Author Topic: Jerry Lewis?  (Read 3896 times)

Jake Thingray

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Jerry Lewis?
« on: May 16, 2011, 06:54:08 PM »
Does he deserve respect for his self-parodic turn in The King Of Comedy, or should he merely be dismissed as someone as archaic as George Robey, whose stuff appeals only to those old enough to have seen him first time, or humourless pretentious film pseuds. There's a school of thought that his Comic Relief/Children in Need equivalents were really done to benefit himself.

Ballad of Ballard Berkley

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Re: Jerry Lewis?
« Reply #1 on: May 16, 2011, 07:17:09 PM »
I'm a big fan of Jerry Lewis, although I must admit I tend to regard him as a fascinating enigma rather than a consistently great comedian. However, his solo films from the early 1960s contain moments of genius - and I don't use that word lightly - with The Nutty Professor obviously being his best, most fully-realised work. He's a frustrating artiste: obviously hugely talented in many ways, and yet his tendency to over-egg mediocre material and delve into earnest pathos at any opportunity makes even his better films feel very uneven. 

And yet, at his best, he was a dazzling physical comedian and an inspired director. The primary coloured, live-action cartoon sheen of his early 1960s movies is highly distinctive, and they contain several comic set-pieces that would be the envy of comedy performers from any era.

I certainly wouldn't regard his films as out-dated, since zany, fast-paced slapstick never really goes out of fashion.

Also, it goes without saying that the film I'd like to see most in the world is his notorious, unreleased, holocaust drama The Day The Clown Cried, but only to confirm whether it really is as appallingly misconceived as the woeful screenplay suggests.

And he's fecking superb in The King of Comedy. But then he'd been rehearsing for that role his entire adult life. And that's one of the fascinating things about him: he obviously knows that he's a weird, narcissistic shit in real life, and doesn't really care who knows it. The most obvious manifestation of this, pre King of Comedy, is his obnoxious Buddy Love alter ego in The Nutty Professer. Critics at the time took it as a swipe at Dean Martin, and yet it's obviously intended as a reflection of the darkness in his own character, with the loveable, nerdy Professor representing his more palatable stage and screen persona.

In short: the French were right. Sort of. 

Ballad of Ballard Berkley

  • a hopeless vanity... a stupefyingly futile conceit
Re: Jerry Lewis?
« Reply #2 on: May 16, 2011, 07:50:53 PM »
Also, even if you're ambivalent about Lewis, I urge you to read The King of Comedy by Shawn Levy, which is one of the best comedy biographies I've ever encountered.

.

Jake Thingray

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Re: Jerry Lewis?
« Reply #3 on: May 16, 2011, 08:49:23 PM »
Can't say I have much time for Lewis these days, although I loved The Nutty Professor as a kid, after seeing it in primetime one Saturday night on BBC1. Shawn Levy's Rat Pack Confidential is presently by my bedside.

Re: Jerry Lewis?
« Reply #4 on: May 18, 2011, 10:28:55 PM »
His book 'Dean and Me' is a great read. (Extra laughs on the audiobook version when the narrator utters the phrase "The Mo-ra-com-bey & Wise Show.") It's crazy to realise how famous Martin & Lewis were, at their peak. I had to double check I wasn't reading a book about Beatlemania.

Also, http://youtu.be/we1uRWRuj80

Re: Jerry Lewis?
« Reply #5 on: May 19, 2011, 05:26:36 AM »
Rat Pack Confidential has some fun sleaze but the one to read is Nick Tosches' Dino: Living High in the Dirty Business of Dreams. Such a shame that the adaptation of this fell apart at one time, it'd make one interesting film. I'm sure it will one day with the right director.

Advanced students may study the career of Sammy Petrillo for a cautionary tale.

Re: Jerry Lewis?
« Reply #6 on: May 30, 2011, 10:09:18 PM »
For those who haven't heard it -The Martin and Lewis Show.  The guest stars that were on it were certainly impressive and it's decent evidence to support Peter Cook's comment that Martin made Lewis funny, or as writers such as Levy said, made him likeable/bearable. 

Does he deserve respect for his self-parodic turn....
Something easy to overlook is Lewis' genuine passion for film and his technical innovation. For example, he was the first director to use studio monitors to watch what was being recorded on set, rather than relying on daily rushes; this system was one that he designed personally and although this became the usual way to direct films, it was a decade or more later until other directors used that kind of technology. Lewis' set design for The Ladies' Man was similarly innovative. Lighting and sound was built into each room of the 'boarding house' that the film took in place in - although this methods is initially more expensive than sound/lighting crews setting up and dismantling equipment for each scene, it proved to be a flexible and speedy way of shooting that had the added bonus of no problems that might be caused by crews setting up equipment as needed (e.g. Gear not being set up correctly meaning that a scene would have to be reshot). 

