Saturday, October 23, 2010
Screen Gem Saturdays: Steve Martin
The multi-talented Steve Martin has long been a favorite of mine (and not just because he used to work at Disneyland in the early years!). This previously posted first photo shows him honing his craft on the stage of the Bird Cage Theater at Knott’s Berry Farm in June 1965.
I discovered his wild brand of comedy when I was in Junior High. I remember wearing out my “Wild and Crazy Guy” vinyl LP back in the late 70’s, especially because of its novelty hit song “King Tut” (backed by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band but labeled as the Toot Uncommons). It is also one of the highlights of Saturday Night Live’s musical history:
In college, my film class analyzed his 1981 movie “Pennies from Heaven.” I was mesmerized by this dark classic, which was full of irony in its references to Depression era musicals. In his first dramatic film, Martin studied tap dancing for 6 months so that he’d be believable in the musical numbers with Bernadette Peters...and yes, he pulls it off!
Another favorite Martin comedy is “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid,” released one year later in 1982. Mixing classic film noir footage with currently shot scenes, a completely new wacky farce is created that integrates Martin with Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis, and Joan Crawford. This loving tribute to classic Hollywood marked the last work of both costume designer Edith Head and composer Miklós Rózsa.
As detective Rigby Reardon, Steve Martin assists Juliet Hay Forrest (Rachel Ward) in finding out who killed her father. Both Martin & Ward look as if they could have stepped out of a 1940’s noir thriller and do a perfect job of playing each comic scene straight, rather than hamming it up and ruining it.
Martin & Carl Reiner teamed up again for 1983’s “The Man With Two Brains.” As Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr, Martin perfects the method of cranial screw-top brain surgery. He saves the life of gold-digging Dolores Benedict (Kathleen Turner), who uses her beauty and sexuality to get him to marry her...
...but holds back “the goods” for him while she sleeps with everyone else that crosses her path.
Besides being a comedian and actor, Steve Martin is also an accomplished musician. This photo of him with a banjo was taken by famous photographer Harry Langdon:
Martin won the Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album in 2010. He has also been touring with The Steep Canyon Rangers; recently, I had the pleasure of watching him perform in San Diego at the Balboa Theater. The mixture of comedy and Martin’s brand of humor was a perfect match. Please let it be noted that I did NOT use a flash for any of these photos!
One of my faves from the concert was “Atheists Don’t Have No Songs.” Before anyone gets their panties all twisted, the tune is not a statement against atheism.
Keep checking back to Steve Martin's website to see if he’s coming to a venue near you.
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