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

  • Barry Putterman

    Tony, you’ve hit on a particular hobby horse of mine in the 1960 series “Outlaws.” No doubt it was sold as a kind of western version of “The Untouchables.” And yet that first season, along with Sam Peckinpah’s short lived series “The Westerner” from the same year, were the only shows to successfully (to my mind) explore the same kind of tragic despondency and isolation that “Gunsmoke” was examining week after week. The show’s title characters were, most often, pathetic (in the sense of pathos) and bewildered children blindly running in circles through incomprehensible mazes.

    Collier was a different sort of presence from Terry Wilson. As the Eliot Ness figure, he sort of combined the look of Charles McGraw with the sound of John Goodman. He did not project the warmth of Terry Wilson, but within his steely presence was a certain sympathy with these hapless losers he was continually sent to put asunder.

    The show is available on the bootleg market in duoey, cut for syndication prints. But I live in hope that someday it will be streaming its way back to us. There are quite a number of superior episodes from that first season I could recommend. But if you see just one episode of “Outlaws,” let it be “The Rape of Red Sky.” It is a show which in the space of an hour accomplishes everything that THE ASPHALT JUNGLE only strives for. And it contains a quintessential performance from the irreplaceable Gerald Mohr.

  • Tony Williams

    Yes, Gerald Mohr delivered excellent performances in TV episodes and there is one film I’m trying to look up where he co-starred with Teresa Wright ot Cathy 0’Donnell delivering an excellent performance as a husband under suspicion. But to return the thread of Jerry, Mohr appears uncredited in Captain Eddie’s flight movie in THE FAMILY JEWELS.

  • jbryant,

    Just watched WAGON TRAIN: THE STAGECOACH STORY (William Witney). Thank you so much for recommending this!

    Jaime,
    Thank you for the vote of confidence. It is appreciated very much.

    Blake,
    WAGON TRAIN:THE DANIEL BARRISTER STORY is one of the Norman Jolley / Richard Bartlett episodes you are recommending, I think. It is excellent. Richard Bartlett is a director I first learned about from you.

  • Blake Lucas

    Mike, I almost singled out “The Daniel Barrister Story” earlier, just to note that there is probably a longer stretch of bible scripture quoted in it than you’ll ever hear in any episode of a TV Western…or most movies–and in the climactic scene. It was striking and rather daring but exactly what I’d expect from Bartlett who seems really invested in the kind of thorny religious issues that were at stake there.

  • Robert Garrick

    Tony Williams:

    You may already know this, but I’m pretty sure the film you’re thinking of with Gerald Mohr as a “husband under suspicion” is the one sometimes known as “Terror in the Haunted House” (1958) and other times known as “My World Dies Screaming.”

    I saw it many times as a kid in Los Angeles, but I haven’t seen it in forty years. It was available on VHS; I don’t know if there’s a DVD.

    The film is notorious for its use of subliminal images to unnerve the audience. I don’t know if those were used on television, where I saw the film, but I find the whole idea appalling. I wouldn’t want to watch the film with the subliminal images included.

    The film met my requirements as a kid: It was scary. O’Donnell was excellent as the bride who vaguely remembered something horrible at the old house in the country. Mohr was good too and had that “guilty look” that worked well here. And John Qualen was also memorable in a supporting role.

    The entire film is available for viewing at the IMDB site. It was directed by someone named Harold Daniels. I haven’t seen any of his other work; maybe in a generation or two he’ll turn up in a “Further Research” column.

    One guy who has already turned up in a “Further Research” column is the estimable Edward L. Cahn, who directed Gerald Mohr in “Guns, Girls, and Gangsters” (1959). I saw an absolutely stunning, brand-new-looking 35mm print of that film in Palm Springs about six years ago, with Mamie Van Doren sitting a few seats away, a small dog on her lap.

