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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

  • Michael Kastner

    For me, the break is Lewis’ work is not after Dean, it’s after Paramount. He was, apparantly, king of the lot for ten years & the films show it. Most of his best loved work is in bold color & quite elaborate.I cannot imagine anyone else being allowed something like the ending of The Patsy, without full studio freedom.
    After Paramount, his films are smaller in scale & really, farther away from where American cinema was headed. I never likeed Three on a Couch, but The Big Mouth, Which Way & even One More Time are a remarkable trio. I’m not even sure if they are any good, but they still seem to me so out of time & hold up really well. Which Way is a film that always fascinates me. The 1st half is wooden, unfunny & utterly lacking in period detail. Once the impersonation plot takes over , I find it both hilarious & amazing. Lewis killed off Hitler while Tarantino was still in grade school!

    Cracking Up is , for me, Lewis at his very best.Both one of my favorite comedies & one of the great American films of the 80’s. As many have said, it’s a film unlike any of the time. Dave has written (brilliantly I think)about the Cassavetes Love Streams man into dog scene & how out in the wilderness J.C. was. Cracking up has that same feeling for me.
    The scene that shows it best, I think,is Jerry’s childhood flashback. He & Richmond are supposed to be about 10 years old & unwittingly cause disaster for an innocent bystander(imagine that). There is no attempt for any period setting or much set up for the gag. Best of all Lewis & Richmand are almost 60 & do nothing but don silly school uniforms.
    What other filmmaker would even attempt this ? The logical step would be a 10 year old who resembles Lewis, but for Lewis any age or any era, only Lewis would do.
    That is truely avant garde.

  • Brad Stevens

    “Alas, “Hardly Working,” “Cracking Up” and “Smorgasbord” had such limited releases in the US (it seems that they received better distribution in the UK)”

    Neither film (CRACKING UP is an alternate title for SMORGASBORD) had a theatrical release in the UK, and HARDLY WORKING didn’t even make it to video here.

    Has anyone managed to track down the television segments that Lewis directed in the 80s and early 90s (BROTHERS, SUPER FORCE, GOOD GRIEF)?

  • David Boxwell

    THE GEISHA BOY is up on Netflix On-Demand for another week. It looks great. Opening credits build up to a saucy visual gag on Tashlin’s credit; opening sequence culminates in an elaborate crane shot staring down Marie Macdonald’s cleavage. It only gets even nuttier from there. . .


    Jerry Lewis was popular in Finland and influenced our most popular 1960s comedian called Spede Pasanen. From my school days I remember walking daily past a wall sized poster of THE BIG MOUTH by one of Helsinki’s biggest cinemas called Aloha! Many of Jerry’s best movies have been released on dvd here by Paramount.

    For me Jerry Lewis is a genius and an avantgardistic original with his distorted expressions and body language conveying incredibly daring undercurrents. He satirizes the age of affluence, but there is also a metaphysical dimension of parodying the human existence itself, like Chaplin did, the difference being that the love line in Jerry’s hand is broken. Jerry has influenced many of the best.

  • Barry Putterman

    Thanks to x and Sab cat (what, no number?), Mike and Steve.

    Oddly enough, I was databasing French stills for HARDLY WORKING just the other day. It was titled AU BOULET … JERRY! over there. At least that’s what the old wives called it. That film did indeed exceed box office expectations on release in 1980 and offered us some glimmers of hope for a Lewis revival. However, we waited in vain for SMORGASBORD/CRACKING UP to appear at a theater near us. It might have gotten some test market runs somewhere in this vast land of ours. But we in New York had to catch in on its cable TV release.

    I think that there is something to what Michael says about Lewis at Paramount and later Lewis at other studios. The same could be said about Bob Hope and his break from that studio a decade earlier and even Michael Curtiz before and after Warner Brothers. There is something about the way that their styles melded with the studio style and a kind of undercurrent of uncomfortability afterwards which I think is worthy of some exploration. In Lewis’ case, there is something about the difference between Paramount color and Columbia color in the 60s that made a subtle, but significant difference.

    It would be very easy to overestimate this point. But it is one of those things that somehow becomes one of the splinters in the windmills of your mind.

  • Barry Putterman (February 23, 2012 at 11:20 am): Paramount = elegance.

