Year 8, Day 173 - 6/21/16 - Movie #2,373
BEFORE: I'm still trying to catch up after taking a weekend off - I watched movies at my parents' house, but I still missed a screening night by staying up all Sunday night and taking the Monday morning train - plus I missed out on two days of clearing shows off my DVR, so it's still full as can be - my mistake for telling the DVR to record all possible episodes of a show called "Carnival Eats" from the Cooking channel. Hey, I like learning about new innovations in fried foods, what can I say? Where else can I watch people eating burgers on glazed donuts, or deep-fried gummi bears on a stick? I'm still watching the last few shows from March on VHS tapes, so progress is being made, but very slowly. Two hours of episodic TV per night, and talk shows all weekend, but I may need all summer to catch up. Thankfully summer reruns are here, and I have zero interest in new shows.
Meanwhile, my wife has caught the "Hamilton" bug. Ever since the Tonys, she's been playing the music non-stop in the car whenever we drive anywhere, and I admit that some of the rhymes have perked up my ears, but I'm not ready to commit just yet. It still seems like history told in rap to me, and I'm not a fan of rap. Plus the damn thing's just too popular, and sometimes I don't like things that are popular, just because they're popular. Like "Twilight" or "The Fast and the Furious". I'm sticking to my guns on this one, I'm not ready to give in just yet, I'm resisting. I concede it might be a great show, but it's either got to win me over, or I've got to find it on my own terms. Sometimes, the more people push me to enjoy something, the less I want to, and the hype overkill on this thing is off the charts, hence my negative reaction. Hey, as Hamilton would agree, the Constitution guarantees me the right to life, liberty, and the ability to enjoy a stage play on my own terms, when I'm ready.
THE PLOT: Egotistical vaudevillian Bill Miller basks in the limelight with his successful musical-comedy act, but his success is due to his unheralded second banana.
AFTER: Well, this is a far cry better than "At War With the Army", and I think it's because I can believe Martin and Lewis as a couple of stage performers, because that's what they were, before they got into movies. Could this be a semi-autobiographical version of their early careers?
Martin plays a guy named Bill Miller, who splits from his musical/comedy partner, Ben Bailey, to do a solo act. But it doesn't go well at first, his jokes are bombing, so his agent suggests bringing in a "stooge", someone who will sit in the upper balcony box and pretend to be a songwriter or something, but who'll then start to act up and cause a bit of trouble, so that the star will have someone to play off of, make fun of, or who'll get under his skin. I think the idea is that if he's got trouble with someone, the audience will sympathize with him, and he'll win them over.
This leads him to stock-boy Theodore "Ted" Rogers, who as we should suspect, as played by Jerry Lewis, is a klutz and a danger to everyone around him. So to keep him from breaking everything in sight, he needs to be on stage where his physical awkwardness will come in handy. And even though he's a bit dim, he takes to the role of the stooge and wins the audiences over. Some reviews even call him the highlight of the act, which naturally causes friction between him and Bill. (Hey, Bill and Ted, I just got the connection....)
Bill Miller is an odd character, because he seems genuinely talented as a performer, but he doesn't seem to be a very good husband or friend. He misses his wife's birthday party, and then resists all attempts to give Ted equal billing. I can sort of see his side of things, because he had a career before and Ted didn't - from his position, Ted hasn't paid his dues yet. But his agent and wife corral him into doing the "right thing". Ted, meanwhile, resists all attempts from other managers to woo him, and defends Bill to the end, even though he's not receiving any credit for his efforts.
Lewis has referred to this film as his favorite of the films he made with Dean Martin, simply because it came the closest to replicating the stage act they had, before they were movie stars. Well, that's insightful, if nothing else - it helps me to understand where these guys came from, at least. But that's two films in a row where I was forced to see Jerry Lewis wearing a dress, and that's two too many.
Also starring Polly Bergen (also carrying over from "At War With the Army"), Marion Marshall (last seen in "I Was a Male War Bride"), Eddie Mayehoff, Richard Erdman, Frances Bavier.
RATING: 5 out of 10 straw hats