  • jbryant

    I intended to watch “The Daniel Barrister Story” tonight, but misremembered the title, so ended up seeing “The Danny Benedict Story” instead, a Season 3 episode directed by Herschel Daugherty. It was quite effective, with Brandon De Wilde as an Army captain’s son torn between military duty and a passion for music. Great performance by Onslow Stevens as his father, and Ward Bond had a lot of fine moments, too. I’ll try to catch “Daniel Barrister” before the episodes disappear.

    Robert Garrick: What appears to be a good print of MY WORLD DIES SCREAMING is available for viewing in a free stream via imdb and Hulu here: http://www.imdb.com/video/hulu/vi3161849881/

    Harold Daniels also directed a rather good 1951 crime drama titled ROADBLOCK starring the awesome Charles McGraw. It turns up on TV occasionally, or at least it used to.

    Another Mamie Van Doren/Edward L. Cahn collaboration, VICE RAID, is streaming on Netflix.

  • Tony Williams

    Thank you, Robert. I saw the film on first release but can’t remember it as that scary. Perhaps it was censored for a UK release.

    Also, Jerry, the end of The Danny Benedict story was one of those fragments which still remains in my mind when Danny gives that apologetic speech at the climax ending with “I want to be a soldier”, becomes reconciled with his father, and smashes his violin.

    Ugh!

  • jbryant

    Tony: Since the cat’s out of the bag on the ending of “The Danny Benedict Story,” I’ll add that I totally agree with you. That last few seconds completely undercuts what appears to be the theme of the entire episode. Or maybe I was bringing too much 2012 to it up until that point. Heck, I even thought for a while there that Danny was going to turn out to be the first openly gay prime time character. The way he talks about his late mentor seems a bit “coded,” you know? Of course, I knew this wouldn’t be possible in 1959, but I still didn’t expect that ending. Major Adams seemed to be clearly in favor of Danny’s becoming a musician, and it looked like his dad had turned around, too. Then it all literally went “smash!”

    Still, pretty fascinating television, and Onslow Stevens was close to brilliant, I think.

  • Blake Lucas

    I haven’t seen “The Danny Benedict Story” but would bet as a virtual certainty that if Bartlett and Jolley had written it and Bartlett had directed it Danny would have been a violinist at the end and not a soldier.

    SPOILERS

    My favorite Bartlett episode may have been “The Ruth Marshall Story”–Luana Patten plays Ruth, kidnapped by Indians as a little girl, and her parents have asked McCullough to try to find her and bring her back. It turns out that although Ruth interacts with the Indians and is highly respected by them for healing powers, she lives by herself with animal companions. McCullough interacts with her in the course of the episode, soon realizes she is Ruth, but in the end realizes her life is most fulfilling for her where it is and leaves her to it, telling her parents he didn’t find her. Bartlett has no investment in supporting any conventional mindsets about what so-called civilized life should be.

  • jbryant

    Blake: That “Ruth Marshall Story” plot reminds me of a GUNSMOKE episode I saw recently, Andrew V. McLaglen’s “Indian Ford” (#7.10), with Pippa Scott as a young woman who has been in Indian captivity for more than a year, and clearly prefers it to the life she left behind, for reasons I won’t spoil. GUNSMOKE, like the other Starz Westerns, will be gone from Netflix after today, but it looks like Seasons 1-10 are also on YouTube.

  • Barry Putterman

    jbryant, season 7 of “Gunsmoke” is the beginning of its most glorious period. If you are taking last looks at the shows before they become unavialable, I would suggest the two episodes which preceed “Indian Ford,” namely “Chesterland” and “Milly.”

  • Blake Lucas

    Just to reiterate, if you get these shows from Netflix it seems clear you will now be out of luck. But if you actually subscribe to Starz, presumably we can still see it all on the Western Channel as it plays there. If I am wrong or misunderstood, someone please correct me, as I have been looking forward to more movies, WAGON TRAIN, et al. My only complaint about the Western Channel is their disrespect for aspect ratios. As self-appointed guardians of a great genre and ones who are providing classic movies to people who remember them from their theatrical runs, one would think they’d want to show those works the respect they warrant in presentation and to present them as people remember them. Anyone who has ever seen, say, THE MAN FROM LARAMIE panned and scanned will probably agree that if that’s the only way you’ve seen it, you haven’t truly seen it at all. Yet that’s how they show it.

