Scared Stiff (1953 film)

Last updated
Scared Stiff
1953 Scared Stiff POSTER.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by George Marshall
Screenplay by
Based on The Ghost Breaker
(1909 play)
by Paul Dickey and Charles W. Goddard
Produced by Hal B. Wallis
Cinematography Ernest Laszlo
Edited by Warren Low
Music by Leith Stevens
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • April 27, 1953 (1953-04-27)(USA)
Running time
108 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$3.5 million (US) [1]
811,256 admissions (France) [2]

Scared Stiff is a 1953 American horror paranormal semi-musical comedy film directed by George Marshall and starring Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. One of the 17 films made by the Martin and Lewis team, it was released on April 27, 1953 by Paramount Pictures. It is the fourth screen adaptation of the 1909 play The Ghost Breaker by Paul Dickey and Charles W. Goddard, previously filmed under that title in 1914 and 1922 and as The Ghost Breakers in 1940.


Scared Stiff was Carmen Miranda's final film appearance, as she died two years later in August 1955.


Mary Carroll inherits her family's ancestral home, located on a small island off Cuba, and, despite warnings and death threats, decides to sail to Havana and take possession of the reputedly haunted castle. She is joined by nightclub entertainer Larry Todd who, believing he has killed a mobster, flees New York with a friend, Myron. Once on the island the three enter the eerie castle and, after viewing the ghost of one of Mary's ancestors and fighting off a menacing zombie, find the key to the castle's treasure.



The team's ninth picture, Scared Stiff is a remake of Paramount's previous effort, The Ghost Breakers , a 1940 "scare comedy" starring Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard, also directed by George Marshall. [3] The property has proven successful for Paramount in decades past and they've also filmed two versions in the silent era The Ghost Breaker (1914) directed by Cecil B. DeMille and The Ghost Breaker (1922) starring Wallace Reid.

Martin and Lewis had a cameo in Hope and Bing Crosby's Road to Bali the previous year as part of a "comedy trade" between the two teams. In turn, Hope and Crosby appear for a cameo in Scared Stiff. Both shared a common producer, Cy Howard, who produced Martin and Lewis' first two My Friend Irma pictures and That's My Boy . A few years later, Martin and Frank Sinatra appeared in the final scene of the final Hope and Crosby road picture, Road to Hong Kong .

According to Lewis, both he and Martin were against making the picture, as they found the original to be satisfactory. However, because the film was a Paramount property that producer Hal B. Wallis felt was one that could be successful in the comedy team's hands, he held the two to their contract for the film. [3]

Scared Stiff was filmed from June 2 through July 17, 1952. It was the first film of the team's available in 3-track, stereophonic sound. Some reviews at the time commented on the soundtrack's use of stereo enhancing gag sequences. [4] The stereo tracks for this film are now considered lost. As with most films of team's work, it garnered a re-release in 1958 on a double bill with another Martin and Lewis picture, Jumping Jacks .

Norman Lear was credited with "additional dialogue." It was his first writing credit on a Hollywood film.

Scared Stiff turned out to be the last film for Carmen Miranda who died two years later, shortly after completing an episode of The Jimmy Durante Show on TV. In the film, Jerry Lewis impersonates Miranda and lip syncs one of her signature numbers, "Mamãe Eu Quero". [5]

Home media

Paramount released Scared Stiff on home video in November 1992. [6] The film was included on an eight-film DVD set, the Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis Collection: Volume One, released on October 31, 2006. [7]


Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote, "The nonsense herein contrived is not an inspired presentation of the comic qualities of the two boys." [8] Variety wrote that Martin and Lewis "provide a free-wheeling round of slapstick hilarity". [9] Writing in The Zombie Movie Encyclopedia, academic Peter Dendle called the film an annoying remake that "mostly sticks to the original except for the addition of several bad song and dance numbers and even worse comedy routines". [10]

On Rotten Tomatoes the film holds a rating of 71% based on 7 reviews, with an average rating of 5.83/10. [11]

Related Research Articles

<i>Road to Bali</i> 1952 film by Hal Walker

Road to Bali is a 1952 American comedy film directed by Hal Walker and starring Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, and Dorothy Lamour. Released by Paramount Pictures on November 19, 1952, the film is the sixth of the seven Road to … movies. It was the only entry in the series filmed in Technicolor and was the first to feature surprise cameo appearances from other well-known stars of the day.

