A hundred years, ago, on June 7, 1917, in Ohio was born Dino Paul Crocetti, the son of an Italian immigrant and his wife, also of Italian origin. Dino spoke nothing but Italian until he was five years old—and didn’t have an easy time growing up, what with having to work jobs as varied as that of a steel mill worker and a gas station attendant. Until 1946, when he finally landed up in Hollywood, changed his name to the more Anglicized ‘Dean Martin’, and teamed up with comic actor Jerry Lewis in a series of comedies. They were to part ways some years later, but Dean Martin went on to become a far greater star—as actor and as singer—than anyone could ever have imagined.
I don’t know how it happened that I missed the news of the death of Tony Curtis on September 29, 2010. My niece—who knows I’m mad about old cinema—was reading Time Magazine the other day and asked me, “Which movies did Tony Curtis act in?” Though I eventually named Some Like it Hot, Who Was That Lady?, also a comedy and total farce like Some Like it Hot, was one of the first films that came to mind.
When I asked my niece why she was asking about Tony Curtis’s films, she gave me the news that he’d died.
So, for the oh-so-attractive Mr Curtis, who swashbuckled his way through The Black Shield of Falworth and The Prince Who Was A Thief; who made us laugh with Operation Petticoat and Some Like it Hot, and who made a resounding statement—and antagonised a lot of people—by insisting that Sidney Poitier be billed alongside Curtis and not after him in The Defiant Ones… a tribute.
Sabrina Mathew’s latest post is an interesting one that compares the two (1968 and 1999) versions of The Thomas Crown Affair. A couple of things from Sabrina’s review struck me: “The remake is keenly aware that the original got away with a lame robbery only because Steve McQueen planned it. So the remake fixes the problem with a daring art heist…”. And, ”The film is not just content with redoing the heist bit; it also wants to fix the romance by giving it a happy ending.” That reminded me of another film, again with two versions, for which I could quote Sabrina verbatim. Ocean’s Eleven, both the 1960 and 2001 versions, are also about robberies. And in this case too, the remake features a much sleeker robbery than the original—and a happier end.
I so, so adore this film.
And that, mind you, keeping in mind the fact that I generally don’t think very highly of Hollywood musicals. I have nothing against the music, usually—most of the films had excellent songs—but what really gets my goat is that other than sounding and looking good, few of Hollywood’s musicals have anything substantial to back them up. Look at Oklahoma! or South Pacific (or even Singin’ in the Rain, for that matter): great music, nice looking leads, superb dancing—and that’s it. I can count, on my fingers, musicals that also have worthwhile plots. The Sound of Music. Fiddler on the Roof. And this, a gloriously funny and romantic story about a loony telephone operator and the man she falls in love with.
I’m a sucker for Westerns, but a long diet of classic Bollywood, with its abundant songs and happy endings, has rather spoilt things for me: I find I don’t like the dark and moody Westerns that go deep into the psychology of a silent and brooding hero. Rio Bravo, therefore, was right up my street: lots of action, a bit of humour, and even two great songs. Dean Martin. What more could a girl want?