  • Tony Williams

    Antti, Jerry definitely knew his Chaplin. He mentions seeing THE CIRCUS (1928) at the age of 5 and being influenced by that comic’s type of performance in certain scenes. See his co-written book JERRY LEWIS IN PERSON (1982). Like talented comedians, he wanted to develop despite the fact that Dino just wanted to have fun on the set, finish the day by playing golf like Oliver Hardy, and dismissed Jerry’s Chaplin aspirations during their partnership.

  • Vivian

    A friend of mine who doesn’t read Dave’s blog as far as I know, and who certainly isn’t following this discussion, just out of the blue sent me a clip from THE LADIES MAN that caught his eye whe he was watching it the other night. How weird is that? What does it mean?

  • Barry Putterman

    Tony, what you say about Dino is all quite true. Yet he somehow managed to do allright for himself and chalk up some rather impressive achievements after the split. So maybe one size doesn’t fit all.

    I believe that Lewis credited Chaplin and Stan Laurel as his major influences in “The Total Filmmaker.” You can see Laurel all over his slow motion reaction takes. And, having just revisited THE BELLBOY last night, he didn’t mind acknowledging Laurel right there on screen.

    Vivian, if we can figure out exactly what that means, I should think that the solution to the Greek debt crisis will be simple in comparison.

  • Steve Elworth

    Vivian and Barry what it really means that Lewis has remained a part of the way that we see the world in a way that very few comics remain. I think in post war comedy, his only rival is Jacques Tati.

  • Alex


    Today, shortly after seeing Obama sing a few lines from “Sweet Home Chicago” alongside Mick Jagger, BB King and Buddy Guy I read the following line from Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84: “Another Rolling Stones record was playing “Little Red Rooster” — a performance from the time when Mick jagger was crazy about Chicago Blues.”

    But, hey, with lots happening, much of it has got to be unlikely.

  • Otie, thanks for that. Funnily enough, “The Disorderly Orderly” is one of my favorites.

    I think Michael has a point re: the oddity of “Which Way to the Front?” – the first half definitely throws me off the movie. But, as with the later films like “Hardly Working” and “Smorgasbord”, it did wonderfully here when it was released theatrically – it stayed around for months as far as I can recall. Interestingly enough, it feels as if by then the visual sophistication of stuff like “the Bellboy” had given way to a flatter, almost TV-like handling very typical of the low-budget 1970s.

    Also, good to see so many folks enjoying the Martin & Lewis films. My personal favorites of that lot are “Hollywood or Bust” and “Visit to a Small Planet”.

  • Gregg Rickman

    HARDLY WORKING was as I recall an unexpected box office hit in 1980; Lewis had been off the screen for most of the preceding decade but had maintained his audience. Its ad tagline was “The Original Jerk” referencing the Carl Reiner-Steve Martin hit of 1979.

    I don’t know in what Long Beach area theater I caught it in, but my memory is of seeing SMORGASBORD/CRACKING UP (I don’t recall under what title) a year or so later in Long Beach’s still extant art movie venue The Art Theater. It didn’t have a run at any of the commercial houses. SLAPSTICK OF ANOTHER KIND, mentioned upthread, did play for at least a week in one of the local chain theaters. I assume THE KING OF COMEDY played regular theaters as well but I was out of SoCal by then.

  • I hope you’ll forgive this Jerry Lewis fanatic for butting in with an off-topic question. It is in the interest of auteurism, and, alas, cannot wait for next week’s column.

    All content provided by Starz Entertainment for Netflix Instant will be withdrawn after 2/28. Normally this is not cause for alarm, since Starz content is often of unfortunate quality – lousy prints, pan & scan presentation of widescreen films. But many pre-1953 westerns are available under the Starz banner, including several iconic television programs: RAWHIDE, HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL, GUNSMOKE, and WAGON TRAIN.

    I was wondering if our kind patrons would point out which episodes should be sought out, under these emergency circumstances? I got as far as Joseph H. Lewis, whose two 1965 episodes of GUNSMOKE are available. Some other work is of non-director interest, such as seeing the great Tom Conway (CAT PEOPLE, I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE) on the RAWHIDE pilot, or the simple pleasure of Ward Bond on WAGON TRAIN.

