Cast & Crew
While artist Rick Todd struggles to make a living painting billboards, his best friend and assistant, Eugene Fullstack, a would-be writer of children's books, is so absorbed in his Bat Lady comic books that he gets them both fired, a pattern that the two have continuously repeated since moving from Steubenville, Ohio to New York City. Although poverty has reduced the roommates to eating nothing but beans and ketchup, the innocent Eugene remains happy in the fantasy world he has created in his mind to protect himself from the harsh realities of life. At night, however, Eugene's fantasies keep Rick and their entire Greenwich Village building awake, as he recites horrific "Vincent the Vulture" stories in his sleep. Learning that a "successful artist" has moved into the building, Eugene goes up to her apartment to introduce himself, only to be nearly scared to death when "The Bat Lady" answers the door. Eugene soon learns that the artist is actually comic book illustrator Abigail Parker, and "The Bat Lady" is Bessie Sparrowbush, Abby's model and roommate. The next morning, after Abby is berated by Murdock, her publisher, who informs her that the latest issue of Bat Lady does not contain enough blood and violence, she angrily quits. Hoping to gain the newly vacated job, Rick directs Eugene to romance Bessie, who is also Murdock's secretary, so that his name can added to the publisher's list of available cartoonists. A follower of astrology, Bessie's horoscope tells her that Eugene is her "true love," but he shows little interest in the pert redhead, having lost his heart to "The Bat Lady" and not realizing that they are one and the same. Rick, too, is inamored of Abby, even though she has little interest in him until he agrees to be her model for an advertising campaign. Rick's romantic chances with Abby are diminished when he secretly takes her old job with Murdock, using Eugene's original "Vincent the Vulture" dreams as his subject matter. Eugene has now rejected his old comics, however, going so far as to join Abby on a television talk show protesting their violent influence on children. Unknown to Eugene, while he and Abby work on a series of children's books derived from his wholesome "Goosie Goose/Freddie the Fieldmouse" stories by day, Rick transcribes his friend's violent nightmares into a highly successful comic series at night. Included in one of the comics, however, is part of a top secret rocket formula sought after by a group of foreign spies, headed by Sonia, a beautiful Hungarian who calls herself Mrs. Curtis. Rick is quickly informed of the situation by the United States Secret Service, and he offers the agency his full cooperation, as long as Eugene is not told that he is working for Murdock. Discovering that Eugene is the true source of the "Victor the Vulture" stories, Sonia and her gang abduct Bessie so that Sonia can dress as "The Bat Lady" at the Artists and Models Ball. When "The Bat Lady" invites Eugene out for a romantic rendezvous, the smitten writer readily agrees and is whisked away to the spy's hideout. Rick and the newly freed Bessie are quick to follow, and they arrive at the spies' mansion just as a drugged Eugene begins to recite the secret formula. Revitalized by Bessie's kiss, Eugene single-handedly defeats the spies, and by mistake, the Secret Service agents as well. With the foreign agents safely under arrest, Rick is reunited with Abby, and Eugene discovers that Bessie is the true "Bat Lady" of his dreams.
George "foghorn" Winslow
Nick Castle Jr.
C. C. Coleman Jr.
Daniel L. Fapp
John P. Fulton
Joseph H. Hazen
R. R. Jones
A. Van Koughnet
Artists and Models
Artists and Models (1955), based on the unproduced play Rockabye Baby, was a comedy inspired by the comic book craze and the censorship battle over increasingly violent and suggestive content in the horror and crime comics of the fifties. Producer Hal Wallis, who has Lewis and Martin under contract, was impressed with the rewrite by Frank Tashlin and handed him the directorial reigns. Tashlin was an animator at Disney and directed dozens of Looney Tunes cartoons for Warner Bros. before leaping to feature filmmaking as a screenwriter and, later, a director in his own right, and his knack wild gags and cartoonish comedy made him a good fit for Lewis's manic style. The subject was also a natural for Tashlin, who wove gags spoofing popular culture all through his films and went on to satirize rock and roll in The Girl Can't Help It (1956) and advertising and television in Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957).
Martin plays an out-of-work artist and Lewis a would-be author of children's books, best friends and roommates who are constantly losing jobs thanks to Lewis's knack for comic disasters. Their break comes about thanks to Lewis's obsession with the lurid "Bat Lady" comic book, which gives him such vivid nightmares that Martin starts writing down the wild stories he dreams up at night and sells them to the comic book company. The plot goes on to include foreign spies and femme fatales, and Martin sings five original songs (one of them a duet with Lewis) including "Innamorata," which hit number 27 on the hit parade and become one of his signature tunes.
Dorothy Malone was cast as Martin's love interest, a comic book illustrator who draws the "Bat Lady" series, and Shirley Maclaine plays Malone's young friend and model, who falls for Lewis. It was only the second feature for the young actress, following her screen debut in Alfred Hitchcock's The Trouble With Harry (1950), and the first that showcased her talents as a singer and dancer in a comic duet with Lewis. Eva Gabor plays the Hungarian spy who believes that Lewis has top secret government information and Swedish actress Anita Ekberg, at the time under contract to John Wayne's company Batjac, was cast in a supporting role. She returned for the final Martin and Lewis film, Hollywood or Bust (1956), essentially playing herself.
