By Aaron Hillis
By Casey Burchby
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Calum Marsh
By Kera Bolonik
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Ernest Hardy
By Eric Hynes
For Tashlin, the media constituted a single system. In Artists and Models, Lewis overhears The Honeymooners' "Ralph Kramden" fighting with his wife "Alice" in the apartment upstairs; later, Dean Martin dances with "Shirley Temple" and the "Little Rascals," and when he serenades Dorothy Malone, it is noted that he sings like the guy who sang "That's Amore," i.e., Dean Martin. The social context is a nation of robotic image junkies. The movie fans in Hollywood or Bust and Rock Hunter are typical. In Artists and Models, Lewis is exhibited on TV as evidence of "what can happen to the human brain on a steady diet of comic books" while art is synonymous with idiocy. The movie's insipid, if outrageously derriére-garde, finale has Jerry and Dino duel with their brushes to body-paint showgirls in plumed headgear: "On the streets of Montmartre, there's a Frenchy kind of art . . . "
On the back lot in Burbank, however, Tashlin is the original pop-culture Pop Artist. Artists and Models, which ranks with Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? as his quintessential movie, opens with Dean Martin painting the lips on an enormous billboard faceJames Rosenquist before he discovered his destiny. Like Roy Lichtenstein, Tashlin cartooned cartoons; like Andy Warhol, he represented stars as representations of themselves. His landscapes, where they exist, look like molded plastic. They have the fetishized surfaces, at once seductive and repellent, of a Tom Wesselmann still life. The guy couldn't help it.
Along with Douglas Sirk, Tashlin embraced American vulgarity in all its lurid, widescreen splendor, deploying flesh-and-blood caricatures as if to cast Sirk's most famous title: Imitation of Life. That one director made "comedies" and the other "melodramas" hardly matters. Both trafficked in Technicolor flesh tones and laminated sheen, the supreme garishness of mid-'50s consumer culturethe flat, flaming all-American inauthenticity that Euro-theorists like Eco and Baudrillard would, decades later, term hyperreal.
Join My Voice Nation for free stuff, film info & more!
Find everything you're looking for in your city
Find the best happy hour deals in your city
Get today's exclusive deals at savings of anywhere from 50-90%
Check out the hottest list of places and things to do around your city