Of all the melancholy memories of Jan Hooks -- who died Thursday at the age of 57 -- certainly none resonate more with me, and maybe you too, than this remarkable short film that aired during the ninth episode of the 14th season of "Saturday Night Live."
For "SNL," "Love is a Dream" was a departure -- and "SNL" has never quite "departed" in this way since. This short film -- which "SNL" fans will vividly recall also repeated as a tribute, following Hartman's death in 1998 -- was directed by Tom Schiller, a true "SNL" original (and, in fact, a member of the original writing team) who had created other short films/send-ups of classics like "La Dolce Gilda," or "Java Junkie" -- influenced naturally by "Reefer Madness."
This film is based on the cornpone weepy "The Emperor Waltz," a 1948 before-he-was-great Billy Wilder romantic fantasy starring Joan Fontaine and Bing Crosby, about a lovestruck Austrian princess, her dog and a salesman from Newark who wanted to marry her, but dear old dad -- the King, or whatever -- didn't think that was such a good idea. (For one thing, he didn't think they could live happily ever after in Newark...seriously, that was a reason.)
Here's what Schiller told Mike Thomas, as recounted in his just-published (and excellent) biography of Hartman, "You Might Remember Me": "Phil was a gentleman and she was a gentle lady. They weren't crass. They weren't showbiz types climbing to the top. That's why they had fun on the shoot, because it was away from Studio 8H, they got their own costuming, they were the stars. There was no one else telling them what to do. And it just wasn't for laughs every two lines." As it turns out, this short film, with principal photography by Neal Marshad, may well have been Hooks' finest moment on "SNL" -- and there wasn't a single laugh to be had.