Comics / Cult Favorite

A Tale of Two Comic Book Movies

By Philip Schweier
March 19, 2011 - 06:51

Eddie Mayehoff as a comic book publisher in "Artists & Models"
The thing about being unemployed is that it’s real easy to let an excessive amount of free time blow your personal schedule to smithereens. You think you have plenty of time to take care of business, but it’s so easy to fritter it away during the course of a day, that suddenly you discover how much time is actually being wasted surfing the Internet or supposedly “doing research.”

I’m the type of person that needs a schedule, with designated blocks of time to job hunt, read, watch movies, do chores or whatever. Fortunately, I am able to kill two birds with one stone, in that my wife has asked me to wade through my collection of videotapes and discard those that no longer have any value or interest.

One tape I watched recently was labeled “Eddie Mayehoff.” He was a character actor in the 1950s and ‘60s, and this tape contained two films he made, both comic book related.

The first film is Artists and Models, a Dean Martin/Jerry Lewis film in which the boys play an unemployed artist and a writer of children’s books, respectively. But whenever Dean finds them jobs, Jerry ends up losing it due to his obsession with comic books.

Unbeknownst to either of them, their upstairs neighbor (Dorothy Malone) is the current artist on the Bat Lady, Jerry’s favorite comic book, and her roommate, played by Shirley Maclaine, is the model for the character. But when Malone quits unexpectedly, the publisher (Mayehoff) hires Dino to create a new character, which he does using Jerry’s midnight ramblings. The result is Vincent the Vulture, the product of Jerry’s dreams and possibly their ticket to fame and fortune.

The first part of the film is the usual comedic wanderings of Dean and Jerry as they schmooze the girls and cope with unemployment and re-employment. It’s only the final act that results in any meat on this turkey, as enemy spies discover the secret of Vincent the Vulture is also the secret formula of the United States government’s rocket fuel. Suddenly, Dean and Jerry are caught between the feds on one side and the commies on the other.

Jack Lemmon as Stanley Ford as Bash Brannigan in "How to Murder Your Wife"
The second movie on the tape is How to Murder Your Wife, a dark comedy featuring Jack Lemmon as Stanley Ford, the creator of the Bash Brannigan adventure strip. Authenticity is what sells the strip; secret agent Brannigan doesn’t do anything that Ford hasn’t done in real life. He stages his hero’s escapades, much to the amusement and confusion of New Yorkers.

One morning after a bachelor party, Ford wakes up to discover he’s now wed to the young lady who emerged from a cake the night before. She is Italian, and speaks no English, so explaining his confirmed bachelorhood is problematic at best.

Mayehoff, as Ford’s agent, is bound and determined to keep Mr. and Mrs. Ford together, especially when Bash Brannigan is re-tooled as a suburban comedy strip, The Brannigans. Finding himself the butt of many of the strip’s jokes, Stanley rebels, determined to win back his strip. To do that, Mrs. Brannigan must die!

And since everyone knows Bash Brannigan doesn’t do anything that Stanley Ford hasn’t already done, it isn’t long before Stanley finds him on trial for the murder of his wife, who is conspicuously missing in the days following the return of Bash Brannigan, Secret Agent.

Of the two films, How to Murder Your Wife is obviously the stronger of the two. Artists and Models is a typically fluffy piece of Martin & Lewis comedy, directed by former animation director Frank Tashlin. But Lemmon is much more enjoyable, both as the hapless cartoonist Stanley Ford and as Bash Brannigan’s real life alter ego. His is a journey every man must make, growing from an overgrown adolescent with fantasies of heroism to the comfort and joy of a man with a home and responsibilities.

Now if I can just get my wife off my back about cleaning out the garage.

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Last Updated: August 31, 2023 - 08:12

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