    On the positive side is all they do provide. I wanted to add this note about Richard Bartlett–what may be his best theatrical feature JOE DAKOTA (1957)recently surfaced there and I assume it will show again. His WAGON TRAIN episodes do have his ideas, and I think he brings what he can of his characteristic tone and texture, but the resources of features do allow for infinitely more in the way of mood and atmosphere in mise en scene, and so a richer work, even for someone like Bartlett, whose stylistic virtues are quiet but very real. JOE DAKOTA is a very beautiful movie–much more there than its surface modesty might suggest (in this it’s like SADDLE TRAMP, recently mentioned here and also turning up on the Western Channel)–and may I add that not only does it star Bartlett favorites Jock Mahoney and Luana Patten, both wonderful, but also, as Jbryant so aptly described him a few posts back “the awesome Charles McGraw.”

    And for those won over to Bartlett, I believe French DVD label Sidonis is putting out both JOE DAKOTA and later on his excellent ‘Scope western MONEY, WOMEN AND GUNS (1958), which seems made to play on a double bill with Cahn’s GUNS, GIRLS AND GANGSTERS recently mentioned here. Haven’t seen the Cahn myself though I sure would like to.

  • Tony Williams

    Fragments of JOE DAKOTA remain in my mind from first seeing it decades ago. Wasn’t it the one where Jock Mahoney takes a bath in the horse trough to the consternation of citizens?

    “The Ruth Marshall Story” reveals the necessity of countering readings of The Western as Genocidal text that I had to do with an otherwise intelligent graduate student years ago. Unfortunately, that impression is still common so it is all the more important to bring to mind the work of Clint Walker, Bartlett, and others who attempted to depict much more varied narratives during the 1950s.

  • Blake Lucas

    “Fragments of JOE DAKOTA remain in my mind from first seeing it decades ago. Wasn’t it the one where Jock Mahoney takes a bath in the horse trough to the consternation of citizens?”

    Yes, that’s the one. A very amusing scene. I’ll resist going into more detail about the relationship of stranger Mahoney to the town and to quietly alienated Luana Patten, who he befriends, the truth about Mahoney’s Indian friend, and who the title character actually is, since I hope people will want to see the movie when they have a chance.

    I second what you say in your second paragraph, needless to say. The evidence against that “Genocidal text” reading is clearly on the screen for anyone who wants to seriously study the genre.

  • I’m really glad I got a chance to see John Ford’s WAGON TRAIN episode, it’s pretty terrific! Thanks jbryant for alerting me to its presence, before it was too late.

  • Barry Putterman

    TCM reports that their star of the month for May is Joel McCrea. Can Terry Wilson month be far behind?

  • Blake Lucas

    And JOE DAKOTA shows on the Western Channel Thursday night. Sorry I may not have the time exactly right–please check if you want to see it. I believe it’s 11 PM here in California so I guess that means 8 PM ET and depends on where you are–hope I’m getting that right. I just wanted to at least say early it will be coming on this week.

  • jbryant

    Glad you caught it, Jaime! To think I almost didn’t mention it because I assumed most everyone here had seen it. I’m wishing I had squeezed in another look at it myself.

  • Tony Williams

    Jerry with Dean. Has anybody seen THAT’S MY BOY lately? It is a comedy with Oedipal dimensions including the casting of future WAGON TRAIN boss John McIntire as a psychoanalyst who warns Jerry’s Dad about the possibility of a Dick Cheney hunting accident if he pressures his son too much to follow in his footsteps as a high school jock. By contrast, Dean is the son he wishes he had in the first place and wonders whether the two boys were swapped at birth.

  • Barry Putterman

    Not lately Tony. But I think that it is a rather important film for Martin & Lewis. Not the least of which because Jerry’s Dad is the great Eddie Mayehoff, from whom Jerry picked up a lot of tricks. “Vote yes on proposition no!”

