Janet Leigh, Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin, and Sheree North in Living It Up (1954)


(director: Norman Taurog; screenwriters: from the play by Ben Hecht/Jack Rose/Melville Shavelson/James H. Street; cinematographer: Daniel L. Fapp; editor: Archie Marshek; music: Walter Scharf; cast: Dean Martin (Dr. Steve Harris), Jerry Lewis (Homer Flagg), Janet Leigh (Wally Cook), Edward Arnold (The Mayor), Fred Clark (Oliver Stone), Sheree North (Jitterbug Dancer), Sig Ruman (Dr. Egelhofer); Runtime: 94; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Paul Jones; Paramount; 1954)
“A misbegotten remake of the 1937’s classic musical comedy Nothing Sacred starring Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A misbegotten remake of the 1937’s classic musical comedy Nothing Sacred starring Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. It’s helmed by Norman Taurog (“The Caddy”/”Jumping Jacks”/”The Stooge”) and written by a team of writers led by Jack Rose, who base it on the Broadway play Hazel Flagg written by Ben Hecht (he also authored Nothing Sacred). The play’s heroine changes gender in the film to be Homer Flagg, played by Jerry Lewis. Homer’s a feckless railroad worker who thinks he’s dying from radioactive poisoning in three weeks after accidentally entering the nuclear test site at Los Alamos. His tale of woe makes headlines across the country. Manhattan newspaperwoman Wally Cooper (Janet Leigh), ace reporter for the Morning Chronicle, talks her skeptical publisher Oliver Stone (Fred Clark) into letting her write a series on Homer’s plight as a way of increasing circulation. As a result, the bumbling yokel gets an all-expenses-paid trip to New York. In the meantime, Homer discovers that his incompetent skirt-chasing local doctor, Steve Harris (Dean Martin), misdiagnosed his case and he is not dying. When the attractive Wally shows up in Desert Hole, New Mexico, Homer and the doctor agree not to tell her the truth so they can both go to the Big Apple– with Homer interested in Gotham’s sights and Steve interested in pursuing Wally. In New York, Homer receives a hero’s welcome, resides at the Park Ritz Hotel and as the title says begins to Live it Up. The good time is challenged when medical specialist Dr. Egelhofer (Sig Ruman) insists upon conducting his own examination of Homer. From here on the film alters the way Nothing Sacred handled this problem; it does it in a way that wasn’t that funny as much as it was outrageously silly and it didn’t help that the plot becomes increasingly plodding.

If you have a taste for that sort of wacky physical comedy, highlighted by a spastic Lewis trying to draw laughs dancing with the sexy Sheree North, then you will probably like how it plays out much better than I did. Also, I found no chemistry between the boys and Leigh. She was probably too classy for the part, isn’t very good getting off comedic one-liners and was just too sweet to be convincing as a fast operator who would do anything to get a story.