Career (1959): Joseph Anthony’s Melodrama, Starring Dean Martin and Shirley MacLaine

Playwright James Lee adapted his off-Broadway play for the screen in this backstage melodrama, directed by Joseph Anthony.

Anthony Franciosa plays Sam Lawson, a struggling but extremely ambitious actor, who will forsake his family and take any type of job in order to become a Broadway star.

In a straight dramatic role, Dean Martin plays Maury Novak, an aspiring director, who also wants to succeed at all costs. When Maury gets his big break, Sam wants a part in his show, but Maury turns him down.

As a result, Sam courts and then marries Maury’s girlfriend (Shirley MacLaine). In spite of everything, Maury wants his girl back, and Sam agrees to a divorce if Maury cast him as star of his next show.

Once again, Maury reneges, but before Sam can exact his revenge, he is drafted into the army. Same serves duty during the communist witchhunting, and as both Sam and Maury were members of the Communist Party, they are blacklisted.

Unfazed, the two men decide to collaborate, taking major risks in putting together an independent production that will determine their future.

The on-location shooting and semi-documentary style (a la “Marty”) may explain why “Career” received three Oscar nominations in the technical catgeories.

This was the second taming of Dean Martin and Shirley MacLaine after appearing in Minnelli’s melodrama, “Some Came Running.”

Oscar Nominations: 3

Cinematography (black-and-white): Joseph LaShelle

Art Direction-Set Decoration (black-and-white): Hal Pereira and Walter Tyler; Sam Comer and Arthur Krams

Costume Design (black-and-white): Edith Head

Oscar Awards: None

Oscar Context:

The Cinematography Oscar went to William C. Mellor for “The Diary of Anne Frank,” which also won Art Direction.

Orry-Kelly won the Costume Oscar for Billy Wilder’s comedy “Some Like It Hot.”


Running time: 105 Minutes.

Directed by Joseph Anthony

Written by James Lee