June 13, 2007

Salt & Pepper

I've posted before about what a crazy year 1968 was in America's history. It had to have been a very strange one for Peter Lawford. Lawford was in the process of self-destructing while simultaneously drowning in Frank Sinatra's wake. His career was floundering, having been cut-off from the crooner's inner sanctum after he had to deliver the news that John F. Kennedy would be staying with Bing Crosby (a Republican!), rather than Sinatra, during his 1962 Palm Springs visit. It's not Lawford's fault Robert Kennedy felt uncomfortable with Sinatra's mob ties. Talk about shooting the messenger. Dean Martin is quoted as saying, "It's Frank's world, and we just live in it." Lawford's experience would suggest this was more or less true, as he was essentially blackballed by the entertainment industry for the rest of his life.

Lawford played Pepper.....that's the level of humor

At least Sammy would still work with him. I'm sure the makers of Salt & Pepper hoped to capture some of the spirit of the Rat Pack by casting Lawford and Davis, thereby giving the film the appearance of being another in the series of films started with Oceans 11 (1960) and ended with Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964). Unfortunately, it was not up to the caliber of even something like 4 for Texas (1963), nor was the Rat Pack's style aligned with the zeitgeist of the time.
And because it was 1968, Salt & Pepper's creators not only tried to appeal to Sinatra's audience, they targeted younger audiences by setting the film in swinging London and embracing the aesthetic of the drug culture. It's cocktail culture meet counterculture. It's sort of like the Monkees and the Jimi Hendrix Experience touring together or William Shatner doing "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" or Nixon appearing on "Laugh-In." And to think it all actually happened...

Incidentally, it was directed by Richard Donner, who also did Superman: The Movie (1978) and the Lethal Weapon movies. After Salt & Pepper, he spent a couple of years directing episodes of "The Banana Splits Adventure Hour."

Based on this trailer, it looks as if they used a scene straight out of the Beatles' Help!. Can you spot it?:

What's truly amazing is that a sequel actually got made two years later called One More Time (its tagline was "Never before were they together again for the second time!"). And just to stoke the coals of the Sinatra/Rat Pack-Lawford grudge, Dean Martin's ex-partner Jerry Lewis directed it.



dino martin peters said...

Hey pallie, thanks for a great post on the groovy flick "Salt And Pepper." Never released on video, it is now packed as a two-fer with the sequel. Peter and Sammy were never more swingin' then in this film which reminds me in so many ways of Dino's Matt Helm capers. BTW, thanks for the Dinoquip....it sounds so much like our Dino. Loved the pixs of the posters and the trailer.

Chris said...

dino, thanks for the information. I found Salt & Pepper (on DVD, of course) at Netflix. The version they have only has the first film. I'd like to find the version with both.

I'm glad you like the post!

Blognor Regis said...

Totally groovy and far out man!

Great back projection there too.

Thanks for posting this.

dino martin peters said...

Hey pallie Chris, I've seen the two-fer on amazon...actually 2 separate DVDs packaged together for the price of one. The sequel is quite the disappointment....really more silly then groovy....but what can we expect from the jer. Again, thanks for bringin' "Salt And Pepper" to the light of day....a mostly unknown and totally underated little gem from the swingin' sixties.

Chris said...

No problem, blognor regis. I had a blast doing the post. It is in fact groovy and far out.

dino, I too felt it was an undiscovered treasure of the swingin' sixties. I'm not surprised to hear about One More Time being silly. I think Jerry was in the grips of a raging prescription drug addiction at the time, so it's no wonder the film's a mess. Thanks for the heads up!

dino martin peters said...

Hey pallie Chris, glad we share some of the same thoughts. Yeah, after enjoyin' S&P so much....I like to watch at least parts of this quite often....the second flick by the jer was so lame....like have only watched it once.....but it does come paired with S&P. Again, it was so refreshin' to find someone talkin' 'bout this little gem of a way cool flick.

Anonymous said...

actually, being old enough to have seen this in the theater when it came out, the film was cashing in on the popularity of "I Spy" the tv series with Culp & Cosby who were interracial secret agents as well.

Blognor Regis said...

Mr Nacogdoches,

Noddy Holder was talking about this film - audio here, 1h35' ish in - last Thursday. Nod tells the tale of Slade getting an early gig playing the film's wrap party when Sammy Davis Jr getting up and singing this song with the band.

I remembered your post listening to the Nodmeister talking about it.

Chris said...

Oh, that's cool! Thanks for the trivia, blognor, sir. The Rat Pack spreading the wealth, as it were.