (Anita), Eddie Mayehoff (Mr. Murdock), Jack Elam (Ivan), Kathleen Freeman (Mrs. Muldoon, Landlady); Runtime: 106; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Hal B. Wallis; Paramount; 1955)


Oy vey, Martin and Lewis are bohemian artists.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The first of eight times Lewis and director Frank Tashlin (“The Geisha Boy”/”Cinderfella”/ “Rock-a-Bye Baby”) worked together. This film is not a success but shows some promise of better things to come. This was the last film Dean and Jerry did together after a verbal spat in the filming of 3 Ring Circus (1954) that left them not talking to each other. The result was tension during the shoot of Artists and Models, as Paramount tried to squeeze out another money-making film in the hit series. After second billing in My Friend Irma, the duo’s first film, the Martin and Lewis team was inked by Hal B. Wallis for Paramount for starring roles and made 13 straight box office hits for them. Their routine of Dean as the romantic crooning straightman for the comic antics of the spastic misfit Lewis appealed to an unsophisticated audience. The duo also had a hit TV show and performed in Las Vegas. Tashlin cowrites with Hal Kanter and Herbert Baker.

Artists and Models satirizes the concept held by some authority figures in the 1950s that comic books were bad for your mental health–too much violence negatively influences their undeveloped readers. It has Rick Todd (Dean Martin) and Eugene Fullstack (Jerry Lewis) as struggling artists living together in Greenwich Village. Rick aspires to be an artist while Eugene, an avid reader of comic books and in particular a fan of Bat Lady, aspires to be a writer of kiddie books. Cartoonist Abby Parker (Dorothy Malone) and daffy astrology influenced model/secretary Bessie Sparrowbrush (Shirley Maclaine) are roommates in the same building. The foursome get together when Eugene discovers that Abby authors his favorite comic book Bat Lady and Bessie’s horoscope indicates Eugene is the perfect man for her.

The goofy Eugene receives his ideas from nightmares, and his roommate uses his nighttime ramblings to publish his own comic strip, The Vulture, when he’s not busy womanizing or singing lousy songs. Later both a foreign agent (Eva Gabor) and the FBI take an interest in the delicate secret info received through the comic strips about a rocket fuel. The solid premise soon deteriorates into the usual Martin and Lewis frantic shtick that grows increasingly irksome with every additional Lewis vulgar mugging for the camera and pratfall. All I can say is oy vey, Martin and Lewis are bohemian artists. But after all, what did you expect, Hamlet?