Marie Wilson played "My Friend Irma" on the radio show and later television. The old Zasu Pitts and Thelma Todd radio series doesn't seem to have been an influence as series' basic situation of the two girls living together with one of them being a screwball was based on MY SISTER EILEEN.
But the MY FRIEND IRMA movie does have some things in common with the Zasu Pitts and Thelma Todd comedies of the 1930's.
My Friend Irma (film)
|My Friend Irma|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||George Marshall|
|Produced by||Hal B. Wallis|
|Written by||Cy Howard|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Release date(s)||August 16, 1949 (1949-08-16)|
|Running time||102 minutes|
PlotThe storyline follows two women, Irma Peterson (Marie Wilson) and Jane Stacey (Diana Lynn), who room together in New York. Irma is a somewhat dim-witted blonde who deep down has good intentions. Jane is an amibitious woman who dreams of marrying a rich man. She winds up as a secretary for a millionaire, Richard Rhinelander (Don DeFore).
Meanwhile, Irma is in love with Al (John Lund), who is a con-artist looking to get rich quick. Al visits an orange-juice stand and encounters Steve Laird (Dean Martin) singing. He convinces him to leave his job and promises to make him famous. Steve and his partner Seymour (Jerry Lewis) then wind up living at Irma & Jane's apartment through the invitation of Al. She is angry, but Irma convinces her to let them stay. This opens up a romantic arc where Jane and Steve fall in love.
After a successful singing debut, Steve gets upset with Jane's wishes to marry a wealthy man and he leaves and returns to the juice stand. Meanwhile, Irma gets into a situation and decides to end her life. However, she finds out a radio station is about to call her for a $50,000 question, so she rushes home to answer the question. She wins the prize and all live happily ever after.
ProductionMy Friend Irma was filmed from February 22 through April 12, 1949. Although filming was already underway, producer Hal B. Wallis thought it would be a low-risk introduction of the team of Martin & Lewis to the screen. They had been approached by several film studios before signing a five-year contract with Paramount Pictures.
Lewis was originally cast to play a comparatively straight role, but after the first day of screen tests it was obvious that he was wrong for the part that the studio had selected for him. Concerned that he would be left out of the film and that they were abandoning the formula that had created the Martin & Lewis team's comedic success ("handsome guy with the monkey"), a frantic Lewis quickly came up with the idea of playing a comical sidekick to Steve, and the character Seymour was written into the script. Lewis reminisces in detail about this career turning point in his book on Martin (Dean and Me) as well as his lengthy online Archive of American Television videotaped interview.
Marie Wilson, Hans Conried, and Gloria Gordon played the same characters in the movie that they did on the radio show. Felix Bressart was cast in the film, but died during filming, Hans Conried took over his role.
CastJohn Lund .......... Al
Marie Wilson....... Irma Peterson
Diana Lynn ........ Jane Stacy
Don DeFore ....... Richard Rhinelander III
Dean Martin ....... Steve Laird
Jerry Lewis ........ Seymour
Hans Conried ..... Professor Kropotkin
Kathryn Givney ... Mrs. Rhinelander
Percy Helton ...... Mr. Z. Clyde
Gloria Gordon ..... Mrs. O'Reilly, the Landlady
SequelIt was followed the following year by a sequel, My Friend Irma Goes West, the only sequel that Martin & Lewis ever made.
In pop cultureIn the 2002 film Martin and Lewis, a biopic about the comedy team starring Sean Hayes and Jeremy Northam. A scene from the film portrays that Lewis originally wanted to play the role of Al, but Wallis suggested that he play a new character, Seymour, instead, to which Lewis reluctantly agreed.
DVD releasesMy Friend Irma has been released twice on DVD. It was originally released on a two-film collection with its sequel, My Friend Irma Goes West, on October 25, 2005. A year later it was included on an eight-film DVD set, the Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis Collection: Volume One, released on October 31, 2006.
- Lewis, Jerry and James Kaplan. Dean & Me (A Love Story). New York: Doubleday, 2005. ISBN 0-7679-2086-4
One of Marie Wilson's first film roles was as "Mary, Quite Contrary" in BABES IN TOYLAND at the Roach studio.