Jerry Lewis: Great Success Being a Total Idiot


Top ten classic comedies from Jerry Lewis

Don’t be wary of Jerry…

OK. I understand that Jerry Lewis is a bit like horseradish.  He’s an acquired taste.  In other words, he takes some getting used to.  But those of us with a tolerant palate know full well that, even though his best films were released over a relatively short period of time, Jerry Lewis made some truly great comedies.  And in fact at least one of them is a genuine classic.  So let’s take a look at the solo films of the one and only Jerry Lewis…

Top classic comedies from Jerry LewisThe Sad Sack (1957) was originally concocted for Dean Martin and Lewis, but their sudden break-up transformed it into Jerry’s initial solo effort.  Based on the famous comic strip, Dean and Jerry were old hands at comedy in a military setting. Fortunately, The Sad Sack is as good as the best of them.  Jerry plays an inept army private who, even after 17 weeks, can’t get out of basic training! Somehow, his nonsense brings him to Morocco where he becomes the hostage of a suspiciously Teutonic Arab sheik! And who portrays the sheik? Why, none other than the hilarious Peter Lorre!  Recommended.

The Delicate Delinquent (1957) was also originally intended for Dean and Jerry. Unfortunately, even though Jerry gives it the good ol’ college try, his character is much too child-like to be taken seriously as a supposed “delinquent” (I guess that’s why he’s “delicate”). Moreover, his apparently serious transformation later in the film is just as hard to accept for the same reason. Skip it.

Rock-a-Bye Baby (1958) offers Jerry as a small town handyman who finds himself suddenly caring for newborn triplets! The comedy involves multiple baby bottles, a movie queen with questionable morals, and a desperate young woman who is inexplicably attracted to Jerry! Recommended.

The Geisha Boy (1958) presents Jerry as a less than talented stage magician who gets involved in the life of a forlorn little boy in Japan. The film has its moments but it features the late Suzanne Pleshette as an American stewardess who spouts some vaguely anti-Asian dialogue. Skip it.

Don’t Give Up the Ship (1959) is a much better film with Jerry in uniform once again. This time he’s a naval officer who seems to have misplaced the battleship (or was it a destroyer…?) he briefly commanded! It’s all the result of unlikely circumstances that leads to some reasonably decent comedy. Recommended.

Visit to a Small Planet (1960) is one of my all-time favorite Jerry Lewis vehicles. After all, it’s easy to imagine Jerry as an alien from another planet! Jerry is Kreton (“cretin,” get it…?), an alien who visits the Earth to observe our social rituals. While here, he just can’t help but disrupt the love life of a young couple! Recommended.

Cinderfella (1960) offers a gender change for the “Cinderella” story in the form of Jerry Lewis! The film matches the children’s fairy tale quite well, all the way down to the appearance of a “fairy godfather!” I must say that I enjoy Cinderfella very much. It’s a fun, entertaining film that is often quite touching. Recommended.

The Bellboy (1960) is clearly tipping its hat to the silent film era. Unfortunately, Jerry Lewis is no Charlie Chaplin. Jerry plays a bellboy in a large Miami Beach hotel who just won’t talk! Ever! At all! It’s not that he’s mute. He simply can’t think of anything to say! As a result, all the dialogue in the film comes from the people around him. Since Jerry’s comedy is entirely physical, some of it works, some of it doesn’t. Rather than pass sentence on this film, I think it best to simply leave it up to you… (According to Jerry, he wrote the script for The Bellboy in a few days as he was performing in the hotel.  He then filmed it over several weeks during his off hours.)

The Ladies’ Man (1961) is what Jerry becomes when his girlfriend gives him the boot! After swearing off the opposite sex, Jerry naturally takes a job as a maintenance man in a small hotel filled with young, attractive women! The film features an amazingly huge break-away set of the hotel interior, but is otherwise forgettable. Skip it.

The Errand Boy (1961) is something of a sequel to The Bellboy set in a major film studio. Despite Jerry’s limited dialogue, the film largely mimics the comedy of the silent film era. For me,  The Errand Boy is more satisfying than The Bellboy, especially Jerry’s musical pantomime. For this reason it is Recommended.

It’s Only Money (1962) is a hilarious film that offers Jerry as a TV repairman who learns that he’s the long lost son of a dead millionaire. Of course, certain unsavory people are determined to eliminate Jerry for his money! The climactic chase involving Jerry and numerous robotic, self-propelled lawn mowers is priceless! Recommended.

Who’s Minding the Store? (1963) gave Jerry the opportunity to wreak havoc in a large department store. With bouncing television sets, a scary female hunter with an elephant gun, and chocolate covered ants, there’s plenty of comedy to go around. Recommended.

