My Friend Irma Goes West (1950) Hal Walker
Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis Collection Vol. 1 DVD (1:31)
My Friend Irma Goes West is more enjoyable than its predecessor My Friend Irma (1949) in that it’s shorter and features much more of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. It’s a bit embarrassing that ditzy Irma (Marie Wilson) is relegated to a supporting role in her own movie, but producers Cy Howard and Hal Wallis recognized that Martin and Lewis were clearly on the rise. Giving them more screen time was a no-brainer even Irma could figure out (eventually).
If you missed the first film, you should first know that My Friend Irma was originally a popular radio show, also starring Marie Wilson (above left) as the scatterbrained Irma. The radio show ran from 1947 to 1954, spawning not only two movies, but also a comic strip, a comic book, and a television show. So when the 1949 film was released, Irma was a character already well-established.
The first film dealt with the adventures of Irma, her get-rich-quick-scheming boyfriend Al (John Lund), and Irma’s roommate Jane (Diana Lynn), who’s looking to marry a rich, good-looking man. When Al meets Steve Laird (Dean Martin) running an orange-juice stand with his buddy Seymour (Jerry Lewis), he learns that Steve is a singer. After hearing Steve sing, Al offers to become Steve’s manager and make him rich.
I discussed the first film briefly here. It’s light, silly and harmless, but is mainly important for being the first movie pairing of Martin and Lewis, which would become a major franchise. Their screen time was limited, but their talent was clear from the moment My Friend Irma was released, so another film was quickly made, this time focusing on Martin and Lewis rather than Irma.
In My Friend Irma Goes West, Steve lands an appearance singing on a local New York television show. Still managing Steve, Al is confident the show will draw the attention of a big talent scout, which it does. It also draws the attention of the show’s co-star, French singer Yvonne Yvonne (Corrine Calvet, above right), who has eyes for Steve, a prospect Steve’s fiancee Jane is not too happy about.
When a movie studio executive offers Steve a contract and agrees to send the whole entourage to California, everyone literally jumps onboard, but that’s when the real shenanigans begin which involve gangsters, a chimp, a crooked casino owner, and more. Martin looks and sounds good (although I’ve never cared for his material), Lewis gets to do more of his thing, and Irma even gets a few laughs in her own movie. My Friend Imra Goes West made it obvious that Martin and Lewis had to be headliners from here on out, which they were. The film is enjoyable, but mainly interesting in that it shows the duo taking a major step forward.