    Apart from these programs, many of-auteurist-interest features are expiring soon, as well, such as SEMINOLE (Boetticher), UNTAMED FRONTIER and SADDLE TRAMP (Fregonese). There are likely more. HELLGATE, Charles Marquis Warren’s evocative and thinly veiled remake of THE PRISONER OF SHARK ISLAND, is also quite good.

    Anyway, I’m sure there’s more. Recommendations welcome – especially regarding those TV programs.

  • THE KING OF COMEDY received a wide release…for about a week, like that same year’s VIDEODROME. I saw it in a completely empty theater, the first time that happened to me (it happened again with the TINTIN movie, which was far more successful overall).

  • Jaime,

    Lists of my favorite TV programs are at my web site. The Westerns are at:

    These are a real mixed bag: well-directed shows, tales with entertaining stories, favorite actors, liberal message tales, comedy…

    I’ve only seen a few of the Rawhide shows. But the ones liked are listed there too.
    “Don’t try to understand them. Just download and scan them!”

  • jbryant

    I have Starz on my cable system, so luckily I’ve already seen SEMINOLE, UNTAMED FRONTIER, SADDLE TRAMP and HELLGATE that way. But losing all those TV episodes is definitely a reason to mourn the end of StarzPlay on Netflix. Even though many of the series are still running on Starz, it’s obviously preferable to have them streaming ‘on demand’ as it were.

    This reminded me that I’ve yet to see Linda Darnell’s second WAGON TRAIN appearance, in an episode titled “The Sacramento Story” (ep. #1.39) I’ve seen (and recommend) her first, “The Dora Gray Story” (ep. #1.20), directed by Arnold Laven and co-starring John Carradine. Not much auteurist interest, I suppose, but I love Linda Darnell, and it’s a strong, involving story by E. Jack Neuman. (And “Sacramento Story” co-stars Marjorie Main, Dan Duryea and Margaret O’Brien!)

    I’ll assume Jaime has seen John Ford’s episode, “The Colter Craven Story” (ep. #4.9). If not, well, it’s a no-brainer.

    Other noted directors who helmed WAGON TRAIN episodes: Tay Garnett, Mitchell Leisen, John Brahm, Robert Florey and William Witney. Their imdb pages have season and episode details.

    One I hope to see while there’s time is “The Tobias Jones Story,” with Lou Costello in a serious role as an alcoholic, directed by Herschel Daugherty and written by famed announcer Harry Von Zell (whose only listed writing credits are four episodes of this series).

  • Tony Williams

    I remember seeing the Lou Costello episode when it first aired on UK TV. Most viewers could not take the image of Lou with a rope round his neck seriously in the latter part of that episode. However, “The Colter Craven Story” has Carlton Young, Paul Birch, John Wayne in shadowy long shot, and Terry Wilson playing a “teenager” in one flashback sequence so that episode does have its pleasures. Harry Von Zell was also a regular on the Burns & Allen TV show of the 1950s, one of the few US series to air on BBC TV during that decade.

  • “Neither film (CRACKING UP is an alternate title for SMORGASBORD) had a theatrical release in the UK, and HARDLY WORKING didn’t even make it to video here.”

    I got the impression that both had a UK release because most of what I’ve heard about the movies came from UK residents. I guess they saw them on the continent.

    Correct me if I wrong, but I also heard that the European release of “Hardly Working” is a different edit from the US release.

  • jbryant

    Since Tony mentioned Terry Wilson, I’d just like to say that for a guy who was primarily a stunt man before WAGON TRAIN and rarely got a good role after it, his low key naturalism as Bill Hawks is very appealing. I’ve seen only a fraction of the series, but have often wished they had put him front and center in more episodes. So it sounds like I need to catch “Alias Bill Hawks” (episode #6.34), which I gather features Hawks in a plot similar to BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK.

  • HARDLY WORKING’s success in Europe and South America in 1980 brought it to the attention of 20th Century Fox, which cut out 20 minutes and released it here to good boxoffice in April 1981.

  • Omigosh! Netflix is getting rid of CHEYENNE!
    For atmosphere, try:
    2.11 Big Ghost Basin
    2.16 The Bounty Killers

    Then there are the fun, light comic storytelling Leslie H. Martinson shows:
    2.7 The Iron Trail
    2.15 The Long Winter

    And the looks at minorities:
    1.14 Johnny Bravo
    3.13 Home Is the Brave

    These are all highly satisfying story telling.

