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  Hollywood or Bust Road Trip
Year: 1956
Director: Frank Tashlin
Stars: Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Pat Crowley, Maxie Rosenbloom, Anita Ekberg
Genre: Musical, ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Steve Wiley (Dean Martin) is a conman who owes a lot of money to a gangster, and a heavy, Bookie Benny (Maxie Rosenbloom) has been dispatched to get the cash or else. But when reaches Steve, he has another thing coming as the conman has worked out away to win a lot of dough by illegally getting his hands on a bunch of lottery tickets so that when the number of the car to be won comes up, he will have the right ticket and claim the vehicle, then sell it at a handsome profit. Sounds foolproof - but he reckoned without a very particular fool...

He being Malcolm Smith, played by Jerry Lewis in typical form, in this final Martin and Lewis comedy. Their rise to stardom had been stratospheric, from worldbeating nightclub double act to television shows and big hits at the cinema, but by the time this was made their friendship was well and truly soured, with neither of them wishing to so much as talk to the other except when the cameras were rolling. To their credit you wouldn't spot this offscreen antagonism in their performances, as while Martin was trying to take advantage of Lewis in the story, they were professional enough not to allow their personal lives enter into their work.

That said, by this time their fractured relationship was an open secret, with Martin complaining Lewis's ego had inflated to such mammoth proportions that he thought he was on a par with Charlie Chaplin as far as his genius for comedy went, and it's true you could discern the same mix of exacting laughs and overwhelming pathos in his stylings as the great silent comedian. In the same way that Chaplin could divide audiences later in his career, so Lewis's reputation as a resistable performer unfairly dominated his latter years, but going solo didn't harm his popularity at the time of Hollywood or Bust - if anything, it made him even more famous and it was hard to argue against his army of fans.

So if you think you'll see any sign of Martin and Lewis about to break character and end up in a fistfight, then you'd be disappointed with this nonsense, but on the other hand if you wanted to see more of director Frank Tashlin's very distinctive approach to comedy, then this might not have been the funniest film he ever made, but there were bright spots considering what he had to put up with while making it regarding his stars and their falling out. As ever, there were cartoonish sight gags and attractive women to contend with, but for much of this there was a surprising amount of simply having the characters enjoying being out on the road on the way to Hollywood.

What happens is both Steve and Malcolm win the car, or Malcolm does at any rate, and he works out a compromise: Steve will drive him to Tinseltown to meet, he hopes, Anita Ekberg (who does indeed show up, playing herself). Malcolm is what we would now call a fanboy, and believes his destiny lies in showbiz though in what capacity is none too clear, but actually for the most part the plot lived up to the ostensible tribute to the world's movie fans laid out at the beginning as it followed the duo in their roles of plain old ordinary folks. This could be seen as condescending, but Martin and Lewis still had charms so carried it off, helped by Malcolm's pet Great Dane which goes by the oft-repeated Mr Bascom (surely the most obvious name for that breed of dog until Scooby-Doo). Naturally, there was a scene where the hound was seen "driving" the car with Dean and Jerry running after it, and overall this was goodnatured stuff aside from a dodgy item of attempted rape by Steve on bright co-star Pat Crowley. Apart, Martin and Lewis sought fresh career highs, and never looked back, though their fans might have.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Frank Tashlin  (1913 - 1972)

American director whose films were heavily influenced by his years spent working in cartoons. In his 20s and 30s, Tashlin worked at both Disney and Warner Brothers in their animation studios, before moving into comedy scriptwriting in the late 1940s, on films like Bob Hope's The Paleface. Tashlin moved into directing popular live-action comedies soon after, with Hope in Son of Paleface, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis in Artists and Models and Hollywood or Bust, and most notably Jayne Mansfield in The Girl Can't Help It and Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? These films were full of inventive, sometimes surreal touches, and used many of the techniques Tashlin had learnt as an animator. Continued to work during the sixties, but without the success of the previous decade.

 
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