Wednesday, June 06, 2007
Martin & Lewis, explained
As Paramount Home Video releases the second volume of its “Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis Collection,” containing of five films from the last years of their partnership: “Living It Up,” “You’re Never Too Young” and “Pardners” (directed by Norman Taurog, 1954 & 1955 & 1956); and the two films that Martin and Lewis made under the direction of Frank Tashlin, "perhaps the most creative comic stylist of the 1950s," “Artists and Models” (1955) and “Hollywood or Bust” (1956), Dave Kehr of the New York Times gets to the heart of the Martin & Lewis dynamic and appeal:
The contrast between Martin and Lewis is usually described in sexual terms: the sleek womanizer versus the gawky adolescent — the original 25- (if not 40-) year-old virgin. But to borrow some terminology from Claude Levi-Strauss (one of the few French intellectuals, it seems, not known to have written about Mr. Lewis), their pairing reflects that cultural division Levi-Strauss hypothesized between the “raw” and the “cooked,” with Mr. Lewis representing natural man with all his animal instincts and complete lack of self-consciousness, and Martin representing the end product of civilization and socialization, polished and upholstered, distant and cool, self-possessed and vaguely duplicitous.