WHO WAS THAT LADY?
(director: George Sidney; screenwriter: from the play “Who Was That Lady I Saw You With?” by Norman Krasna/Norman Krasna; cinematographer: Harry Stradling, Sr.; editor: Viola Lawrence; music: “Who Was That Lady I Saw You With?”; cast: Tony Curtis (David Wilson), Dean Martin (Michael Haney), Janet Leigh (Ann Wilson), James Whitmore (Harry Powell), John McIntire (Bob Doyle), Barbara Nichols (Gloria Coogle), Joi Lansing (Flo Coogle), Larry Keating (Parker, CIA), Larry Storch (Orenov), Simon Oakland (Belka), William Newell (Schultz), Kam Tong (Lee Wong), Barbara Hines (Foreign Exchange Student); Runtime: 116; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Norman Krasna; Columbia; 1960)
“It stretches more comedy than one could expect from such thin material, and passes as a so-so comedy vehicle for the appealing stars.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
George Sidney (“Anchor’s Aweigh”/”Pal Joey”/”Kiss Me Kate”)directs this senseless comedy farce, that has the nerve to suddenly turn political about the cold war with nothing to say and moralistic about marriage vows with also nothing to say. It’s based on the playby Norman Krasnaentitled“Who Was That Lady I Saw You With?”, and is written by Krasna. Tony Curtis and Dean Martin channel Laurel and Hardy for some of their sight gags in the madcap climax in the basement of the Empire State Building, as their good camaraderie gives the film a needed jolt and tries to make its childish absurd story at least endearing. It starts off bearable, but never advances to being more than agreeable in its strained comedy and romantic antics. It stretches more comedy than one could expect from such thin material, and passes as a so-so comedy vehicle for the appealing stars.
David Wilson (Tony Curtis) is an assistant professor of chemistry at Columbia University (I think Marilyn Monroe as a Columbia prof would have been more believable!) and for the last five years the former swinger has been happily married to the sweet but daffy Ann (Janet Leigh). Wifey visits his office one day and catches him kissing one of his comely coeds and demands a divorce without finding out why they were kissing. David’s best friend is CBS television writer Michael Haney (Dean Martin), a swinging bachelor who comes to the chemistry lab and gets soused drinking high-octane alcoholic brew provided by the scientist, and he concocts an alibi for his former swinging buddy to save the marriage. Haney gets David to pretend to Ann that he’s an FBI agent and kissed the student in the line of duty, as he was tracking down foreign agents. The prop department over at CBS helps by providing a phony FBI identification card and a gun.
Ann changes her divorce plans when the boys convincingly tell her that they’re both with the FBI, as she thinks that’s exciting work and hubby is braver than she ever imagined. But Schultz (William Newell), head of the prop department, gets worried when he realizes Haney isn’t using the props for a TV show and reports it to the FBI. Because Ann reminds him of his daughter, the kind-hearted FBI agent Powell (James Whitmore) talks his superior, Bob Doyle (John McIntire), into only slapping David on the wrist for his impersonation rather than face criminal charges and plans to visit him at home to stop the impersonation. But things get out of hand when he visits David and wifey reports that hubby is on a case at a Chinese restaurant in Times Square and that the boys are with two female foreign agents. When Powell accompanies Ann to the restaurant, the boys are with two sexy bimbo aspiring showgirls (Joi Lansing & Barbara Nichols). Things go screwball comedy zany, as Ann pulls the gun, hubby left with her, on the street when she overhears the gals talking in the ladies’ room of getting rid of the boys after they discovered the boys fed them lies about getting them jobs. Ann misunderstands what she heard and becomes alarmed that the boys are leaving with the girls and the agent is not helping, and she fires wildly at the woman in the street. Luckily she only wings Powell, who tried stopping her. But a passing CBS TV crew films the incident and a persistent reporter calls in the story and the FBI involvement, and the story gets carried by all the news media affiliates. In another coincidence (talking about a contrived screenplay) the CIA had a wiretap on phone calls made by the Soviet agents (Larry Storch & Simon Oakland), who were also dealing with two female foreign agents. When the commie spies learn of this FBI street shooting, they lure the phony agents to the Empire State Building and give David a truth serum to find out which scientists are working on a secret project. But the CIA agents heard this meeting arranged on their wiretap and with FBI agents converge on the Empire State Building. The feds capture the spies, but the phony agents think the basement is a commie submarine and try to destroy it before order is restored.
Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis were married at the time and this was the fifth and final film they made together. In 1962 they were divorced.
REVIEWED ON 10/5/2010 GRADE: C+