Retro: The Unquiet American


Billy Wilder
USA 1964
126 min

This vulgar Billy Wilder comedy scandalized the Legion of Decency and large segments of the American public when it came out in 1964. At the time Wilder pointed out that the film is about human ­dignity and the sanctity of marriage, but its ­undisguised contempt for the American hinterlands and the success ethic makes the sexual element seem dirtier than it actually is. Dean Martin plays a ­carousing parody of himself, stranded in the ­godforsaken town of Climax, Nevada, while a ­desperate songwriter (Ray Walston), hoping to sell him a tune, tries to get him shacked up with a ­prostitute (Kim Novak) impersonating the songwriter’s wife (Felicia Farr). This restoration includes the original ending, which originally played only in Europe, followed by the forced ending that played in the U.S. Both Martin and Novak are at their near best, and the undertone of small-town desperation in Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond’s script is effectively captured by Walston and his sidekick, Cliff Osmond. Shot in black-and-white Scope.

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  • Dean Martin
  • Ray Walston
  • Kim Novak
  • Felicia Farr
  • Skip Ward
Billy Wilder
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