Tag Archives: Steve Martin

The Set of 400: #253 – My Favorite Grocery Store Pickup Line

Today! Because I am the worst case scenario of Thomas Jefferson’s dream –

My Blue Heaven (1990)

Directed by Herbert Ross

Starring Steve Martin (x4), Rick Moranis, Carol Kane, Bill Irwin (x3), Joan Cusack, Melanie Mayron, William Hickey (x2), Daniel Stern, Ed Lauter, Colleen Camp, Deborah Rush, Jesse Bradford, Julie Bovasso, Gordon Currie, Carol Ann Susi, Ellen Albertini Dow (x3)

The third of the three comedies they’d appear in (if you don’t count Rick’s uncredited cameo in L.A. Story), My Blue Heaven makes the most out of teaming Martin and Moranis. Parenthood is more drama than comedy and Little Shop of Horrors only has them together briefly, but My Blue Heaven gives them a pair of conflicting, two-ish dimensional characters and let’s them run. Martin’s witness protected gangster Vinnie needs to stay out of trouble until the trial, and Moranis’s FBI agent Barney Coopersmith is tasked with handling him, to great comic effect.

While Moranis seems obviously suited for the nerdy G-man role, Martin as a slick Italian gangster doesn’t immediately sound right. In fact, Martin originally was supposed to play Barney, but after someone (Schwarzenegger? That can’t be right) dropped out, he switched roles and they brought in Moranis. Genius move! Both are playing extreme stereotyped versions of these parts – they weren’t aiming for a gritty mob film with comedic touches, it’s a wall-to-wall comedy – and their interplay, as well as their romantic entanglements, provide for a solidly underrated gem all around. Continue reading

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The Set of 400: #266 – My Favorite Canine Cover-Up

Today! Because the new phone book’s here! The new phone book’s here!

The Jerk (1979)

Directed by Carl Reiner (x2)

Starring Steve Martin (x3), Bernadette Peters, Jackie Mason, M. Emmet Walsh, Catlin Adams, Mabel King, Richard Ward, Dick Anthony Williams, Bill Macy, Dick O’Neill, Carl Reiner (x2), William Schallert (x2), Carl Gottlieb (x3), Maurice Evans

In the first of four collaborations with Carl Reiner, and his first starring role in a film, Steve Martin broke from his tremendous run as a stand-up comic and legendary Saturday Night Live host to instantly become a giant movie star. His four minute bit in The Muppet Movie six months earlier shouldn’t be overlooked in his rapid progression to film glory, mind you, but The Jerk solidified it for good and all, famously starting the film with the statement “I was born a poor black child.” Continue reading

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The Set of 400: #302 – My Favorite Bullet Removal

Today! Because in my last case, I had to throw my own brother out of an airplane –

Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982)

Directed by Carl Reiner

Starring Steve Martin (x2), Rachel Ward, Carl Reiner, Humphrey Bogart, Alan Ladd, Barbara Stanwyck, Ray Milland, Ava Gardner, Burt Lancaster, Cary Grant (x3), Ingrid Bergman (x3), Veronica Lake (x2), Bette Davis, Lana Turner, Kirk Douglas, Fred MacMurray (x2), James Cagney, Joan Crawford, Charles Laughton, Vincent Price, George Gaynes, William Conrad, Edmond O’Brien

The great pairing of Carl Reiner and Steve Martin produced this noir spoof, intercutting Martin’s detective Rigby Reardon with actors/characters from hard boiled crime films of the ’40s for a new mystery adventure. Almost twenty different films compose Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, including Suspicion, Double Indemnity, The Lost Weekend, The Big Sleep, and #370 Notorious, providing plenty of long-dead screen legends new comic opportunities, and new chances at joining the prestigious Two- and Three-Timers club!

Martin and Ward, as the femme fatale Juliet, make a great straight-faced team, and do all the heavy lifting in the movie, with the only exception maybe being the heroic work of career comedy film editor Bud Molin. The worry about this movie on paper (in retrospect) is how can any of this footage actually be matched up, using 1982 technology? Sure, at the time, it must’ve seemed like this was a possibility, but now – can you imagine hearing about this concept for a movie from 35+ years ago and thinking it would work? Is this the first you’re hearing about this movie, and you’re in some manner of disbelief right now? Well, rest assured, it totally pays off. The movie doesn’t do a lot of complicated inserting of characters into old footage – à la Forrest Gump – instead filming new scenes that function against the existing footage. A lot of it is funny phone conversations, but they’re almost equally effective with same room sequences. And Martin has the patter down, so that the mismatched conversations actually sound like they’re happening – not just in context but in style and rhythm. It’s a hell of an achievement.

It’s also the rare dark-haired Martin role

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The Set of 400: #373 – My Favorite Car Rental Agency Smackdown

Today! Because those aren’t pillows –

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (1987)

Directed by John Hughes

Starring Steve Martin, John Candy, Laila Robins, Michael McKean (x2), Dylan Baker, Kevin Bacon, Diana Douglas, Larry Hankin, Richard Herd, Edie McClurg, Matthew Lawrence, Martin Ferrero, Bill Erwin, Ben Stein

In the only movie that they share screen time, Martin and Candy are a terrifically funny team in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (They are both funny in Little Shop of Horrors, too, but not together!). It seems like they should’ve crossed over more, right? The old SNL/SCTV staples have overlapping credits in most of their ’80s films – with Rick Moranis, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Chevy Chase – but this is their only co-starring flick. Shame! They are hilarious together in John Hughes excellent foray into R-rated comedy. Its got a standard mis-matched anti-buddy road trip plot, both trying to get home to Chicago for Thanksgiving, thrown together out of convenience, but significantly enhanced by the interplay between Candy’s good-natured if irritating salesman Del and Martin’s alternately simmering/volcanic executive. And for all the set pieces along the way, and the consistently solid laughs, it also features one of the more heartbreaking endings of an ’80s comedy. I’m often a lump-throated mess by the time the credits get rolling on this one. Continue reading

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