Lewis hit it off with Tashlin immediately and Tashlin become something of a mentor to Lewis. Tashlin consulted with Lewis on the staging and filming of his comedy scenes and showed him the ropes of film directing. "Frank's my teacher," Lewis told Peter Bogdanovich in 1962, and Tashlin returned the compliment: "Jerry is my best friend: I know if ever I were in need, all I'd have to do is make a phone call."
By the time Lewis and Martin started shooting Artists and Models (1955) the partnership was unraveling. The pace of their work schedule was grueling and Martin was frustrated as Lewis was increasingly given bigger roles in their films and he was relegated to colorless supporting parts, a formula that producer Wallis perfectly happy with as long as the films made money. But Martin was a professional and they had a contract to fulfill. Lewis, however, was itching for more control over his films and fought with Wallis throughout the shoot, arguing on the set and halting production while the cast and crew waited for him to arrive on set. The film went over schedule and over budget, which resulted in cutting a musical production number from the schedule. Wallis blamed Lewis for the overruns.
The critics were unkind, finding the film silly and Wallis formula far too familiar, but audiences made it a hit and in subsequent years it has been hailed as one of the best, if not the best, screen pairing of the comedy team. Tashlin channels Lewis's manic energy into inventive gags--as described by Lewis biographer Shawn Levy, the director "used Jerry's physicality--the gangly limbs, the elastic face, the sound-effects voice--to wring out the sort of gags he could have constructed previously only with animation cels"--and provides space for Martin to have some fun of his own on screen. As a cartoonist and illustrator in his own right, Tashlin sketched many of the sequences (including the opening credits) and filled the screen with a riot of primary colors.
Martin and Lewis only made two more films together as a team--Tashlin, in fact, directed their final pairing, Hollywood or Bust (1956)--before Martin split with his longtime partner to concentrate on his own singing career and expand his acting career beyond straight man to Lewis. Tashlin went on to direct Jerry Lewis in six solo films and inspire Lewis to become a director in his own right. Both of them did pretty good for themselves as solo acts.
By Sean Axmaker
Who The Devil Made It?, Peter Bogdanovich. Knopf, 1997
Who The Hell's In It?, Peter Bogdanovich. Knopf, 2004
Frank Tashlin, ed. Roger Garcia. Editions du Festival international du film Locarno, 1994.
King of Comedy: The Life and Art of Jerry Lewis, Shawn Levy. St. Martin's Griffin, 1996.
Dino: Living High in the Dirty Business of Dreams, Nick Tosches. Doubleday, 1992.
AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Artists and Models
The film was copyrighted once, on 21 December 1955, by three claiments: Paramount Pictures Corp., Hal B. Wallis and Joseph H. Hazen. Artists and Models was the second film made by Shirley MacLaine, who made her film debut in Alfred Hitchcock's The Trouble with Harry , but was the first film in which she was allowed to display the singing and dancing talents which had brought her to producer Hal B. Wallis's attention when he first saw her in The Pajama Game on Broadway. Hollywood Reporter news items report that another Broadway star, Gwen Verdon, had been sought for a role in Artists and Models by Wallis, probably the role of "Bessie Sparrowbush," which was played in the film by MacLaine. Artists and Models was also the first of two Martin and Lewis films to be directed by Frank Tashlin. Tashlin also directed the comedy team's final film, Hollywood or Bust .
According to the file on the film in the Paramount Collection at the AMPAS Library, Artists and Models was produced at the cost of $1,701,083, which was $103,083 over its allotted budget. Because of the budget overruns, a planned "The Bat Lady" musical production number was never filmed. While modern sources state that "The Bat Lady" musical number was filmed on the last day of shooting (3 May 1955), the breakdowns found in the Paramount Collection indicate the day in question was used to shoot the film's main title sequence. According to modern sources, Wallis blamed Lewis for the cost overruns on Artists and Models, claiming the comedian had "an ever-increasing tendency to meddle in other people's departments." Information found in the Paramount collection indicates that the Michael Davidson-Norman Lessing play Rockabye Baby, upon which Artists and Models is based, was never produced.
Swedish actress Anita Ekberg was loaned to Paramount by Batjac Productions for this film, after which Batjac failed to pick up the option on her contact, according to Hollywood Reporter. Ekberg was also featured in Hollywood or Bust. Hollywood Reporter news items include Terry Allen Rangno in the cast, but his appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. Dean Martin introduced the song "Innamorta" in Artists and Models, which become one of his signature songs. This film is unrelated to the 1937 Paramount film of the same name, though both featured the annual Artists and Models ball.
Released in United States October 1996
Released in United States on Video July 8, 1991
Released in United States Winter December 1955
Released in United States on Video July 8, 1991
Released in United States October 1996 (Shown in New York City (American Museum of the Moving Image) as part of program "Hollywood Independents: Wallis-Hazen Productions" October 12-27, 1996.)
Released in United States Winter December 1955