  • Tony Williams

    Yes, this is the linguistic humor that Chris Fujiwara suggests is Yiddish in nature.” I’ll smoke that cigarette dry” etc. It is a key film and I wish it were available outside youtube in a cheaper edition other than Martin and Lewis Vol. 1. Many papers from my Lewis class are interesting relating the duo to the 1950s superbly. One, in particular, notes the type of male hysteria personified by Lewis that has connections to the Mann/Stewart persona though I doubt that the students has seen these films. This is the pleasure of reading student papers that respond to the evidence on the screen.

  • jbryant

    On March 16, TCM has a block of Jerry films: HOOK,LINE AND SINKER; DON’T RAISE THE BRIDGE, LOWER THE RIVER; THE BIG MOUTH and THREE ON A COUCH. Check those local listings.

  • Michelle Grasz

    I have read a number of Books on Jerry Lewis, 3 he wrote himself, one by his ex wife Patti and another by Arthur Marx. The Mark book (everybody loves somebody sometimes…) seemed like a personal attack on Jerry but treated Martin with kid gloves. I never turn down an opportunity to see one of his films or read another book about him…I have been both entertained and facinated by this man since I was a little orphaned 9 yr old girl in 1967 and he kept me going! I read in an article by GQ that Bogdanivitch (sp)said people are uncomfortable by Jerry Lewis as he doesn’t censor himself very well and as a lonely kid bounced around from foster homes myself I can relate to his social awkwardness and lack of grace. I love his work both with and without Dean, I have almost the complete collection with exception of clown cried which I doubt will ever be released and I don’t have slapstick (I heard it was crap)..any rate I have nothing to add but just wanted to weigh in with my admiration for a very tallented man.

  • Tony Williams

    Thank you, Michelle. After going through some excellent Lewis and Martin papers in my Jerry class, I’m also of the opinion that certain people became uncomfortable with him because his comic actions revealed a very telling hysteria within the acceptable male persona of the 1950s. That is my opinion. Others may differ but this has been a very rewarding threat that Dave has started.

  • Michelle Grasz

    You are right, the 1950’s wives were pretty much personal property and Patti was no exception…on the David Susskind interviews Jerry was adament about not letting other men dance with HIS wife, “She’s Mine” I remember my father having the same insecurities. I also think some of that rubbed over to his treatment of his boys, it was like he almost resented sharing Patti with them at times, then at other times he was more affectionate then any man I have ever seen, kissing them full on the lips, big bear hugs etc
    Well I love the man thoroughly and as I am just a fan I will leave his family life to his wives and children…albeit I did send him a birthday card this week

  • jbryant

    Michelle: We’re about the same age, and I can recall in grade school there was a publication called the Weekly Reader that had a “most admired person” poll every year. The top spots were usually filled by some combination of the President, the Pope, Rev. Billy Graham and…Jerry Lewis.

    I was a very shy kid, too, and sometimes compensated by forcing myself to be a bit of a class clown. It may have helped that my name was Jerry (though I generally go by “Jay”), and I even had a slight resemblance to Lewis. But at any rate, he was a key figure of my childhood, and it’s been most rewarding to see his work taken seriously by so many film writers over the years. I think it was mentioned upthread, but you might want to check out Chris Fujiwara’s book on Jerry in the Contemporary Film Directors series. In addition to Chris’s valuable insights, it includes a lengthy interview with his subject.

  • Michelle Grasz

    Actually Jay I just ordered that book from Amazon yesterday! Jerry was a very integral part of my life growing up as well. I lost my parents at 9 yrs of age and one set of foster parents use to plop me in front of the tv and there was practically a jerry movie every day at 3pm. I would tell all the kids at school that he was going to adopt me…yeah they pretty much figured I was retarded! But it got me through a whole host of emotional problems just having that sweet funny man as my make believe dad!
    It really makes me happy to see other people out there that recognize him as being more than just another commedian. He is a national treasure!