    (PS I really like Terry Wilson too.)

  • Thanks everyone, especially Mike G., who I know is better-read than almost anyone on the subject. Also jbryant, no I didn’t know about the Ford episode! Wow, I’ve only pored over his filmography seven hundred times, and I guess my eyes have glazed over it every time, I suppose because I didn’t think I’d ever see it except at some rare Museum of Modern Art retrospective. And there it is, as close as a few swipes of my Wii remote. Truly we live in an age of wonders.

    I really wish Jerry was able/willing/whatever it took to direct again. I read an interview he gave a few months ago where he casually mentioned he had 49 completed scripts on file. Wowsers. I’d love to see him assigned something like an episode of GAME OF THRONES, which is mostly directed by the cinematographers and CGI wizards.

  • Brad Stevens

    “Correct me if I wrong, but I also heard that the European release of “Hardly Working” is a different edit from the US release.”

    Yes, indeed. The European cut runs 8 minutes longer, but both versions include unique Lewis-directed footage (I’ve only seen the European variant in a German-dubbed transfer). The American cut adds an opening montage consisting of shots from Lewis’ previous films.

  • jbryant

    For my early 20-something friends and I who saw HARDLY WORKING upon its original U.S. release, there was definitely a nostalgia factor, since Lewis was a childhood favorite. Certainly that opening montage played into that, especially with the famous typewriter bit. And the colors seemed more saturated than usual for that time, closer to Jerry’s older films than what we were generally getting in the 70s.

  • Rob Leith

    Deep appreciation to Jaime for alerting me to Wagon Train’s presence on, and imminent departure from, Netflix. I immediately went and watched the Colter Craven Story. What an enormous pleasure to see, for the first time in decades, an unwatched example of late Ford with old friends from the stock company during that late fifties-early sixties era and characters (Grant, Sherman) who reappear in How the West Was Won just a couple of years later. If Rookie of the Year or Flashing Spikes pop up on Netflix, I hope someone will send out an alert.

    May I too pose an off-topic question by asking if anyone has seen the recent TCM release of Shanghai Express/Dishonored, and if so, what the print quality looks like? Thanks.

  • I have that TCM Dietrich release; haven’t yet watched it, but posters on the reliable Home Theater Forum says the prints are in good shape and recommend the package.

  • “I didn’t know about the Ford episode!”

    “The Colter Craven Story” incorporates footage from “Wagon Master” and according to notes passed out at the John Ford Centenary screenings at UCLA and LACMA Ford crafted a 70 minute feature that was finally cut down to episode dimensions. I think Joseph McBride also notes this in his Ford biography filmography. There were plenty of uncredited Ford stock company actors who appeared with the credited Ford regulars: Mae Marsh, Willis Bouchy, Chuck Roberson, Hank Warden, and Jack Pennick come to mind.

  • Philip Smith

    Lewis may have “often cited” Tashlin as an influence in the past, but he gave his mentor scandalously short shrift in the witless commentaries he recorded with an uninformed and maddeningly sycophantic Steve Lawrence for several of the studio DVD releases. I particularly recall Lewis discussing “Cinderfella” as “my film” practically over the Tashlin credit at the beginning of the film, with absolutely no acknowledgment that I can recall of the director throughout.

    Regardless of film, the Lewis/Lawrence commentaries are scandalously inadequate, flippant, and unfocused, and materially diminish what should be a significant legacy as actor and director.

  • jbryant

    It should be mentioned that Netflix is not streaming all eight seasons of WAGON TRAIN, only the first four. And the fourth season is incomplete (only the first 24 out of 38 episodes — and, naturally, episode 25 is the one I wanted to see, because it has Lee Marvin).

    I watched three episodes tonight, the best of which was William Witney’s “The Stagecoach Story” (season 3, episode 1). It had a lot of good action and stunts, and more visual interest than most I’ve seen. The execution was occasionally a bit rough, but I’d chalk that up to ambition on a tight schedule. Another big plus: Debra Paget.

  • Tony Williams

    Also, I believe that Robert Horton wanted most of his episodes to be shot separarately from Ward Bond and the John Ford stock company. Since he can not attend this year’s Memphis Film Festival I will not be able to confirm this personally.

  • Barry Putterman

    jbryant, “ambition on a tight schedule” could pretty well define Witney’s entire career.