Lewis wrote a guide to film-making, which was considered to be brilliant. Additionally, when he was guest lecturer at UCLA, future successful directors like Spielberg were in the audience. 

...There's a school of thought that his Comic Relief/Children in Need equivalents were really done to benefit himself.
Although Lewis' attitude to disabilities could arguably be said to be dated, I can't say I've read anything to convincingly suggest that his telethons were done for purely selfish reasons. There has been quite a bit of criticism levelled at Lewis' charity efforts (Levy's biography is a good source about this) - personally, I think that such criticism has a decent foundation. 

If people subscribed to the 'school of thought' that you mention, personally, I would say it says far more about them than Lewis.

.... a frustrating artiste: obviously hugely talented in many ways, and yet his tendency to over-egg mediocre material and delve into earnest pathos at any opportunity makes even his better films feel very uneven....
I think that's an interesting aspect of the Levy biography - the Lewis being portrayed is half-serious artist and half-showbiz huckster, which colours his work accordingly. 

Rat Pack Confidential has some fun sleaze but the one to read is Nick Tosches' Dino: Living High in the Dirty Business of Dreams...

Advanced students may study the career of Sammy Petrillo for a cautionary tale.
That's a fabulous biography - Tosches let Levy use his research when he was writing Rat Pack Confidential....

Mitchell and Petrillo - imitation maybe a sincere form of flattery, but it's not always a good career move. 

Ballad of Ballard Berkley

  • a hopeless vanity... a stupefyingly futile conceit
Re: Jerry Lewis?
« Reply #7 on: May 31, 2011, 02:02:41 PM »
For those who haven't heard it -The Martin and Lewis Show.  The guest stars that were on it were certainly impressive and it's decent evidence to support Peter Cook's comment that Martin made Lewis funny, or as writers such as Levy said, made him likeable/bearable.

It's unfortunate that most people, if they're aware of Martin & Lewis at all, will only know them from their rather bland and formulaic movies, rather than from their other work in radio, TV and on stage, where they were far more anarchic. It's difficult to understand the reasons for their wild popularity in the 1950s, simply from watching their films. It wasn't until I caught up with some of their Colgate Comedy Hour stuff on YouTube that I appreciated how amazingly wild and fresh they must 've seemed back then.


Martin and Lewis - Oh Marie

Martin and Lewis - End of show ad-lib

Also, what Ignatius said. I'd love to read The Total Filmmaker, but it's been out of print for years.

Ballad of Ballard Berkley

  • a hopeless vanity... a stupefyingly futile conceit
Re: Jerry Lewis?
« Reply #8 on: May 31, 2011, 11:32:07 PM »
Can't say I have much time for Lewis these days, although I loved The Nutty Professor as a kid, after seeing it in primetime one Saturday night on BBC1. Shawn Levy's Rat Pack Confidential is presently by my bedside.

I suggest another watch of The Nutty Professor, together with The Bellboy, The Ladies Man and his two Frank Tashlin solo movies, Who's Minding The Store? and The Disorderly Orderly, to perhaps remind you that he deserves more respect than your opening post suggests. The Nutty Professor aside, none of them are masterpieces, but they clearly showcase an immense - if immensely undisciplined - comic talent.

He's hardly a forgotten and irrelevant footnote in comedy history, as you seem to imply. A Jerry Lewis thread will never set CaB alight, but he's still a major figure in the evolution of the form.





 


Dusty Gozongas

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Re: Jerry Lewis?
« Reply #9 on: June 01, 2011, 04:15:53 PM »
Also, it goes without saying that the film I'd like to see most in the world is his notorious, unreleased, holocaust drama The Day The Clown Cried, but only to confirm whether it really is as appallingly misconceived as the woeful screenplay suggests.

Ditto. I'm in no doubt it would be a very painful film to watch though.

(for those who haven't heard of it):
http://www.subcin.com/clownspy.html
http://www.subcin.com/clowncried.html

Re: Jerry Lewis?
« Reply #10 on: March 19, 2021, 10:52:14 AM »
Like so much comedy: amazing if you saw it at the time, harder to appreciate now.

Lisa Jesusandmarychain

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Re: Jerry Lewis?
« Reply #11 on: March 19, 2021, 11:04:43 AM »
Never all that funny, and a complete cunt, too. I was glad when he carked it, to be honest.

Ballad of Ballard Berkley

  • a hopeless vanity... a stupefyingly futile conceit
Re: Jerry Lewis?
« Reply #12 on: March 19, 2021, 11:22:25 AM »
Well that was worth a ten-year bump.

