Thursday, June 21, 2007

Don't Call Me Pallie. You Can Call Me Pal, But Not Pallie.

You know that guy who posts in the comments section of every blog post, anywhere, that mentions a Dean Martin movie? The one who always writes in Rat Pack-ese? The one whose comments are always something like "Hey, pallie, thanks for posting about Dino, the king of cool," etc.?

Well, he has a blog. Where everyone, writer and commenters, writes like that all the time. It's really rather terrifying, though I suspect it's tongue-in-cheek.

I like Dean Martin, but I'm of the opinion that many Dean Martin cultists like him for all the worst things he did. That is, much of his TV, movie and recording work is the product of a very talented actor and entertainer who didn't want to do much with his talent. (Or as Homer Simpson put it: "Screw you, Dino! You squandered your gifts!") I don't blame him for that; it was his life, and his talent, and to do consistently good work would have required that he be a workaholic, spending all his time and energy on his profession. I don't get to tell anyone how hard they should or shouldn't work. But I find it odd that the Dean Martin cult -- and there is one, even if that blog isn't serious -- primarily celebrates the stuff he did when he wasn't working very hard.

By the way, this gives me a chance to bring up something I've been thinking about for a while. A friend who watched Rio Bravo for the first time was surprised to find how good Dean Martin was in it; I explained that in this movie, and a few others (mostly in this late '50s period where he was trying to prove he could succeed on his own), he really did buckle down and work hard, and when he did that, he was an excellent actor. But that got me to thinking: are there many actors today who clearly show whether or not the material engages them, or who clearly work less hard in some movies than others? And I don't think there are, to the same extent. Of course, you can still tell if an actor isn't fully engaged with the material, but there's a certain baseline level of professionalism that most modern stars bring to everything they do.

In the past, and especially when the Rat Pack ruled, this was not the case. You could actually get the amazing sight of a highly-paid star in a big-budget movie who clearly, obviously and ostentatiously didn't give a damn about the project at all, and wasn't even trying a lot of the time. Martin was the king in that respect; if the script didn't interest him, he'd just zone out. But think of Sinatra, or Cary Grant in some of his later movies, or Sean Connery in Diamonds Are Forever. We may never again get the perverse thrill of being able to say that a star is sleepwalking through the role; today, even in bad movies, you can sort of see that the star is working hard (maybe not working well, but probably working harder than Dean Martin is working in the average Matt Helm movie).



10 comments:

Michael Jones said...

With modern technology, phoning it in is much easier.
I had the opportunity to watch Robin & the 7 Hoods the other day and really enjoyed it. I wonder if you have any anecdotes about that Rat Packer? Seems to me that it would've made a pretty good theatrical play (if you avoid the obvious Guys & Dolls parallels.)

VP81955 said...

One reason actors don't "phone it in" all that often these days is that more often than not, they're also producing the film. When your hard-earned money is actually helping to fund the endeavor, chances are you will exert a pretty good effort. (And in the heyday of the studio era, you couldn't really phone it in, either, lest you be put on suspension or exiled to work with Harry Cohn at Columbia.)

Marty McKee said...

You need to see more Michael Madsen movies. Not that I blame him, because he usually appears in not terribly impressive movies, but you don't usually see him busting his hump in them.

Anonymous said...

I don't know about movies, but there are definitely still actors in TV who can be superb when they put their minds to it but lazy and self-indulgent when they're less motivated (or less well-directed). William Shatner is an example. Kevin Sorbo is another.

Guffin GacGuffin said...

Vince Vaughn definitely skates through some of his stuff. Owen Wilson, too. Their "Wedding Crashers" showed Vaughn at his best, and Owen at his most relaxed (to see him work hard, check him out in Wes Anderson's movies).

dino martin peters said...

Dear Mr. Weinman, I'm sorry that you find the Dean Martin blog "terrifying." Those of us who write and comment on this blog do so because we love everything about Dino....both his classic films like "Rio Bravo" and the much lighter fair of the Matt Helm films. It has often been noted that doing comedy well takes much more effort then a solid drama....but the wonderful thing about Dino is he could and did do it all....and with the greatest of charm and of ease. Is the ilovedinomartin blog "tongue-in-cheek...perhaps at times, but call us a cult if you will, we have found an entertainer who loved his fans and whose fans love him. If I ever respond to another of your blog posts, I will try very hard to be as serious and "nornal" as possible so you will find no need to be "terrified."

Jeremy Richey said...

As someone who visits the Dean Martin blog on a regular basis and posts about Martin occasionally, I'd just like to say that we are not 'cultists' nor are we 'terrifying'.
The gentleman who runs the Dean Martin blog is one of the nicest I have encountered online and I think his blog is terrific. The 'Dino' talk is just a bit of fun and doesn't make his tribute tongue in cheek, it just offers some escape and is a tip of the hat to someone who made a lot of people feel good.
As far as celebrating the worst aspects of Dean Martin, I don't agree with you. We simply celebrate all aspects of a career that is often overlooked...could Dean Martin have developed into a great and serious actor? Sure he could have but we have plenty of those and we only have one Dean Martin.
I find it odd that people often call this man lazy or claimed that he phoned it in. It is hard to think of a more prolific artist who juggled television, film and music more than Dean did in the fifties and sixties. I would say that any serious look at his career will reveal that, not appearing to give a damn was actually very hard work.
I really hate all the online negativity and I don't want to get involved in it. I'm a Dean Martin fan and not a cultist and the very nice guy who runs the Dean tribute blog is not terrifying.
Your opinions on Martin are your own and that is fine but why criticize a fellow blogger when bringing them up?

Rogue Spy 007 said...

I am a frequent visitor and commenter on the Dino blog. I took personal offense myself with your blog post. Maybe you thought you were being witty or something, but your statements about my friend behind the Dino blog were quite unkind. He graciously and selflessly gives of his time to share stories, pictures, videos, etc. of Dean Martin with the world of cyberspace. Dean Martin has legions of fans. The smashing success of the Essential Dean Martin CD is evidence of that. We are not some sort of cult or a bunch of crazies. We are ordinary people who find Dean Martin to be an amazing entertainer. Whether it's through his records, movies, stage act, television shows, etc., Dino brought laughter, happiness, and joy to all his fans. Maybe he looked like some lazy and careless joke to the elitists, but we know that he's the King of Cool. Dean Martin knew how to live life the fullest. He didn't take himself too seriously. There are enough high brow snobs in this world who think they are above everyone else. Dino wanted to be just one of the guys who enjoyed life as much as he could. He, along with his pallies Sammy, Frank, etc., showed us what cool is all about. Women wanted to be with him and men wanted to be him. Dino was quite talented. For example, he could act in everything from a western to a bedroom comedy. His fans understand who and what Dean Martin's about. We love him for all he gave to the world We are not a cult. The man, my friend, who writes the Dino blog is a kind and considerate person. Maybe you think what he's doing is a joke or is terrifying, but we applaud him and thank him for it. With all the problems in the world, it's nice to have that place we can go to forget about all the troubles out there. Why does someone need to criticize it and make light of it? Isn't there enough negativity in the world without this? That's just my opinion. You are entitled to yours as well. I believe though that you should think twice before you say things that will hurt someone else's feelings and made fun of a project so dear to many of us. Thank you for your time.

Anonymous said...

You scare mighty easily if that site terrifies you.

Meditating upon Dean Martin takes us back to a simpler and safer time. Nothing wrong with that!

Anonymous said...

Defensive, aren't we?

If a broad talked to them like that, would she get the high hat, or a black eye?