Martin and Lewis American double act

Martin and Lewis were an American comedy duo, comprising singer Dean Martin and comedian Jerry Lewis. They met in 1945 and debuted at Atlantic City's 500 Club on July 25, 1946; the team lasted ten years to the day. Before they teamed up, Martin was a nightclub singer, while Lewis performed a comedy act lip-synching to records.

<i>The Road to Hong Kong</i> 1962 film by Norman Panama, Melvin Frank

The Road to Hong Kong is a 1962 British semi-musical comedy film directed by Norman Panama and starring Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, as well as Joan Collins, with an extended cameo featuring Dorothy Lamour in the setting of Hong Kong under British Rule. This was the seventh and last in the long-running Road to … series and the only one not associated with, and to be produced by, Paramount Pictures, though references to the others in the series are made in the film and shown in Maurice Binder's opening title sequence.

<i>White Christmas</i> (film) 1954 film directed by Michael Curtiz

White Christmas is a 1954 American musical film directed by Michael Curtiz and starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen. Filmed in Technicolor, it features the songs of Irving Berlin, including a new version of the title song, "White Christmas", introduced by Crosby in the 1942 film Holiday Inn.

George Marshall (director) American actor, screenwriter, producer and film and television director

George E. Marshall was an American actor, screenwriter, producer, film and television director, active through the first six decades of film history.

<i>The Ghost Breakers</i> 1940 comedy film directed by George Marshall

The Ghost Breakers is a 1940 American mystery/horror comedy film directed by George Marshall and starring Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard. It was adapted by screenwriter Walter DeLeon as the third film version of the 1909 play The Ghost Breaker by Paul Dickey and Charles W. Goddard.

<i>The Caddy</i> 1953 film by Norman Taurog

The Caddy is a 1953 American semi-musical-comedy-sports film starring the comedy team of Martin and Lewis. It is noteworthy for Dean Martin introducing the hit song "That's Amore".

<i>Jumping Jacks</i> 1952 film by Norman Taurog

Jumping Jacks is a 1952 American semi-musical comedy film starring the comedy team of Martin and Lewis. The film was directed by Norman Taurog, and released by Paramount Pictures. It was one of the military comedies that marked the duo's early career. Brigadier General Frank Dern, Deputy Chief of the US Army's Information Office praised Jumping Jacks as something that would "contribute to troop morale within the Army."

<i>Road to Zanzibar</i> 1941 film by Victor Schertzinger

Road to Zanzibar is a 1941 Paramount Pictures semi-musical comedy film starring Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, and Dorothy Lamour, and marked the second of seven picture in the popular "Road to …" series made by the trio. It takes place in the Sultanate of Zanzibar.

The Stooge is a 1952 American comedy film directed by Norman Taurog and starring the comedy team of Martin and Lewis. The film was released nationally in the United States in February 1953 by Paramount Pictures.

<i>King of the Zombies</i> 1941 film

King of the Zombies is a 1941 American zombie comedy film directed by Jean Yarbrough and starring Dick Purcell, Joan Woodbury, and Mantan Moreland. The film was produced by Monogram Pictures, and was typical of its B films produced by the Pine-Thomas team. Along with flying scenes, the use of zany characters and slapstick efforts were juxtaposed with a spy and zombie story.

<i>Money from Home</i> 1953 film by George Marshall

Money From Home is a 1953 American comedy film starring Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. The comedy was the first for the Martin and Lewis team to be shot in color and was their only film in 3-D. The picture was premiered as a special preview screening across the U.S. on New Year's Eve, 1953.

<i>Artists and Models</i> 1955 film by Frank Tashlin

Artists and Models is a 1955 American musical comedy film in VistaVision directed by Frank Tashlin, marking Martin and Lewis's 14th feature together as a team. The film co-stars Shirley MacLaine and Dorothy Malone, with Eva Gabor and Anita Ekberg appearing in brief roles.