The Nutty Professor (1963) is a genuine classic. Even though Eddie Murphy headlined a popular remake, the Lewis original remains the better film. That’s because Murphy was nearly unrecognizable under tons of make-up, while Jerry created two very distinct characters primarily through attitude and body language. Jerry portrays a nerdy chemistry professor who, much like “Jekyll and Hyde,” drinks a formula he concocted to change his outlook on life. Instead, it turns him into a self-centered jerk! But he’s a jerk with no small amount of charm! It all hits the fan for the professor when his formula wears off at the most inopportune moment (and you will LOVE the big-band version of “Stella By Starlight” that opens the film!)! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

The Patsy (1964) vaguely recalls an earlier Martin and Lewis film called The Stooge. When a world famous comedian suddenly dies in a tragic accident, his many employees decide to maintain their lifestyles by grooming a replacement. Enter:  Silly, accident prone,  extremely destructive bellboy,  Jerry! Recommended.

The Disorderly Orderly (1964) fully describes Jerry as an employee of a private hospital. It has some very good moments but a primary female character in the film is decidedly unsympathetic. As a result, the attempt at pathos falls somewhat flat. Skip it.

From this point on, Lewis never made another film that was truly worth watching. I think it may have something to do with the fact that his style of comedy had become redundantly repetitive and ultimately, passe’ (something akin to what may well be happening to Jerry Lewis doppelganger Jim Carrey right now…). Therefore, I shall simply gloss over what’s left…

The Family Jewels (1965):  Jerry plays lots of characters,  none of them funny!

Boeing, Boeing (1965):  Boring!  Boring!

Three on a Couch (1966): Misogyny on parade!

The Big Mouth (1967) Movies are your best entertainment, but not THIS movie!

Don’t Raise the Bridge, Lower the River (1968): Don’t cross this bridge when you come to it!

Hook, Line, and Sinker (1969): Throw it back!

Which Way to the Front? (1970): I actually like this film, but YOU won’t!

Eleven years interim…

Hardly Working (1981): Hardly worth watching!

The King of Comedy (1983): A strange, incomprehensible drama.

Cracking Up (1983): Intellectually distasteful!

Slapstick of Another Kind (1984): Wasted film stock!

Ten years interim…

Arizona Dream (1994): Annoyingly pretentious.

Funny Bones (1995): Dem bones! Dem Bones!  Dem EXTREMELY dry bones!

So…it’s very clear that Jerry Lewis is man of his time. And that time wasn’t very long. But hey…just remember this… if you hold on to the good films, the bad ones don’t matter.  Fortunately, the genuinely good Jerry Lewis comedies remain very good indeed!

Blair Kramer is a widely published writer for various publications, including “Velocity: Chicago,” “A Guide to Art in Chicago,” “Comic Book Collector Magazine,” “American Metal Magazine,” and the “Jewish American Historical Society.” He also dabbles in screenplays and comic books. There are only two things in his life that he loves more than good movies. They are his wife and family.

  • Jason Marcewicz

    Stating that The King of Comedy and Funny Bones are not “truly worth watching” in my opinion does a great disservice to both the films which are quite good, and also to Jerry’s acting which may be tame compared to his outlandish early efforts but entirely enjoyable just the same. I’d urge any film fan to give these two movies a shot…they’re both quite rewarding in their own ways.

  • Jim Smith

    I have great respect for Jerry Lewis:  He made some of the best comedy movies as a comedian can; his best movies of course were from the 50’s and early 60’s.  In addition to his flair for comedy, Jerry has done much on behalf of Muscular Dystrophy.  He brought a tremendous amount of awareness and money to conquer this horrible disease.  What the world needs now, are more people like Jerry Lewis.  God Bless You, Jerry.  You are an American Icon.

  • Wayne P.

    Have to agree with most of the article…Jerry especially gets rave reviews from me for Rock a Bye Baby (a great updating of the Miracle of Morgans Creek storyline, to my mind), which I would change to highly recommended and for, of course, the Nutty Professor.  But, he was pretty good also in 1953’s Scared Stiff, which may be overlooked, as his Carmen Miranda impersonation with Dean Martin rivaled that of Mickey Rooney’s earlier from Babes on Broadway in 1941!

  • Movie Fan

    Jerry Lewis made a couple of films that I will watch anytime they pop up on cable, which seems to be rare these days. My favorite Jerry Lewis film is “Visit To A Small Planet,” followed by “Cinderfella.” 

  • Go

    my favorite of course is the nutty professor…….rock a bye baby…i remember it but have not seen it in years….TCM does not have it yet in their library.  I saw the king of comedy and that was weird…needless to say I did not enjoy it. 

  • Blair Kramer

    All you Jerry Lewis fans may find this hard to believe, but I actually read a negative review of the original  “Nutty Professor”  Many years ago!  Some critics disliked his style of comedy so much,  they just couldn’t bring themselves to give an obviously great and classic film like “The Nutty Professor” the praise it very definitely deserved!  Of course I said that Jerry is an acquired taste,  but I think that takes dislike of a certain performer a little too far.  Oh well…  What can I say…?  That’s one of the reasons I don’t pay much attention to mainstream film critics any longer.  In fact,  I haven’t paid any attention to them for a good long time!

    • Wayne P.

      Hey, Blair: Now that youre nice article on the Jerry Lewis series is back out in circulation on the MU fanfare blog again..was wondering what youve been up to these days? We dont see your usually spot-on pieces popping up here anymore and I, for one, miss them…heres hoping nothing bad happened to make you take leave of us too soon! 😉

  • Juanita123516

    The Nutty Professor is definitely the funniest of Jerry Lewis’s solo roles. I  love his rendition of That Old Black Magic  – super smooth as Buddy Love. Unfortunately the quality of his later films suffered from either choice of script and/or  too much directorial control by Mr Lewis.

  • dpharrington

    Your thesis that Lewis did nothing good after 1964 should yield to at least one exception:  His role in The King of Comedy was the high point for him as an actor, rather than as a clown.  The subject — the annoying part of celebrity — is clear enough, so I must wonder why you find the film “incomprehensible”.

    Perhaps it’s because superfan Rupert Pupkin’s fantasies are played out with no visual clues — no shift to b&w or fading of color or anything else.  This is clearly intentional on Scorsese’s part and allows him a thoroughly ambiguous ending.

    Whether in reality or fantasy, Lewis’ acting is a marvel, and I think you should recognize this.

    • Barbara

      I agree. King of Comedy is far and away my favorite Jerry Lewis performance.

      • Blair Kramer

        My rejection of “King Of Comedy” has nothing at all to do with Jerry Lewis’ acting.  I recognize the fact that he did very good work in the film.  I just think Scorsese went a little too far with the Sandra Bernhard character. She was nothing more than a female version of Rupert Pupkin! We didn’t really need two Pupkin’s to get the point of the film.  Therefore, as far as I was and am concerned,  she was an unnecessary distraction (and why the heck did she take off her clothes in front of kidnap victim Jerry?!).

  • Jdahlof

    Great article, Blair.  Which is the film where Jerry enters an office to wait for somebody (a psychiatrist?) and keeps slipping off of the slippery vinyl-covered furniture?  I loved that scene.

    • Blair Kramer

      “The Patsy.”  Jerry is taken to the home of voice coach Hans Conried who is supposed to teach Jerry how to sing!  Conried is stunned as Jerry constantly slides off an antique wicker chair! The viewer has to wonder how long it will take him to finally break the chair!  

      • John Dahlof

        Thanks for the tip , Blair.  But I don’t think “The Patsy” is the movie I am remembering.  I bought a copy of “Patsy” and watched it, but I don’t think that is what I am remembering after all of these years.  I could swear that Jerry filmed a scene where he slipped off of a variety of furniture (red vinyl?) onto the floor in an office. Any other suggestions? Thanks! John D.

        • Blair Kramer

          Hmmm…  Ya got me.  If it isn’t THE PATSY,  I’m not sure which film it might be.  Of course, it could be that I simply don’t remember the scene.  In any case,  maybe someone else out there knows which film you’re talking about…?  How ’bout it…?  Anybody…?

        • Bruce Reber

          Maybe “Three On A Couch”?

  • Gary Vidmar

    Jerry Lewis was one of the great Hollywood hacks, with Elvis Presley running a very close second.

    • Bruce Reber

      Hey, don’t mess with the King of Rock N’ Roll! As for JL, he was one of the great comic talents/humanitarians ever! I can think of countless other hacks that Hollywood has produced, especially within the last 20 years or so!

  • Terry

    Actually, I do like “Which Way to the Front”.

  • Dave

    Not being French, I have trouble appreciatiing Jerry Lewis at times, and have not acquired the taste despite my love of horseradish.  In the parallel universe of classic British films, there was a Lewis look-alike but act-better (IMHO) by the name of Norman Wisdom.  If you are a Lewis fan, try his movies to see what I mean.

  • eldersburgrick

    THE FAMILY JEWELS is worth watching for his imitation of Terry Thomas alone.

  • Terry Peters

    “The Nutty Professor” is pure, to-die-for Jerry Lewis farce and entertainment!  Completely mesmerizing!!!!!

  • Charles H

    Cinderfella, Ladie’s Man, and The Nutty Professor: my three favorite Lewis films.
    One of my all-time favorite movie lines/scenes comes from The Nutty Professor: the scene in the bar where Lewis, as Buddy Love, sits beside Stella Stevens’ character, Stella Purdy, and kisses his hand, holds it over to her and says, “Have some”. Lewis’ delivery, the line and scene itself, shows why he really is a great writer, director, comedian and actor.

  • Tom

    I remember my mother taking me to see “Cinderfella’ when it came to ouor little local movie house in Temple City, California.  I lovoed it, and I fell in love with Anna Maria Alberghetti.  I couldn’t understand parts of it (I was pretty young!) and my mother had to explain parts of it were a fantasy.  Thanks for the reminder – need to watch it again!  I remember loving the way the decor of the manse got less and elss and it got to Jerry’s part – and the way Alberghetti’s  high heels suddenly became flats when they had their “moment!”

  • GrizzledGeezer

    Jerry Lewis is perhaps the most-untalented “success” in the history of American show business. As a child, I found him funny. As an adult, I put away childish things, and realized he was a hammy, self-centered jerk.

    Several years ago I saw a clip of Lewis and Martin doing their act. After Jerry had his chance to clown and be funny, Dino took his turn at singing. But Lewis, ever the perfect egotist, couldn’t leave Martin alone. He jumped around the stage, made funny noises, and generally disrupted Martin’s performance. What do you say about someone so utterly incapable of showing respect for his partner — not only on a professional level, but simply as a human being?

    I used to think “The Nutty Professor” was a good film. But I saw it again a few years ago, and it was almost as bad as anything else he ever did. The only interesting thing about it is how “Buddy Love” reflects Lewis’s true nature.

    The French, of course, think Lewis is a brilliant clown. There’s an
    episode of the Disney/Henson series “Dinosaurs” in which this is raked
    over the coals.

    Lewis also has an infamous uncompleted project, “The Day the Clown Cried”, about a clown who entertains children in a concentration camp before they’re gassed. It’s difficult to imagine how this film could be anything other than a new low in tastelessness, in any artistic genre.

    Lewis is actually a competent actor. His performance in Martin Scorsese’s “King of Comedy” needs no apology. Again, his movie role plays off (to a lesser degree) his real-life personality.

    For those who don’t know, “Visit to a Small Planet” is a satirical play by Gore Vidal. I had the pleasure of seeing it in 1960, with the inimitable Cyril Ritchard playing Kreton. The Lewis version bears little relation to Vidal’s. I hope Vidal was well-paid for allowing it to be submitted to Lewis’s “tender mercies”.

    Jerry Lewis is a moron, devoid of taste or talent.

    • Blair Kramer

      Of course, a great many people would vehemently disagree with “GrizzledGeezer.”  As I said,  Jerry Lewis is an acquired taste.  Some people just don’t like him.  Well, as they say, to each his own.  However, there are just a few things I would like to say…  Firstly, one need not be a Jerry Lewis fan to recognize the obvious fact that “The Nutty Professor” is a superior film.  Secondly, whether one appreciates Jerry’s style of comedy or not,  the notion that Jerry is a “..moron, devoid of taste or talent…” goes much too far.  Where Jerry Lewis is concerned, such an extreme statement certainly isn’t true. 

      P. S.: Should the Disney/Henson “Dinosaurs” TV series truly be considered the last word on the French view of Jerry Lewis…?

      Uh…  No…  Not really…

      • williamsommerwerck

        “The Nutty Professor” is superior in what way? I reminds me of Chaplin’s sound films, in which he has to be in virtually every scene. (Most of Chaplain’s sound films are terrible, and have largely been dismissed.) *

        Since my original post, I’ve learned more about “The Day the Clown Cried”. It’s based on a novel about an egotistical, self-centered comic who begins to discover his humanity in a concentration camp (the title is intentionally ironic). It seems that Lewis so sentimentalized the character and the story that the author pretty much disowned the film.

        I don’t know what to say to someone who finds “The King of Comedy” a “strange, incomprehensible drama”. It’s a perfectly comprehensible story about a jerk who wants to break into show business. (The ending /might/ be slightly confusing, as we see that Rupert Pupkin really is a talented comic.)

        I never even suggested that “Dinosaurs” presented “the last word on the French view of Jerry Lewis”. What it presents the last word on the American view of the French view of Jerry Lewis.

        * I remember going with a friend to see “A Countess from Hong Kong”. He said “This is going to be great, the critics don’t know what they’re talking about”, etc. He hated it.

        • Wayne P.

          Oh, wow…thanks for sharing my somewhat ‘radical’ friend ;). You are also the one behind an enlightening debate we engaged in for “The Five Best Twilight Zone Episodes” piece here at MU fanfare last year. Youre not however, as Blair K. jokingly suggested last year above, also a pseudonym for JL himself are you? We too had some fun on an article George wrote on the Lone Ranger as well, where I recall you also modified your viewpoint to a certain extent. Its more fun when one knows by what name their ‘fellow travelers’ fly by whilst youre debating them…but, all in good fun, my good man, and the banter is usually its own reward, if conducted in a civil manner by and large, so am grateful you have at least toned down the perhaps excessive verbiage vis-a-vis the much beloved, by the majority here anyway, Jerry Lewis. Carry on and I go in peace whoever you really will be tomorrow…as the fine Pretender once said in response to a query on that TV show of: Are you a doctor? I am today, he said!

          • williamsommerwerck

            One might argue that a reasonable synonym for “taste” is “baggage”. We all carry baggage that deeply influences our reaction to “art”. I have a pretty good idea of what my own biases are, and how they got that way. What puzzles me is… what sort of artistic bias would lead anyone to have a general liking for Jerry Lewis’s work?

      • Antone

        You criticize GG for using his own created facts and then [with a straight face] say that I should “recognize the obvious FACT that The Nutty Professor is a superior film.” That would be based on exactly what verifiable evidence?

    • Bruce Reber

      Many have said that with M&L, Jerry was the one who they really came to see, and that Dean only served as straight man for Jerry’s on-stage clowning. Dean was the smooth, laid back crooner who charmed the audience with his songs, and Jerry was the energetic fireball who drove them into hysteria with his frenetic slapstick comedy. It’s also been said even in the M&L movies, whenever Dean started to sing it slowed down the comic pace of the movie, and most of the audience left to get popcorn, soda, etc., and that the pace didn’t pick up again until Jerry resumed his antics. This was the major factor in their ultimate falling out and 1956 breakup.

  • Ochun57

    Jerry Lewis is my all time favorite comedian because he never used bad words and he was just too adorable. 

  • Davigeosa

    His movie “It’s Only Money” is the only movie of his I enjoyed. To me, his movies are childish and obnoxious, but this forgotten black & white movie is different. It’s enjoyable.

  • David from LA

    I would love to see Visit to a Small Planet (1960), Way…Way Out (1966), and Hardly Working (1981) released on dvd.  I enjoy all of Jerry Lewis’ work.   

  • Lil Abner

    I am in total agreement with the ‘geezer’  His stuff was fine as a kid, then looking at it again as an adult, I just cringe. It is too bad that Adam Sandler is following these same lines. Except that the so called comedy is getting worse. 

    • jumbybird

      There’s a difference, Lewis had talent…

  • Blair Kramer

    Ooopppsss…  Looks like I forgot “Way, Way out!”  But that’s OK.  That film is easy to forget.  You may as well forget it too!

    • Tchase1

      I love ‘Way, Way, Out!’

      • Blair Kramer

        Regarding “Way, Way Out,”  I wasn’t amused by the casual treatment of insanity and the brutal violence that supposedly stemmed from it!  I don’t know about you, but I just didn’t laugh at the image of a bound and gagged Astronaut who had all his teeth knocked out!  To me,  pain and suffering just isn’t funny. Of course, these scenes didn’t involve Jerry Lewis. Still, they ruined the film for me.  Whatever the reason, if a comedy isn’t truly funny, well…

  • Publius

    Jerry lewis has always been an enigma to me.  My mother saw most of his output, but I hardly ever saw any of his movies except HOOK, LINE and SINKER.  My sister’s first husband adored him.  On the new L&H collection that just came out on DVD, they interview Lewis about Stan laurel and he blatently lies about historical information.  He claims that Stan actually “advised” him on THE BELL-BOY where I have read from other reliable sources that Laurel intially refused to collaborrate because he did not want to destroy Lewis’ freindship to risk argument.  The sources say that Lewis asked Stan many times, who always refused.  Although Stan may have given Lewis some suggestions, he was never paid as an advisor.  Although I have great respect for all comedians, and admire Lewis because of his Muscuar Dystrophy telethons, I have felt that his blatent lieing has soured any and all appettite for seeing his movies.  I think that Leonard Maltin summed up his style best in THE GREAT MOVIE COMEDIANS.

    • Blair Kramer

      And exactly what did Leonard Maltin say about Jerry Lewis?  Some of us don’t have a copy of his book… 

  • Arthur_G

     Hollywood is full of untalented successes, but I don’t consider Jerry one of them. Not all of his movies are good, but his good ones place him among the screen comedic greats.

    • GrizzledGeezer

      Among silent comics, three have near-universal acceptance as geniuses — Chaplin, Keaton, and Lloyd. * All produced a substantial body of work of consistently high quality that are still watched, almost a century later. Given that Lewis is basically a “visual” comic, his work has to be tried against the work of these masters. When it is, it is found seriously wanting.

      I don’t like Puccini’s music — it’s cheaply manipulative. But at least it’s well-crafted. Lewis’s work doesn’t fall even into that category.

      Lewis’s “comedy” was, and always will remain, strictly for pre-schoolers.

      * If Laurel & Hardy hadn’t produced so many forgettable (and worse) sound films, they might have been the fourth member of this group. As it is, “Big Business” is one of the funniest movies ever made. It takes one of the basic ideas of silent comedy, developing it perhaps better than anyone else ever did. It is almost lethally funny. Nothing in Lewis’s ouevre (that I’ve seen) comes remotely close. Contrast, for example, the “Frasier” sequence in which Niles has to press his pants before an important banquet. The mayhem that ensues is superior to anything Lewis ever did. (David Hyde Pierce is an outstanding actor. Anyone studying acting would do well to examine his work, especially the way he perfectly integrates bits of “business” into his performance.)

      • GrizzledGeezer

        One other thing… Jerry Lewis’s films are not an acquired taste. They are an acquired distaste.

        • Wayne P.

          Hey GG:  Film is called an art-form and not a science for a reason…the output can only be evaluated subjectively, not objectively, as its created to and for tastes of both the creator and their audience and is not based on quantifiable facts that can be reasonably debated to a conclusion (am speaking of the movie presentation, not its subject matter here).  Or, in other words, were all entitled to our own opinions but not our own set of facts.

          Perhaps, if your approach was to be a tad bit more humble in stating your views, folks would be willing to argue them back and forth with you more freely…but, if you seem to act like you know something too much and then include such negative personal comments like using the term “strictly for pre-schoolers” regarding a strict matter of opinion, that doesnt lead to a constructive dialogue but only a boring monologue and it may insult the intelligence of those youre trying to persuade…of course, opinions are personal, but we can agree to disagree only if were respectful of each others points…this is just a word to the wise, and not intended to offend, which is the whole point of these discussions by any reasonable standard! 

          We must be mindful of informing each other but not convincing the other person to the point of having to ‘win’ at all costs, which means you may have already lost not only the argument, due to ignorance or unwillingness to see another set of views on a matter, but also your audiences trust in the very thing you want them see.  😉

          • OZ ROB

            Had the opinion of GG been the Headline Article you may have a point Wayne,,but all the ensuing opinions that follow the Main Story are an entirely personal response  ,I read with an open mind all the opinions and enjoy them for the contrast & diversity on the given subject,,. I find it very interesting & entertaining to read others very personal and emotive descriptive terms as with GG ,,and at the other end of the scale, O,57  who claims ” the all time greatest”…..PS on the topic,,I have no interest in watching, J. Lewis films…. 

          • Blair Kramer

            Saaaayyyyy… Wayne P., 
            Ya know,  I was just thinking…  Grizzled Geezer’s comments regarding Jerry Lewis are so over the top and downright outrageous, it may well be that my reaction was all wrong.  Could it be that GG was really just tweaking us?  Was he pulling our proverbial leg?  You know the old saying:  Demostrating absurdity by being absurd!  Is GG really and truly,  the one and only, JERRY LEWIS HIMSELF?!  Is Jerry Lewis simply having some personal fun with us?!  You say no!  You say unlikely!  And in fact,  I might agree with you.  Except that GG’s plainly silly sniping is just the sort of behavior in which Jerry Lewis might engage!  He may well be making fun of himself just so he can sit back and watch the sparks fly! Think about it… GrizzledGeezer certainly didn’t write anything that anyone can take seriously!  And Jerry Lewis is hardly ever serious! Have we been taken-in by a supreme clown?!   

          • Wayne P.

            You got a point there Blair, but he IS clearly insulting our trusty keep it civil, no hitting in the clinches reasoning here with his personal diatribes and hes done it seriously b4 if you check out his profile here.  I wish you were right as am all in for a good go-round of subjective viewpoints but we dont need invective.

            I see, btw, that youve written in Velocity, Chicago…love that term and it reminds me of being a firm believer in the velocity of money; fiscally conservate-style, that is…hmm, I say to myself:  self would love a good debate on raising interest rates to stimulate the economy by increasing investment income of all kinds …but as HAL said to Dave Bowman in 2001: I’m afraid I cant do that (at least for now;).  Do love being absurd and the silly humor it inspires though, as you may well too…and, in fact, am seriously thinking of popping in a great Christopher Guest/Eugene Levy 2nd City reunion flick ala Best in Show or A Mighty Wind (personal fave as a semi-frustrated ex/musician for years in DC:)!

          • Antone

            I have no dog in this fight. But I do dislike two people ganging up on one. Your snide remarks are not addressed to the offending party [GG], but back and forth to your sidekick. You should have the courtesy to insult someone directly, or better yet learn the art of dropping a debate after you have made your point.

          • Wayne P.

            Sorry, but youre wrong…just go back up 3 comments from yours above mine here and you will see that I directly replied to GG…and then below that, of course, Blair K. (who just so happens to be the author of this fine piece, btw;) posted a comment to mine so I responded to that and so on it goes…all good back and forth/give and take, if you will, in the blogosphere that is MU Fanfare! Unfortunately, you also missed the point entirely of what first Blair and then myself were trying to get across to the snarky GG: ad-hominen personally insulting attacks (especially his on Jerry AND his fans also) are not exactly the best way to prove your position…how about fact-based supporting evidence for whatever opinion one chooses to bring to the table here, for starters?

          • Antone

            I take your opinion that I am wrong because my tastes do not coincide with those of you and the excellent Blair as a compliment. Otherwise I’ll take the advice of Burt Lancaster in Judgment at Nuremberg and add nothing else to what I have already said. You may go ahead and take your usual 5,000 last words.

        • Blair Kramer

          OK, I’ll give it another try… It may well be that any number of pre-schoolers would enjoy a Jerry Lewis film or two.  But the notion that Jerry’s comedy is “strictly”  for pre-schoolers is downright silly on its face.  It goes without saying that Mr. Lewis has countless adult fans around the world.  Unless…  Well…  You’re not seriously trying to say that we adult fans of Jerry Lewis are on par with pre-schoolers, are you?  That would be akin  to calling us childish and stupid! You wouldn’t be thoughtless enough to offer such an insult,  would you?  If so,  that’s also downright silly on its face. 

          One other thing… The Jerry Lewis films certainly ARE a matter of personal taste.  About this clear and obvious fact there simply is no SERIOUS debate. You don’t like them?  You find them distasteful?  Fine.  That’s YOU. After all is said and done,  you should have simply said that you don’t like the work of Jerry Lewis and you’re not going to watch his films! Everything else you wrote is completely and utterly meaningless!  It has nothing to do with other people!  It doesn’t apply to anyone else!  It only applies to YOU! I’m going to say it one more time: TO EACH HIS OWN!

          P S:  Regarding the Martin and Lewis nightclub act of the 40’s and 50’s, there was nothing the least bit wrong with Jerry’s performances.  Their combined style and approach on staged was well known and very popular.  Indeed, their nightclub act eventually led to their film careers. Of course, personal problems developed between Martin and Lewis over time.  But it had little to do specifically with the way they performed together on stage. Martin was a singer and straight man. He was the foil for Jerry’s clowning in the background. Within the context of their nightclub act,  Jerry Lewis certainly did not “disrespect” his partner. 

