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  Who Was That Lady? Spy In The Face
Year: 1960
Director: George Sidney
Stars: Tony Curtis, Dean Martin, Janet Leigh, James Whitmore, John McIntire, Barbara Nichols, Larry Keating, Larry Storch, Simon Oakland, Joi Lansing, Barbara Hines, Marion Javits, Mike Lane, Snub Pollard, Jack Benny
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: David Wilson (Tony Curtis) is a chemistry lecturer at Columbia University who one day is caught in an embrace with one of his students - by his wife, Ann (Janet Leigh). She storms from the lab without looking back and the next the panicking David hears, she's planning their divorce, not something he wants at all so in desperation he calls for his fast-thinking friend Michael Haney (Dean Martin). Surely he will have a solution to his problems? He does, but it's one which has unforseen consequences when Michael's idea is to pretend to Ann that her husband is actually an FBI agent...

Complete with identification card, which may convince the sceptical Ann eventually, but also lands David and Michael in hot water with the real FBI, and all because Michael, a television executive, had the ID made at work and the man who made it reports it to the authorities when he sees it's not used in the TV show he was told it was for. Now, you could also observe that if it wasn't for the snitch then the palaver which ensues wouldn't have happened anyway, but then there would be no film and writer Norman Krasna, who had penned the play this was drawn from as well, was nothing if not adept at getting his characters into ridiculous situations.

The general impression was this material was something the cast could have performed in their sleep, and in spite of the rising tension for the roles they were essaying nobody here looked to be breaking a sweat. Martin was typecast as the louche ladies' man, treating women like sex objects and exploiting them for his own gain, a bad influence on Curtis's David though he does receive his inevitable comeuppance eventually. That said, for much of this the movie simply accepted what we would now call rampant sexism as the norm, and getting caught out as coming with the territory, even encouraging the audience into laughing off infidelity which must have added to the showbizzy interest for the punters.

Not only were you watching Dean Martin acting as his screen reputation would like to have put across, which his fans were all too keen to believe, but the appeal of yet another movie starring real life married couple Curtis and Leigh and wondering how this time the film was reflecting their real life marriage, with the reassurance that it all ended happily for them, or it did here at any rate for in real life they were divorced a couple of years later, though whether that was down to Tony posing as an FBI agent was never revealed. Probably not. Another notable aspect to this was that the same year Janet appeared in Psycho, she was acting goofy in this along with a couple of her co-stars from the Hitchcock classic.

Not that Who Was That Lady? would be held up in the pantheon of great sixties movies, in fact it would struggle to be somewhere near the bottom of such a list, it was simply silly fluff from beginning to end which asked its cast to act like idiots for our entertainment, though not in the way of Dino's old comedy partner Jerry Lewis. This had its characters behave as if they had some passing acknowledgement that they were meant to be grown ups, even as they got up to such farcical business as firing off a gun in a public place due to a misunderstanding or by the climax messing up the air conditioning in the Empire State Building to a grievous extent. The middle section went on far too long (and featured some truly dodgy double entendres), especially as it was all in the service of a twist which saw actual Soviet agents believing David and Michael's charade, leading up to not only Tony Curtis kissing Simon Oakland, but Dean Martin kissing James Whitmore. Stupid, then, but painless. Music by André Previn.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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