Re: Jerry Lewis?
« Reply #13 on: March 19, 2021, 11:28:27 AM »
Lewis is great in King of Comedy, one of my all-time favourite films.

The scene in one of his other films, where he typewrites to music, is pure genius.

Ballad of Ballard Berkley

  • a hopeless vanity... a stupefyingly futile conceit
Re: Jerry Lewis?
« Reply #14 on: March 19, 2021, 11:56:14 AM »
The scene in one of his other films, where he typewrites to music, is pure genius.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uaPKEbVypRQ

And here's another great piece of jazzily precise Lewis physical timing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q4v8UdkTx30

So maybe this thread was worth bumping after all.


neveragain

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Re: Jerry Lewis?
« Reply #15 on: March 19, 2021, 11:58:10 AM »
There's a whole lot of old-thread-bumping at the moment. Neil won't be pleased!

Edit: Or maybe Ballard is right...

Ballad of Ballard Berkley

  • a hopeless vanity... a stupefyingly futile conceit
Re: Jerry Lewis?
« Reply #16 on: March 19, 2021, 12:03:04 PM »
Yeah, it's daft. And here I am, bumping up the thread again. Sorry, Baz.

Echo Valley 2-6809

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Re: Jerry Lewis?
« Reply #17 on: March 19, 2021, 01:39:42 PM »
Talking about his partnership with Dean Martin, Beatlemania was mentioned earlier in the thread - this from 70 years ago shows it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sICVChBIlOs

Even Jason Manford doesn't get that many people outside his hotel room.

Re: Jerry Lewis?
« Reply #18 on: March 19, 2021, 01:45:39 PM »
The glove business here has me in bits every time: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tm1dvRUTtHs

chveik

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Re: Jerry Lewis?
« Reply #19 on: March 19, 2021, 01:48:02 PM »
Never all that funny, and a complete cunt, too. I was glad when he carked it, to be honest.

FUCK OFF

the bellboy and the errand boy are underrated comedies. they're not that hilarious but, similarly to a Jacques Tati, he was a genius filmmaker

Re: Jerry Lewis?
« Reply #20 on: March 19, 2021, 02:02:56 PM »

Ballad of Ballard Berkley

  • a hopeless vanity... a stupefyingly futile conceit
Re: Jerry Lewis?
« Reply #21 on: March 19, 2021, 02:22:49 PM »
The glove business here has me in bits every time: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tm1dvRUTtHs

Thank you for sharing that. Feeling a bit shit at the moment, but that's just the sort of stupid comedy I needed to see. I laughed.

Re: Jerry Lewis?
« Reply #22 on: March 19, 2021, 05:43:55 PM »
...Also, what Ignatius said. I'd love to read The Total Filmmaker, but it's been out of print for years.

It's been reprinted since the thread started - still pricey for the English version but a lot more affordable. The German version is less than a tenner... I wish I had known this when lockdown started, I could have used the time to learn another language.

Re: Jerry Lewis?
« Reply #23 on: March 19, 2021, 05:49:59 PM »
Talking about his partnership with Dean Martin, Beatlemania was mentioned earlier in the thread - this from 70 years ago shows it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sICVChBIlOs

Even Jason Manford doesn't get that many people outside his hotel room.

Thanks for posting that - that really is something.

Re: Jerry Lewis?
« Reply #24 on: March 19, 2021, 05:51:11 PM »
The glove business here has me in bits every time: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tm1dvRUTtHs

Lovely bit of business with the gloves as you say and really like the pay-off to it.

Kelvin

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Re: Jerry Lewis?
« Reply #25 on: March 20, 2021, 04:43:45 PM »
Outside of a couple of standalone scenes and of course, King of Comedy, I never liked Lewis. Primarily for this reason:



That face he does, christ.

Nonetheless, I'd never seen that scene from The Errand Boy that Ballard posted, and it is genuinely brilliant. 

Brundle-Fly

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Re: Jerry Lewis?
« Reply #26 on: March 20, 2021, 04:51:33 PM »
I loved Jerry Lewis as a kid. I almost had a crush on him, which I've never told anyone before until now.

This radio blooper reel for The Caddy is very funny. It's always weird to hear old film stars swear,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4LOGfX06ecg

Re: Jerry Lewis?
« Reply #27 on: March 20, 2021, 07:08:51 PM »
a complete cunt

a genius filmmaker

I agree with both of you.

For anyone wanting to read The Total Filmmaker, there's pdf's floating around, but it does seem to be getting a reprint in June. It's an interesting read though how often he followed his own advice in it is debatable.

Last night I saw Cracking Up which I utterly adored. