Jerry after Dean

Thanks to Olive Films, three missing titles in the Jerry Lewis filmography have been filled in, all transitional works in one way or another. From 1958 come “Rock-a-Bye Baby” and “The Geisha Boy,” both directed and co-written by Frank Tashlin and the first features to be fully conceived for Jerry without Dean. The VistaVision transfers, particularly in Blu-ray, do full justice to the stylized color schemes that Tashlin carried over from his days as an animator, while the element of Chaplinesque pathos is way, way up (is it a coincidence that “Rock-a-Bye” features two performers, Isobel Elsom and Reginald Gardiner, with major Chaplin credits in their backgrounds?). “Boeing Boeing” is a heavy-breathing, slamming-door farce very much reflective of the “swinging” sexual climate of 1965 — a minor effort (apparently made to fulfill Lewis’s obligation to the producer Hal Wallis for one more film on his Martin and Lewis contract) that has the novelty value of presenting Jerry largely as a straight man, with the comedy, such as it is, carried by Lewis’s personal friend Tony Curtis (the star of Jerry’s first directorial effort, the 1949 home movie “How to Smuggle a Hernia Across the Border”). It all adds up to quite a feast for Lewisians, who will relish the chance to dig into Jerry’s inimitable, and inextricable, combination of comic genius and personal pathology. My New York Times review is here.

127 comments to Jerry after Dean

  • Rich Deming

    I saw The Geisha Boy only as a child watching it on a B&W TV, so I will be interested to see it again.

  • It’s amazing how one meditation on Lewis can demand reference to so many other aspects of popular and movie culture. Evidence that he was at the center of at least a universe.

  • jbryant

    Haven’t seen THE GEISHA BOY in ages either, but I can still hear that kid tailing after Jerry, calling “Mistah Wooley, Mistah Wooley!”

    My memories of ROCK-A-BYE BABY are similarly dim — I had even forgotten my follow Kentuckian Marie McDonald is in it. I mainly know her from La Cava’s underrated (IMO) LIVING IN A BIG WAY, in which she unfortunately lacks the charm and acting chops that might have elevated that film to a more respectable level.

    It’s a shame that BOEING BOEING director John Rich died on January 29, practically on the eve of this release. My opinion of the film is pretty much the same as Dave’s — some good energy and a fun cast, but ultimately little more than an amusingly dated throwback. However, Rich directed episodes of just about every TV show I ever watched growing up, winning Emmys for “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and “All in the Family.” I think most of his success came in sitcoms, but he also helmed episodes of such dramas as “The Twilight Zone,” “Gunsmoke” and “Bonanza.” BOEING was probably the highlight of his limited feature career, which also included two Elvis Presley, a semi-sequel to David Swift’s THE INTERNS, and WIVES AND LOVERS, which at least inspired a good Bacharach/David song.

  • Stephen Bowie

    I like WIVES AND LOVERS, which is a pretty lively (if superfluous) attempt to repeat what Rich was doing on THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW.

  • jbryant

    WIVES AND LOVERS is another one that I saw waaaay back in my adolescence, probably on some afternoon movie show. Barely remember a thing about it. Maybe it’ll pop up some day on Netflix or YouTube.

  • Robert Benayoun has a really good essay on Jerry Lewis in the book “Positif 50 Years”. In Benayoun’s profile of the director he brings up Lewis interest in technology and equipment as well a humanism that runs through his creative process and life. Some people say that Tashlin’s heir in contemporary film comedy are the Farrelly brothers. Similarities include, to use “Hall Pass” as an example, include a visual creativity, an interest in unique people, and emotionally infantile males. Projects like “The Three Stooges” also show their interest in film comedy history. On the special feature of the making-of “The Heartbreak Kid” they describe their process as being character driven and that they improvise on set to try to find moments of humor.

    These films seem to be coming out just in time for the new book, “Tashlinesque: The Hollywood Comedies of Frank Tashlin” by Ethan De Seife (Wesleyan University Press).

    And on the subject of an older thread, the French cinema fantastique, it looks like the Cinémathèque française is doing a series on it : http://www.cinematheque.fr/fr/dans-salles/hommages-retrospectives/fiche-cycle/fantastique-francais,450.html

  • Two bits of Lewis ephemera popped up on DVD recently. One is a color kinescope of a live one-hour adaptation of THE JAZZ SINGER, broadcast in 1959 as part of the LINCOLN-MERCURY STARTIME show and directed by Ralph Nelson. Lewis plays the straight bits very straight (Eduard Franz, playing his cantor father, gets so mad at him at one point his yarmulke flies off and drops to the floor) and the end, where Lewis stands in for a stricken Franz at a religious service wearing a red clown nose, is…well, Lewisian. Does it presage THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED? In any case in the accompanying documentary Lewis’ son Chris says there are 1,500 more hours of Jerryiana awaiting refurbishment and release (he filmed, and kept, everything).

    Another remnant of an earlier epoch of TV now on DVD is an episode of Joan Rivers’ “THAT SHOW,” an afternoon program that ran in 1968-1969 (as Rivers established big screen cred in THE SWIMMER) and was apparently quite successful for NBC. Filmed on a dinky set the show had Rivers debate a topic of interest with an expert and a celebrity. Lewis takes “Children in Show Business” very seriously, praising his son Gary (whose group, The Playboys, had a No. 1 hit with “This Diamond Ring” in 1965)–then veering off into the topic of spanking with the expert, who is as against as a tougher-love Lewis is for. Things get tense as Jerry digs in, giving the half-hour the chilly vibe of the scene in THE KING OF COMEDY where Lewis ejects De Niro from his home. Rivers looks relieved as the show concludes, onwards and upwards to discussions of fitness with Florence Henderson and men’s furs with Shecky Green.

  • Steve Rubin

    My most vivid memory of Geisha Boy was a bit where Sessue Hayakawa does a quick bit as Colonel Saito, direct from Bridge on the River Kwai, directing English prisoners who are apparently working on a bridge across his personal Koi pond. It was hilarious.

  • I’d like to share with fellow Lewis fans some early news of a just-completed personal essay film by my friend and sometime writing collaborator Mehrnaz Saeed-Vafa, called Jerry and Me, which recounts her life story, in Tehran, London, and Chicago, in relation to her enthusiasm for and shifting identification with Jerry Lewis. It’s only 38 minutes long but also quite packed; she’s been working on it for years, and it’s quite confessional as well as extremely funny. It includes clips from a good many Lewis films dubbed into Farsi (as well as Iranian-dubbed clips from Rio Bravo, Psycho, and Imitation of Life, among many other films, with subtitles that render the mistranslations that are sometimes involved, which are quite hilarious)….This film hasn’t yet received any public showings, but hopefully it will start making the rounds at festivals and elsewhere fairly soon. It’s really something.

  • Yes, Steve, the Hayakawa bit is very funny — I write about it in my Times review — and is typical of the self-referential movie gags that Tashlin liked to put in his cartoons. I wonder if Paramount had to pay Columbia for clearance of the brief clip from “Kwai” that Tashlin incorporates, when Jerry looks back at Hayakawa’s compound and sees Alec Guinness approaching. Presumably, “Colonel Bogey March” is in the public domain, while Lean himself was probably inspired to use it by its appearance as a similarly anti-authoritarian gesture in Hitchcock’s “The Lady Vanishes.”

  • Johan Andreasson

    I had forgotten that “Colonel Bogey” is in THE LADY VANISHES (and I’ve seen that film a number of times), but I don’t think that its use in KWAI is a reference to Hitchcock, but rather a way of insulting the Axis powers without using words. There are many versions of the lyrics, but they all insult Nazi leaders in a very unsubtle way, and when whistled by prisoners of war during WW II the meaning would have been clear to their captors.

    There are many versions of the lyrics, but this is the one I learned from an uncle who came to Sweden as a war refugee in the 40s:

    Hitler has only got one ball,
    Göring has two but rather small,
    Himmler is somewhat sim’lar,
    But poor Goebbels has no balls at all.

  • My parents took me to see both THE GEISHA BOY and ROCK-A-BYE BABY. I was 4 in 1958, and they are among my earliest memories of movie going. Happy ones. Jerry Lewis was likely considered ideal film fare for kids.

    Little boys appear as countless characters in film and TV Westerns. The little boys in THE GEISHA BOY and Westerns are possibly “members of the audience incorporated into the casts of the films”. They allow the kids who were primary audience members for both Jerry Lewis and Westerns to see a version of themselves on screen, taking part in the action.

    THE GEISHA BOY was likely my first or nearly first introduction to Japanese culture. It is a good thing, that I saw Japan as symbolized by the kind, sweet little boy in the film. In 1958, it was very much harder for Americans to get views of other countries, with color photography still a luxury, fewer picture books, no internet, video stores or DVD. Paradoxically, Americans really valued their glimpses of foreign cultures.

    A big deal, from a kid’s point of view, was Jerry Lewis’ pet rabbit Harry, who he uses for his magic act in THE GEISHA BOY. Jerry is always calling out “Harry! Harry!” to his missing rabbit.
    Our beloved family cat Harry (1967-1986) was likely named after Harry the rabbit in THE GEISHA BOY. Harry only rarely watched cinema, but he was fascinated by Julien Temple’s music video THE STRAY CAT STRUT, likely because of the cats seen it.

  • jbryant

    Ha – funny, Mike, that you mention your cat’s viewing preference. One of our cats, Piper, never pays any attention to the television — except on the two occasions I’ve watched Raoul Walsh’s CHEYENNE. For some reason, both times she curled up in front of me facing the TV for the entire time. We’re even pretty sure she’s added “Cheyenne!” to her limited vocabulary, though it’s hard to be sure.

    Our other cat, Ruggles, is named after a movie but never pays much attention to movies, not even his namesake.

  • Barry Putterman

    Tashlin’s work at Warner Brothers cartoons has been well documented, but little is known about his work at Columbia in between has two Warners stints. He seems to have been more of a producer than a director there, but I am just beginning to look at the Columbia cartoons from that period and they seem so far to be deserving of much more attention.

    The studio system cartoons of that time seem to create their own middle ground of a blend between the self contained worlds of theatrical features and the constant self referential qualities of radio (and later television) variety shows. Tashlin brought many of those cartoon qualities into his featute films, jast as radio variety show stalwarts like Bob Hope and Bing Crosby brought elements of that world into their feature films.

    Jerry Lewis also brought referential elements into his films. However, unlike Tashlin, who would refer to what was current in films (like the REAR WINDOW bit in ARTISTS AND MODELS), Lewis would refer to the films of his childhood (like having George Raft, Gloria Jean and Harry James in THE LADIES MAN).

    There is a TV variety show special which Lewis hosted around 1957 where he does a Charlie Chan sketch complete with Keye Luke reprising Number One Son. And in the tradition of variety show breaking out of character, Lewis would rejoinder Luke’s constant references to him as “Pop” with lines like; “What’s with Pop? You’re 47, I’m 33. I used to see you in the movies when I was a kid.”

    Sorry to end with a downer, but as long as we’re talking cats, I would ask everyone to offer a kind thought in their reflections for my fur-faced roommate Casey who is quite ill.

  • Tony Williams

    I’m teaching Jerry at the moment and will view this thread with interest. As he says in the recent documentary “All my work is on youtube.” THE GEISHA BOY is one such film which I viewed. In my opinion, it is the one film where he successfully achieves a balance between Chaplin pathos and his comedy technique. However, did anyone notice the presence of the black female p.r. at the airport prior to Marie McDonald’s departure? This is very similar to the briefly glimpsed African American man at the first golf match scene in THE CADDY who passes Jerry and sticks out like a sore thumb in a white crowd.Naturally most entertainers did not agree with segregation and Jerry knew Count Basie from the time he was a theater usher. But Jerry could not go too far if I’m right about his progressive ideas. The case of Chaplin and how the movie establishment may have railroaded Roscoe Arbuckle )according to Andy Edmonds)could have been on his mind.

    Tonight, I run HOLLYWOOD OR BUST.

  • Tony Williams

    P.S. For Barry, My thoughts for Casey are very special. We have four and have lost the same number over the past 22 years. I hope he recovers.

  • Barry Putterman

    Tony, very much appreciated.

    We all know very well about how much Jerry Lewis is admired in France. And, I’m sure that most everybody knows that he is much admired in many other parts of Europe as well.

    However, I’d be interested to know from Junko how Jerry Lewis and his films are perceived in Asia. Particularly in light of his proclivity for portraying some, shall we say, broad stroke Asian characters.

  • Vivian

    Barry, my hopes are with Casey also.

  • Barry, I’m afraid that the notion of Jerry Lewis being admired especially in France is pretty much an old wives’ tale. It was true (and then in a limited way) only in the 50s and 60s, when Robert Benayoun was writing all his great texts about him, but Lewis himself has pointed out many times that he’s much more popular in other countries. I was interviewed about 15 years ago by Les Inrockuptibles (roughly, a sort of French Rolling Stone), and even then they made made a point of indicating how weird I was by mentioning that I preferred Jerry Lewis to Woody Allen (who was and is much more admired in France). Of course, the dirty little secret about Lewis’s popularity is that he was never any bigger anywhere in the world than he was in the U.S. during the 1950s (which is of course why he was turning out two pictures a year for Paramount); if it hadn’t been for that, they surely never would have heard of him in France.

  • Barry Putterman

    I’m going to assume that there are many in the Dave Kehr community who are rooting for Casey. And it would be unfair of me to repeatedly break into the conversation if a number of you decide to verbalize that feeling. However, when the Billy Williams of the world wide web sends her good wishes, attention must be paid. So, the Ed Brophy of cinephilia and his black and white buddy thank you.

  • david hare

    Good luck with Casey, Barry!

  • Barry, my thoughts and that of Diogo, the feline to whom I have the honour of being staff, are with you and Casey.

    Jonathan, I agree with you on the Jerry Lewis popularity outside the US; in Portugal he was absolutely huge up until the 1980s, with many of his films actually being regularly re-released as Summer season fillers on the big screen. My earlier memories of Lewis are actually of seeing him in the theatre, rare for films of 1950s vintage at the time. Unfortunately, he has since completely fallen out of favour, in part I should think because of the below-par later movies; I remember seeing “Smorgasbord” and “Slapstick of Another Kind” (which I haven’t seen since) and being very disappointed that he had stooped this low from stuff such as “The Bellboy” and “The Disorderly Orderly”. A DVD release of his key Paramount titles sailed completely under the radar a couple of years back. It’s about time he got his due again.

  • Barry Putterman

    David and Jorge, Casey and I thank you.

    Jonathan, you raise a number of interesting points which I think would be worth discussing. Of course that Jerry Lewis and France thing is something which grew to be a very sore point with him. Sort of like telling Artie Shaw how much you liked his record of “Begin the Beguine.” Lewis always took pains to mention how much his popularity took in much more of Europe and that is exactly what I said above.

    More interesting is the issue of Lewis’ popular and critical profile receding with time. It certainly doesn’t surprise me that any magazine organized along the lines of Rolling Stone would think it weird that you prefer a comedian of the past to somebody more contemporary. It would almost be like saying that you prefer Artie Shaw to Jay-Z.

    But, as Jorge seconds, I believe that both popular and critical affection for Lewis HAS waned over the years and it would be interesting to explore the reasons why.

    Nevertheless, I think it is necessary to make a distinction between popular and critical success. I’m not aware that there is any secret regarding the phenomenal popularity of Martin & Lewis and their movies during the 50s in this country. And certainly, if the films that they made for Hal Wallis which were directed by Norman Taurog and George Marshall and others had not been so popular, Lewis would not have been given the opportunity to direct himself. However, I’m similarly not aware that those Taurog and Marshall films contribute in any large way to the critical reception o the later Lewis self directed films.

  • Junko Yasutani

    About Jerry Lewis movie in Japan, he was very popular for children. Lewis is similar to popular Japanese comedian Enomoto, so Japanese audience was familiar with that kind of comedy person.

    About Asian stereotype in Lewis movie, I don’t remember offensive stereotype because Lewis movie, both by Tashlin or Lewis, was like living cartoon, all characters exaggerated except for one woman character that Lewis liked or had romantic feeling for.

    Barry, I hope your cat becomes well. I don’t believe but I will make offering to Tama, cat who gives luck. Maybe it will help anyway.

  • jbryant

    Ruggles, Piper and I are also in Casey’s corner.

    It’s a good thing my grandmother never met Artie Shaw — his version of “Begin the Beguine” was her favorite record. Although I expect if he let loose with his famous verbal abuse, she could have backed him right down.

    Jorge: I saw SMORGASBORD (aka CRACKING UP) again last year on Netflix and quite liked it, for what that’s worth.

  • Peter Henne

    Barry, My thoughts are with both of you. I hope that Casey pulls through. It cheers me to think you and I have fondness for cats in common.

  • Tom Brueggemann

    On the recent cable doc on Lewis, he said that France was not among his top countries in terms of fandom – I think he said (West) Germany was best, but it might have been another European nation.

  • Gregg Rickman

    Barry, as a sometime cat companion, best to you and Casey. The one Columbia Tashlin I’ve seen is THE FOX AND THE GRAPES (1941), which set the template for the later Roadrunner
    series back at WB. Tashlin’s influence at both studios (where he spent relatively little time all told) was immense. I’d recommend Mike Barrier’s seminal history “Hollywood Cartoons”
    (1999) for some good coverage of this. I haven’t reread it since I picked up the 2011 collection “Funny Pictures” (eds. Goldmark and Keil), but there’s a long essay in it on the overlap
    between Tish-Tash’s toons and live action features, by Ethan de Seife, which you’ll probably want to check out. That and the new work mentioned up thread.

    I greatly appreciate Dave’s commentary on Tashlin’s use of color in his Times essay; quite the eye opener.

  • Gregg Rickman

    I loved the psychiatrist sequence in SMORGASBORD when I saw it some thirty years ago. I only wish Lewis had directed more films in his later career. SLAPSTICK OF ANOTHER KIND was of course not directed by Lewis, but by a wealthy first-time director who as I recall from contemporary interviews financed the film himself. It was as I recall really, really painful. Lewis’ late work as an actor would however probably be worth a thread, given such interesting work as ARIZONA DREAM and FUNNY BONES.

    On a related note, came across a nice profile of the Lewis-influenced Eddie Deezen at http://www.vice.com/read/off-hollywood-eddie-deezen Oddly, Spielberg’s 1941 — which he STEALS!!! — isn’t mentioned.

  • jbryant

    Gregg: I read that Eddie Deezen article earlier today and thought the same thing — no 1941!

    Lewis’ late acting work includes some good stuff for TV, too: “Wise Guy” and “Law and Order: SVU,” for instance.

  • Barry: I agree with you regarding his waning popularity and the critical preference for his later, self-directed films. (On a sidebar about France, has anyone noticed how “The Artist” lifts one sequence straight from “The Bellboy”?) I wonder if part of why he is so disregarded nowadays has to do with the sense that he continued to direct beyond his “shelf life”, so to speak – I remember that the later films seemed to belong to an earlier, less jaded period, somewhat “out of time” in the less clear-cut American 1970s. “Which Way to the Front?”, “Hardly Working” or “Smorgasbord”, despite what one may think of them (and, J. Bryant, I haven’t seen any of them in years, so I can only share what I thought of them at the time) are clearly films that belong to another age of American filmmaking.

    At the same time, I also wonder just how much the “cause célèbre” of “The Day the Clown Cried” contributed to his downfall. I am reminded of Roberto Benigni, another “clownesque” hyphenate who has also followed his muse into places comedy is usually not supposed to go and who has since become “persona non grata” among the orthodox intelligentsia (though, it must be said, I find him much less inspired and much more grating than Lewis).

  • Griff

    Barry, all best wishes to you and Casey from me and the cats here. Raffy, our eldest, tolerated a major Lewis retrospective in the apartment last winter remarkably well, seemingly appearing on cue to curl up on the couch right when the Paramount mountain flashed on the screen. [Many filmmakers don’t receive this much respect; there are other places for this cat to flop here.] Seriously, we do hope Casey is better soon.

  • Barry Putterman

    Big thank yous to Junko, jbryant (and friends), Gregg, Peter and Griff (plus the Lewis loving Raffy). Casey wants all of his well wishers to know that he is in the care of a fine doctor who says that there is hope for a recovery, he is taking his medicines like a cat and more will be known about his condition after his next vet visit in approximately two weeks. Peter, it is gratifying to know that we have yet another thing in common. Junko, I am genuinely touched by your gesture.

    I think that Jorge’s “shelf life” point is central to what happened to Jerry Lewis. Comedy, like popular music, is very much plugged in to the immediate moment and once it is perceived that a comedian is no longer in tune with the times, the more general audience moves on. In live performance, a comedian (or a rock musician) and his or her core audience can keep moving to different sorts of venues until finally plopping down in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. In fact, I recently read that there is now a retirement community comedy circuit where even Jack Carter still has an audience. But movies need to appeal to that general audience, and once the connection has severed, the comedian loses his appeal. It happens to everybody. To folks like Capra and La Cava after world War II, to Blake Edwards in the mid 80s, and now, as a recent discussion here indicated, it has happened to Woody Allen. Which is to say that if the French Rolling Stone found it weird that Jonathan preferred Lewis to Allen fifteen years ago, they would probably find it equally weird today if he preferred Allen to Judd Apatow.

    During his heyday, Lewis could be savaged by the likes of Lenny Bruce and it didn’t have much of an impact because Lewis was the mainstream and Bruce was the fringe. But by 1970, George Carlin was the mainstream and Lewis reeked of “your father’s Oldsmobile.” Everything about Lewis and his films spoke of a sensibility which stoped at the water’s edge of “the 60s revolution.” And so his time of general appeal passed, and he had made more than enough personal enemies in Hollywood to assure that he would be rushed out the door once profits from his movies were no longer assured.

    Will Lewis eventually come back into fashion in the same way that Keaton or Lloyd (or Capra for that matter) did? I have no idea. And neither does Casey’s vet.

  • Otie Wheeler

    Jonathan Rosenbaum makes a good point in noting how France’s love of Jerry Lewis has been greatly exaggerated. I had always presumed, based on Godard’s love of Tashlin, that Cahiers du cinema wrote highly of Lewis, but it seems like Godard’s reviews were more the exception than the rule, and that if anything, they contributed to a tendency for the magazine to give Tashlin the credit while discounting Lewis. Personally, I’m watching Jerry’s films for the first time, and of the half dozen I’ve seen so far, I’ve loved three of them and been totally unsure about or indifferent to the other three, so I don’t entirely blame Cahiers for underestimating him. More interesting, perhaps, is that the experience of watching the films with my girlfriend, whose opinion has changed almost overnight from the sort of knee-jerk dislike of Lewis typical of our generation to loving him and vowing to see all his films. (We’re in our late twenties-early thirties, btw). I can locate the turning point exactly at the scene in the Bellboy where the man sitting on the couch with his fiance of thirteen years gets up only to slip and fall flat on his back. Just listening to that scene makes us crack up!

  • According to Shawn Levy in “King of Comedy”, the notion that the French are over-infatuated with Jerry Lewis stems from the mid-1960s when Lewis had a late night talk-show on ABC and the [i]]Positif[/i] critic Robert Benayoun came to New York to cover the premiere. His antics, including getting into a very public feud with Andrew Sarris, left many people believing that the French were fools for Lewis. When, in “American Cinema”, Sarris writes of a French critic whose love of Lewis is so strong that he has come to resemble Lewis, he is refering to Benayoun.

  • Otie, just out of curiosity – which are the three you loved and the three you’re unsure about?

  • Otie Wheeler

    Jorge – the three I loved are Artists & Models, Hollywood or Bust, and The Bellboy, each of which I’ve already watched parts or all of for a second time. The three others are The Nutty Professor, The Disorderly Orderly, and Three on a Couch.

  • Brad Stevens

    “Comedy, like popular music, is very much plugged in to the immediate moment and once it is perceived that a comedian is no longer in tune with the times, the more general audience moves on.”

    This is precisely why I like ‘Smorgasbord’ (1983) so much. It has absolutely nothing to do with any other American film of this period, its sole aesthetic reference point being the cinematic world of its auteur – which means that it has far more in common with Cocteau’s ‘Le testament d’Orphée’ than with 80s American comedies such as ‘Ghostbusters’.

  • Alex

    I don’t think too much of THE ARTIST, recycles silent film too much as mugging. However, it’s arty cross-references are interesting: Not just a bit from THE BELLBOY, presentation of Valentine’s widefe Doris (as played by Peleloppe Miller) as the spitting image of Dorothy Comingore’s Susan Alexander in KANE, the use late in the film of Bernard Herrmann’s “Love Theme” from VERTIGO, and more I expect.

    Turning to the artist of the moment, though I’m no BIG Lewis fan I do love Artists & Models, The Nutty Professor, Hook, Line and Sinker –which hooked me though the audience I saw it with thought it a stinker– and, yes, The King of Comedy.

  • Brad Stevens

    By the way, the only modern American films that look anything like SMORGASBORD are Matthew Barney’s CREMASTER series – which shows just how close Lewis was to the avant garde.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RID9uXEPI64

  • Tony Williams

    Brad, Classic comment on CRACKING UP which I’m running in the class. I have one mature student there who is now getting hooked on Jerry when she tended to dismiss him before. We have just finished running THE CADDY, ARTISTS AND MODELS,and HOLLYWOOD OR BUST.