  • Publius

    In answer to your inquiry:  Basically Leonard Maltin said in the book I quoted, that Lewis was never able to transfer his basic comedy character to the screen, adequately; or in the style that he had developed with Dean Martin; Lewis tried to inject too much pathos into his comedy, with the result that the laughs disappear.  Although pathos makes his work interesting from a psychological point of view (which is why the French adore him) it sacrifices the laughs, which should be what the comedy is all about.  According to people who worked with Lewis, he has great taste in himself, but not in his pictures; he would insist on putting in crude jokes and off-color stuff despite the criticism of his comedy writers.  This was confirmed by the late Steve Allen, who once met Lewis at a State Fair in Ohio where he was doing lewd jokes in front of audiences that had brought their children to see him.

    See: Leonard Maltin  The Great Movie Comedians:  From Chaplin to Woody Allen.  Bonanza books.  Preprint: 1980.  You might be able to get a copy on Amazon.  I like the book because Maltin doesn’t go beyond four or five pages for each comedian.  We are both Laurel and Hardy fans so I wanted to see what he had to say about their comedy style.  You may not agree with everything that Maltin writes, but it is a good read for the summer.

    • Blair Kramer

      Thanks Publius.  I heard that Jerry often tried to insert adult humor into his otherwise silly films,  And then, later, recognizing that the adult humor fell flat (in other words,  it wasn’t funny),  he personally cut the stuff out during editing.  To tell you the truth,  I don’t fault him for trying to use a favorite but inappropriate joke now and then. You just can’t always know what will or won’t work. At least he had enough insight to recognize his mistakes. I often write a truly great sentence or paragraph that I later remove because it just doesn’t quite fit the material on which I’m working.  The writing is often so good it genuinely pains me to remove it.  But remove it I always do.  If it doesn’t fit,  then it doesn’t fit.  Therefore, out it goes!  Every creative person, including Jerry Lewis,  has such experiences. Oh well, what can you do?   

      • joescarp

        You should have left out that last sentence. 🙂

  • Rich D

    I like the Jim Carrey comparison, very true.  The Nutty Professor and a handful of the Martin & Lewis films are some of the best comedies ever made.    

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  • Jdahlof

    Hi Blair,

    You may remember 9 months ago, I asked you about a Jerry Lewis movie where Jerry’s character continually slips off of the furniture in a psychiatrist’s office. It turns out that it was “Cracking Up” that I was thinking of. The rest of the movie is pretty dreadful, but that scene appearing under the opening credits still cracks me up. It’s also clever the way Morty Stevens’ theme music (with “vocal” by Marcel Marceau, the mime) crescendoes whenever a credit appears on screen, but is silent when Stevens’ name appears.

    John D.

  • Koob

    Blair (my old Budlong friend?), my nephew is a big Lewis fan and a drawer of comics. I’m sending him copies of this article and your articles on cartoons.

  • T.G.

    No, the Delicate Delinquent is quite good, since above all, (in addition to being both funny and dramatic) it has a good story line. Which I think Jerry’s later movies don’t have; although they still have a lot of great laughs from his zany antics.

  • Bruce Reber

    As I commented on “Jerry And Dean’s List”, I recommend the book “Dean And Me”, which offers and in-depth look into Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis – how they met, their rise to popularity as one of the great comedy teams, their nightclub, TV and movie success, the friction between the two that led to their breakup, and their careers and lives after that.

  • Cougar

    I remember seeing “The Family Jewals” as a kid, I thought it was pretty funny.

  • Bruce Reber

    When I was 6 years old, my entire family went to a drive-in movie to see “The Disorderly Orderly” right after it was released in 1964. I thought it was very funny, and when I saw it again as an adult it was even funnier! The chase with the ambulances at the end is absolutely hilarious! I’ve seen most of JL’s movies (both with Dean Martin and solo), and they give me nothing but huge, loud laughs, something that’s sorely needed in the world today. I’m curious Blair Kramer, why did you REALLY list TDD as one of your NOT RECOMMENDED JL movies?

    • Madmanny

      I too thought that “Disorderly” shouldn’t have gotten a “skip it” in this review. That was not a bad Jerry movie at all.

    • Bruce Reber

      It should be TDO, not TDD (acronym for “The Delicate Delinquent”, which isn’t all that bad IMO).

  • Antone

    I admire Jerry’s charity telethons, visits to the troops on USO tours and his longevity—which means that many people find his movies hilarious. I just don’t happen to be of them. As a youth I preferred the relative subtlety of The Three Stooges and the Bowery Boys to the frantic stupidity of Jerry’s characters. Sadly, I abandoned Curly & Satch too as I grew older

    I have one inflexible rule on comedy watching [akin to the Gibb’s investigator rules on NCIS]: Never watch a comedian who finds himself much funnier than you do. I thought he was at the top of the list for obviously enjoying his own humor until Jim Carrey came along.