    Tony, my understanding was that Bond and Horton did not get along well at all. A difficult but not uncommon situation among TV series regulars.

    Philip, my experience is that Jerry has never been generous with praise for colleagues except retrospectively for Dino. But, as Dave points out, his films are rather remarkably obsessed with his internal pathology. So it is hard to be surprised that it would extend to external life as well.

  • Patrick Henry

    I recommend the episode of THE RESTLESS GUN called “The Lady and the Gun,” directed by Edward Ludwig: Mala Powers as a refined and well-educated young lady from the east looking for a husband. Saddle tramp John Payne doesn’t want to settle down but is quite taken by her. Made with unusual delicacy and taste. Many of the female guest stars on this series seemed wrong for their parts (too Method-y and/or citified for their roles) but Powers is right on the money.

  • Tony Williams

    Jerry, McGrath and Wilson were also Ford regulars, the former plays the bugle in close-up in RIO GRANDE and the latter is amongst the Texas Rangers glad to see Ethan return before Charlie’s wedding. They were both former stuntmen and probably worked several times with Ford. There may have been other Ford associates around on the series also.

    I think the Lee Marvin episode you have not seen has him as a Mexican – unless I’ve confused this with another of his guest spots on series at this time.

  • jbryant

    Tony: The Lee Marvin episode I’m interested in is called “The Christopher Hale Story.” I think it’s John McIntire’s official debut as the new wagonmaster, taking over from guest star Marvin. The one in which he plays a Mexican was from earlier that same season (#4.5), “The Jose Morales Story,” which IS on Netflix.

  • Tony Williams

    You’re right. McIntire did appear in an earlier episode playing a different character but I never saw the one where he took over from Blacklist Bond.

  • Blake Lucas

    Re WAGON TRAIN and Jbryant’s note about “The Sacramento Story” which he hadn’t seen yet, I did see this episode. The reason why is that when the the Western Channel started running the show, I marked off the episodes directed by Richard Bartlett as ones I wanted to make a point to watch and now have seen all those. There are nine directed by Bartlett; his modest but impressive career in features was pretty much over (though made a few films much later) and he like many others went to episodic TV but these episodes were very impressive, perhaps stylistically less than his features had been but they were almost all written by him and/or longtime partner Norman Jolley and are abundant with his sensibility–his pacifism, anti-racism, theological leanings (Bartlett comes over as a loving Christian as opposed to the repressive, intolerant kind we know too well these days) all very much in evidence. He also brought along actors he had liked in the features like Jock Mahoney and Luana Patten.

    In any event, “The Sacramento Story” wasn’t written by Bartlett and Jolley but the main story, involving Margaret O’Brien, very much has his tone. Mainly, though, this was a first season ending episode and both Linda Darnell and Dan Duryea are present only in cameos, reprising characters who had had their own stories earlier (including “Dora Gray Story”). If I had it do over again, I’d see those episodes which were about those characters first, and have seen them now–of course both Darnell and Duryea are always a pleasure.

    Unlike Jaime, I don’t do streaming (at least not yet) but subscribe to the channel so hope to catch more of WAGON TRAIN though just jump around in it from time to time now, mostly looking for directors I’m interested in as well as looking at the guest stars since there are a lot of people there I’ve always liked. I had liked the show a lot when I was young and still do. I did watch “The Colter Craven Story” again recently (had seen it at UCLA in 1994) and I have to say as good as many of the other episodes are, this one really is a cut above–unsurprisingly, Ford made the show all his own. The story is one that would appeal to him and everything about it showed his care and his touches, even with more modest resources than he’d have in a feature (I’m not referring to the WAGON MASTER footage of course, which is integrated pretty seamlessly). He plainly was given a free hand and cast with his stock company–in addition to those mentioned, Anna Lee plays Carleton Young’s wife and John Carradine is in it too. It’s nice to see Carleton Young in a sympathetic role, and the lead too, and of course, he is excellent.

    My impression is that the cutoff for the episodes Western Channel is showing is the end of the Ward Bond episodes, which came with his death, and that they are not showing anything of the remaining ones at this time but hopefully they will turn up later. I’ve never seen an episode with John McIntire but he is certainly one of the select few actors who could take over for Ward Bond.