  • jbryant

    That class of Tony’s makes me want to re-enroll at Black Rock. He certainly was instrumental to my appreciation of Sirk, Vidor, Peckinpah, Boetticher, Aldrich and so many others.

  • Tony Williams

    Thank you, Jerry. I remember you fondly. It was only recently that I decided to be courageous and run a Jerry Lewis class. After the strike and the dire financial state of Illinois, I decided we all needed a laugh and who better than “The King of Comedy” himself. Also, I needed to explore comedy further so ran some introductory shorts of Chaplin, Keaton, Laurel and Hardy to suggest the rich tradition Jerry is drawing on and contributing to.

  • David Cohen

    An aside: There was a funny little song circa 1987 from a New Jersey singer/songwriter named Ben Vaughn called “Jerry Lewis in France” that was built around this line: “I feel like Jerry Lewis in France when you hold me in your arms.” … same guy who wrote “I’m Sorry but so is Brenda Lee” and also once recorded an entire album in his car, before moving on to TV theme music.

  • “..his time of general appeal passed, and he had made more than enough personal enemies in Hollywood to assure that he would be rushed out the door once profits from his movies were no longer assured.”

    Alas, “Hardly Working,” “Cracking Up” and “Smorgasbord” had such limited releases in the US (it seems that they received better distribution in the UK)that only die hard cinephiles have seen them. I liked them all very much, and I hope Lewis enjoys a revival at least through home video.

    The anti-Lewis sentiment that Barry and others noted seems to be dissipating for younger viewers, a good sign.

    Concerning the alleged French love for Lewis, Joe Dante’s “Loony Tunes-Back in Action” has a quick shot of a Paris movie marquee advertising a Jerry Lewis film (I don’t recall the title at the moment.)

    And Barry, Casey’s revolutionary cousin Sab Cat wishes him a speedy recovery.

  • HARDLY WORKING was a surprise hit in the US, following successful engagements elsewhere. It was the other two that hardly worked at the boxoffice.

  • HARDLY WORKING had a good run here in Detroit. Remember the restaurant scene with Jerry struggling with a giant menu. It’s a bit like Keaton and the newspaper in THE HIGH SIGN.
    Have thought about his struggles with jobs many time since seeing this. It is an oddly encouraging movie.

    A fun late TV show with Lewis is the MAD ABOUT YOU episode THE BILLIONAIRE (1993). Lewis was just bubbling over with good vibes and comic cheer.

    In LOONEY TUNES right across the street from the Louvre… is the Eiffel Tower! This is how Paris is perceived by foreigners. (This cracks me up every time I think of it.)

    I’m pulling for Casey. Cats are amazingly strong. They bounce back from the most serious looking problems. surprising everyone. They seem to have some invisible reserve of strength.

  • jbryant

    And thank you, too, Tony. I’ve got to get over there again someday; I’m living about 100 miles away in southern Indiana now. For the past several years, I’ve been helping judge the screenwriting award that’s given in memory of Richard Blumenberg, but I haven’t actually been on campus since a visit in 1996.

    HARDLY WORKING had a good run in this neck of the woods, too; I used to have a huge poster from it in my dorm room.

  • Tony Williams

    Jerry, You may want to give Black Rock a miss. Generally, things have changed for the worst but C&P is still around and so will Lilly even though she is retiring. I like HARDLY WORKING each time see it, even my pre-teen does. Hopefully, after the next round of papers on the Martin-Lewis films, more of the class will. Many exhibitied fits of laughter in the sequence showing Jerry at the Las Vegas crap table in HOLLYWOOD OR BUST.

    Also, I think somebody called Rita Mae Brown (photocopies at home) write a fascinating book called WHY THE FRENCH LOVE JERRY LEWIS that looks like it has been derived from a dissertation.

    Today, thanks to DVD, we are now rediscovering the films of Charley Chase (hilarious in that cameo in SONS OF THE DESERT) and Roscoe Arbuckle. We really need a good Keystone Kops DVD, if only to work on scripts dealing with Black Rock administrators. Bring on the custard pies!

  • Steve Elworth

    Casey,get better.
    It is nice to see that more people are taking JER seriously.it is about time. his films and the Tashlin films that he is in keep looking better and better. The recently released Tv film of THE JAAZZ SINGER is really interesting and the prototype for the great early Simpsons episode about Krusty’s relationship to his father as clown face becomes the new Blackface allowing post Jolson Jews to pass. But, of course, Lewis is the master of masks and the shifting of identity.