<i>The Ghost Breaker</i> (1914 film) 1914 film

The Ghost Breaker is a 1914 American silent drama film directed by Cecil B. DeMille and Oscar C. Apfel and based on the 1909 Broadway play of the same name by Paul Dickey and Charles W. Goddard. The film was distributed by Paramount Pictures under the Famous Players-Lasky banner.

<i>That Night in Rio</i> 1941 film by Irving Cummings

That Night in Rio is a 1941 Technicolor American musical comedy film directed by Irving Cummings and starring Alice Faye, Don Ameche and Carmen Miranda. It is one of several film adaptations of the 1934 play The Red Cat by Rudolf Lothar and Hans Adler. Others are Folies Bergère de Paris (1935) and On the Riviera (1951).

Bob Hope filmography

This is a selection of films and television appearances by British-American comedian and actor Bob Hope (1903-2003). Hope, a former boxer, began his acting career in 1925 in various vaudeville acts and stage performances

<i>Rhythm on the River</i> 1940 film by Victor Schertzinger

Rhythm on the River is a 1940 musical comedy film directed by Victor Schertzinger and starring Bing Crosby and Mary Martin as ghostwriters whose songs are credited to a composer played by Basil Rathbone. Crosby and Martin sang "Only Forever", for which James V. Monaco (music) and Johnny Burke (lyrics) were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song.

<i>Doll Face</i> 1945 film by Lewis Seiler

Doll Face is a 1945 American film released by 20th Century Fox and directed by Lewis Seiler starring Vivian Blaine as "Doll Face" Carroll. It also stars actor Dennis O'Keefe and singers Carmen Miranda and Perry Como. The film is based on the 1943 play The Naked Genius written by Gypsy Rose Lee. In the opening credits, she is billed under her birth name, Louise Hovick. The film is also known as Come Back to Me in the United Kingdom.

<i>The Ghost Breaker</i> (1922 film) 1922 film by Alfred Edward Green

The Ghost Breaker is a 1922 American silent horror comedy film about haunted houses and ghosts. It was produced by Famous Players-Lasky and distributed through Paramount Pictures. It was directed by Alfred E. Green and starred Wallace Reid in one of his last screen roles. The story, based on the 1909 play The Ghost Breaker by Paul Dickey and Charles W. Goddard, had been released on film in 1914, directed by Cecil B. DeMille and Oscar Apfel.

The Ghost Breaker is a 1909 haunted house farcical play written by Paul Dickey and Charles W. Goddard, it was adapted into a 1940 film starring Bob Hope called The Ghost Breakers.


  1. "The Top Box Office Hits of 1953", Variety, January 13, 1954.
  2. Box office information for film in France at Box Office Story
  3. 1 2 Neibaur, James L. and Okuda, Ted: Jerry Lewis Films, The: an analytical filmography of the innovative comic, pp. 62–72. McFarland & Company, Inc, 1995.
  4. "Paramount Offers Zany Comedy Team", Oakland Tribune, Oakland, CA. June 12, 1953, p. 39.
  5. "American Film Institute Catalog: Scared Stiff". p. American Film Institute Catalog. Retrieved March 14, 2014.
  6. Hunt, Dennis (1992-11-06). "To Retailers, Disney's 'Beast' Is a Beaut". Los Angeles Times . Retrieved 2015-02-10.
  7. Clark, Mike (2006-10-31). "DVD watch". USA Today . Retrieved 2015-02-10.
  8. Crowther, Bosley (1953-07-03). "Scared Stiff (1953)". The New York Times . Retrieved 2015-02-10.
  9. "Review: 'Scared Stiff'". Variety . 1953. Retrieved 2015-02-10.
  10. Dendle, Peter (2001). The Zombie Movie Encyclopedia. McFarland & Company. pp. 154–155. ISBN   978-0-7864-9288-6.
  11. "Scared Stiff". Rotten Tomatoes .