    Regarding the leads, I had read (possibly in Robert Horton interview) that tension between Bond and Horton was political because Horton was a liberal while Bond, as everyone knows, was reactionary in the extreme (one more case where it’s good we don’t judge someone’s art on their politics!). But it’s not true that they don’t play together in the series. In most episodes, one or the other carries the series lead but they are usually in scenes together, often at the beginning and the end when McCullough will be sent off on some scouting task and the story will either follow him or stay with the train.

    I always thought that Ward Bond was probably responsible for bringing both Frank McGrath and Terry Wilson to WAGON TRAIN and elevating these former stunt men and bit players to these good roles–as Tony said, both were involved in the films of John Ford, and as IMDb shows, in quite a few films for Ford, so Bond would have known and appreciated them.

    It really warmed my heart to read what Jbryant said about Terry Wilson (seconded by Mike) because that’s just how I feel about him. I always especially liked him going back to my earlier years watching the show and find I still do very much, but I’ve never read anything where anyone said anything like this about him and it was just a pleasure to see he has other fans–so count me as one more who wants to see “Alias Bill Hawks” which I guess is a later episode among those they are not showing now.

    Of course, there is a fine tradition of stunt men moving on to become excellent actors as well–Ben Johnson, Jock Mahoney, Richard Farnsworth, just to name a few…

  • Tony Williams

    I second what Blake has just said about Terry Wilson. All I can add about WAGON TRAIN are my memories of seeing it when it was first transmitted on ITV in the UK during the late 50s. Very often the work of a good director or good actor remains in one’s mind even though they may be fragments. I can not remember the title of the episode but in one Bill Hawks intervenes to protect a young boy on crutches from further bullying by two able bodied youngsters. They have seized one crutch and are about to grab the remaining support when Bill intervenes like a caring uncle and shames the two miscreants into what they were up to.

    During my last visit to the Memphis Film Festival in 2010, most of the banquet speeches went on interminably about how the loss of the Western in film and TV has resulted in America’s decline. I’m skeptical about this but my special fond memory of Wilson in this particular scene supports one aspect of this assertion in tems of certain values missing today.

  • Barry Putterman

    A bit odd that the Encore “Wagon Train” series ends in the middle of a season with Bond’s final episode. However, I do recall that the Bond episodes were syndicated in the mid sixties to local stations under the title “Major Adams, Trailmaster” even while new episodes of the series with McIntire were still running on ABC. So maybe that is the package that Encore has.

    In any event, for those willing to put their money where their affections are, it should be noted that the complete run of “Wagon Train” seems to be coming out on DVD. The next release comes out some time in the next few months and it is either the fifth or sixth season. I don’t recall which. One of the later seasons, which was 90 minute episodes shot in color, is also already in release.

    As for the Bond/Horton situation, I would imagine that politics was at the core of it, but personalities were probably involved as well. They both certainly worked with other people who were on the opposite side of the 50s political fence without hostilities braking out. But, of course, the series called for them to work together in some scenes on a weekly basis and they were both professional enough to do that successfully.

    What Tony referred to in saying that Horton wanted to have the segments in which he was featured separated from the others, sounds to me as though Bond and the other Ford stalwarts worked together in a way which Horton could not see himself fitting into. And so he sought to have a kind of separate unit for his shows. It would indeed be interesting to hear Horton speak on that subject however.

    Finally, I always thought that Terry Wilson was there to provide a slightly more mature and hardbitten version of Harry Carey Jr.

  • jbryant

    Blake: “The Sacramento Story” was one of the episodes I watched last night, too, and like you I wish I’d seen all of the earlier episodes that introduced the cameo roles (I had seen “The Dora Gray Story,” but not the Duryea and Marjorie Main episodes). I enjoyed it, but admit getting a bit impatient as it edged past the three-quarter mark with no Darnell!

    Now I’m glad I mentioned Terry Wilson, because I, too, find it touching that so many of us responded to his seemingly effortless appeal. I was trying to think who he reminded me of, and I came up with Joel McCrea (there’s even a bit of facial resemblance, I think), but I can see Barry’s point about an older Harry Carey, Jr. as well, in terms of his function in the series.

  • Barry Putterman

    jbryant, I completely agree with you. There is a definite Joel McCrea quality to Terry Wilson. Which could lead to the somewhat imponderable question: why was Joel McCrea a major movie star and Wilson and Carey supporting players?