  • Bruce Reber

    “The Bellboy” IMO is also a very funny movie and one of JL’s best. My favorite scene – a couple drives up in a VW Beetle and they tell Jerry to get the luggage out of the trunk. A few moments later he’s seen carrying the VW’s engine to their room, negligent of the fact the trunk on an old Beetle was in the FRONT, and the engine was in the BACK – he thought it was the luggage! Priceless! Actually, the fact that Jerry doesn’t talk in “The Bellboy” makes it better IMO – the other peoples’ reactions to his insane antics are way funnier than anything he’d have to say.

  • Anthony Saenz

    Thanks – I so love Jerry Lewis… He is a genius… And he came up with video assist. No dummy.. Many people in the business were very jealous of the up start. A force of nature he is!

  • nicolas

    Watching The Bellboy, I did not think that Lewis was tipping his hat off to the silent era, but to Jacque Tati. Why doesn’t he talk, I think that the end of the film is the message of the film. that in our society we really undervalue certain people. I also thought that he pokes fun at himself in a certain homage to Felleni’s La Dolce Vita, when the real Jerry Lewis comes to that hotel. It is not a really funny film I would have to admit, but it is somewhat clever. I also felt that the real laugh of the film is the hotel that let him film there, as the management is made to look pretty bad.

  • drew3758

    The author left out “Way …Way… Out”(which was pretty bad) in his filmography. He seems to be the only person to think that “The King of Comedy” was a “strange incomprehensible drama” . Almost all critics praised his acting. As for”Which way to the Front?”,it was a cute film but obviously his attempt at “To Be Or Not To Be”Then there is “Boeing,Boeing”.First of all ,this really is not A JERRY LEWIS film,it was based on a pretty successful Broadway play. Second of all,Jerry played straightman to Tony Curtis.Lastly “Visit to a Small Planet” was also a Broadway show which was written by Gore Vidal.While some of the schtick was all Lewis ,the dialogue was all Vidal.
    Jerry Lewis was a genius but he started to believe his own publicity.If you look at his work on TV(His version of “TheJazz Singer” was extremely self indulgent).However,his work on “Wiseguy ” was by all means some of his best work.
    I grew up

    • joescarp

      I agree that “The King of Comedy” is well worth seeing. When you’ve got De Niro and Scorsese together with Lewis, you get a very interesting and well-acted film.

  • drew3758

    with Lewis and I am still a big fan. I am so much of a fan that I saw his “Greatest Hits “live show(which was extremely self indulgent). I knew what the show was,but it was probably a last chance to see a comic legend.

  • hellodolly

    Does anyone know the name of the black and white movie in which Jerry Lewis pretends to play percussion instruments?

    • GeorgeDAllen

      Blair K might have a more definitive answer (since I am very light on my Jerry Lewis expertise), but could you be thinking of his often-mimicked boardroom pantomime to the Count Basie piece “Blues in Hoss’s Flat” from The Errand Boy? Here’s an article about that bit that also includes the scene from a YouTube video:

    • 2richard1

      Visit to a small planet. Jerry had his faults but for kids like me in the 50s I saw them all the time and were great. The only one not so much was nutty professor it seemed different than his usually cinderella/fella roles. Being a jerk well that’s the reason some people are better in a taped format than real life you take what you specialize in.

  • Dean Loomis

    This is one the best Jerry Lewis films review I have read. Only one (major) objection : how could you dismiss THE LADIE’S MAN, which is probably his best solo film along with THE NUTTY PROFESSOR

  • roger lynn

    my faves are Geisha Boy,whose minding the store family jewels,,

  • Psalm1man

    I DID like Which Way to the Front.

  • Eldersburg Rick

    I disagree with the comment regarding THE FAMILY JEWELS. His “Captain Eddie” character is a hysterical send off of British comic Terry-Thomas.

  • Butch Knouse

    You left out The Delicate Delinquent. I recomend it, along with The Family Jewels and Which Way to the Front.

  • Tony

    No ‘Way, Way Out?’

  • Roger Wilko

    “The Nutty Professor” is worth all the kudos it’s gotten and for a “silent’ film, Lewis did a nice job with some of the set pieces in “The Bellboy”. Many of his Martin-and-Lewis flicks are entertaining, but that has as much to do with the always-professional (and funny) Dean Martin than anything Lewis did.
    Other than that, Lewis is a totally overrated comedic “genius”. Most of his films are not funny and his act wore thin a long, long, long time ago. On the personal level, folks who worked with him confirm his status as a world-class jerk.
    He’s a waste of time.

    Humanitarian? Look what he did to his own family – including his illegitimate daughter and his youngest son – who is now dead. Terrible guy.

  • Ken

    Does anyone know the name of the film where jerry Lewis is involved with lots of very small cars. He might have been selling them, I can’t remember. Ken.

  • Kayley Brown Thompson

    Skip The Geisha Boy, The Delicate Delinquent, The Ladies Man, Boeing Boeing, and The Disorderly Orderly????? Those are all great movies of Jerry’s too. You really have watch all of them and decide for yourself which ones you like. I happen to like many of the ones that this writer hates, except Slapstick of Another Kind which everybody hates.