  • Erland Josephson, rest in peace.

  • Otie Wheeler

    “Which could lead to the somewhat imponderable question: why was Joel McCrea a major movie star and Wilson and Carey supporting players?”

    Here’s one hypothesis.

  • Barry Putterman

    Otie, I think that your hypothesis would have more validity if the question had been, Why did Joel McCrea become a popular male ingenue in the early 30s rather than why did he become a major movie star (from the late 30s through the mid 50s).

  • jbryant

    I haven’t seen any pics of a younger Terry Wilson, so I can’t speculate on that score. But it may simply be that the camera didn’t capture that indescribable ‘thing’ that some actors have and others don’t. Whatever it is, it’s not as crucial on the small screen. Wilson may not have been larger than life, but he seems so real on WAGON TRAIN, like he’s in his element. You believe he’s Bill Hawks, and that’s all that matters. But I’m sure he would’ve been great in certain McCrea roles, like SADDLE TRAMP.

    Aw, now I’m wishing someone would discover a cache of forgotten Terry Wilson B Westerns.

  • Blake Lucas

    Though this thread is about gone, I had hoped to throw in my two cents for the Jerry Lewis films sometime this week, mostly because when I had my own Lewis retro in 1997 I especially enjoyed both ROCK-A-BYE BABY and THE GEISHA BOY in context of all the films. I had underrated both of them on my single earlier viewings–I don’t know why now but I know the fault was with me; I had probably not come to terms yet with the freer shape of narrative film that Tashlin (and later Lewis himself) both did so well. Now it’s one of the things I admire so much about both directors.

    I especially like ROCK-A-BYE BABY and those who haven’t seen this who might also happen to be Connie Stevens fans should know that in this film she is one of Jerry’s most appealing leading ladies (among a long line of fetching love interests, she is perhaps only rivaled by another actress with the last name Stevens)–she even has her own solo number, plaintive song she does beautifully. Among the great Connie Stevens roles this rates with SUSAN SLADE, PARRISH and THE GRISSOM GANG.

    I guess it’s a subject for another day, but in Dave’s review he makes these observations about Tashlin’s use of color, indeed one of the brilliances of these and other of his films
    –and one aspect in which he plainly directly influenced Lewis when the other started directing. I’ve never seen it discussed much but there is a lengthy period spanning the middle of the century when color and black and white seemed to be equal options in cinema. These two films were made in this period, and it is my experience that most of the great color films were made when many films were also being made in black and white. For any creative filmmaker and his team, it seemed like the attitude was “We’re using color in this–let’s do something with it.”

    OK, this is a big subject I know but I’d sure like to see it discussed and argued in depth sometime.

    As a fan of both Tashlin and Lewis I really enjoyed all the comments in this thread. In my opinion, it doesn’t matter whether Lewis gives credit to Tashlin at times and not at others. The truth is plainly that Tashlin did mentor him and is his major creative influence in filmmaking. It’s equally true, no doubt, that Lewis made creative contributions to these films with Tashlin’s blessing–if you’ve read anything about CINDERFELLA you know that at the time Lewis felt this was the best film he had made to date and wanted a winter release instead of summer–he told Paramount he would make a film for summer and that’s how he started his own directing career with THE BELLBOY, which by contrast to CINDERFELLA and even to most other films really feels kind of like a New Wave film, all made on location, no real narrative, kind of scripted and created as he made it. Lewis’ pride in CINDERFELLA doesn’t mean it is not Tashlin’s film. It should go without saying that we may love both these directors–looking at ways in which they are alike or have affinities and ways they are different is itself fascinating. I find Tashlin somewhat the warmer, what sentiment there is playing easily and gracefully–it’s interesting to me that for such a sharp satirist of his contemporary culture as he was, he is never cruel about it and seems quite loving about humanity, certainly not true of all satirists. It creates a nice aesthetic tension that very much works for him; for me, his first and last films with Lewis–ARTISTS AND MODELS (Martin & Lewis) and THE DISORDERLY ORDERLY, along with the two Mansfield movies THE GIRL CAN’T HELP IT and WILL SUCCESS SPOIL ROCK HUNTER? are his best, all about equally great, though for lots of reasons (and others will probably identify with this), GIRL is the one I most wouldn’t want to live without.

    Jerry Lewis is a complex figure and a lot of good thoughts have been shared about this in this thread. Does he have a strong ego that can, at times, be unappealing? Undoubtedly that’s true, but this is part of what makes him such a compelling artist, as both comedian and director, and one who will always have a hold on us. He may have a lot of those appealing, sometimes childlike or innocent characters in him (Fella, Julius Kelp, Stanley Belt, Eugene Littlefield, et al) but just as surely there is some of Buddy Love in there and even Uncle Everett–I don’t say this because he played these parts because so good a professional actor can play many roles well but because as a filmmaker he is so responsible for creating and co-creating those characters, referring especially to the ones who he has said appall him.

    In any event, I’d encourage any fan of Jerry to read the interview Chris Fujiwara did with him for his book on Lewis. Jerry really opens up and is willing to expose a lot of feeling in that amazing interview. And by the way, he is extremely generous in what he says about Tashlin there.

    Well, not as much I would have liked to say about this but so many worthwhile things were said already, some of it covering things that interest me, like the course of Lewis’ career after Paramount. I’d hate to imagine my life and moviegoing experience without Jerry Lewis–or Frank Tashlin.

  • Blake Lucas

    Just as an afterthought, I want to support Jbryant’s further thoughts on Terry Wilson at 12:23.

    I think the comparison with Joel McCrea is apt, more than with Harry Carey, Jr., an actor I also love but I would say Dobe never completely lost that youthfulness and innocence of his first Ford roles (and those for Hawks and Walsh too) even as a mature man. By comparison, McCrea seemed always mature, though of course became so even more appealingly postwar, and Wilson is like this too, acknowledging that in his case we don’t see him as a younger man.

    In any event, I find Terry Wilson handsome, masculine in a non-macho way, very natural on screen–“effortless appeal” was a good phrase Jb used to describe him and it does describe McCrea too. It’s true about the small screen as opposed to the big screen so we can’t know if he could have made a career as a lead in movies.

    It’s quite a compliment to Terry to compare him to McCrea, who I hope most of us would agree made a magnificent contribution to cinema. He himself felt he didn’t have a lot of range but knew how to nurture and refine that range to convey a whole world of profound human emotion and experience in his great roles. You don’t get to the point where you can so naturally and believably convey the things he does in SADDLE TRAMP, especially in that piercing last scene, without being able to do that. I saw that film again very recently so Jb’s comment intrigued me because I do think McCrea brought such a rare gift to it and it’s hard to think of anyone else in the role. But could Terry have done it?–given the opportunities to nurture his talent as an actor in the way McCrea had over a period of years and in the wealth of films McCrea had made, maybe he could have.

    Meantime, just seeing him in the frames of WAGON TRAIN, even if he’s just standing there, is so much.

  • jbryant

    Blake: Yeah, I think it was a bit presumptuous of me to say that I was “sure” that Wilson could have been as great in SADDLE TRAMP as McCrea was, because of course I can be sure of no such thing. It’s just a hunch. I don’t suppose Wilson was ever given the opportunity to create a sustained characterization (unless it’s in “Alias Bill Hawks,” perhaps?), but I just sense he had enough of a natural gift that a sensitive director could’ve taken him to that next level. A shame we’ll never know!

    Ya gotta love all this man-crushing on Terry Wilson, at this late date. Film (and TV) is forever!

  • Tony Williams

    One parallel to Terry Wilson could be Don Collier in OUTLAWS. I saw little of the first season with Barton MaClane and Jock Gaynor and even less of the second when the last two were axed. Collier also had this silent presence but we have more of WAGON TRAIN than OUTLAWS to base our judgments on.

    There was much more to Connie Stevens than her role as Cricket in the TV series HAWAIAN EYE. I remember her appearance on Sunday Night at the London Paladium when she mentioned to the audience that someone told her, “You’re the ginchiest.” Didn’t she perform the number, “Kookie, lend me your comb.” To which Edd Bynres replied, “Why Babe?” and she said “Because I want you to stop combing your hair and just kiss me”!

  • Robert Garrick

    Connie Stevens had an even bigger hit (Billboard #3 pop) with “Sixteen Reasons” (1960), which she sang all by herself. That song was used memorably by David Lynch in “Mulholland Drive” (2001), where it represented all that was magical and, as it turned out, unattainable about Hollywood.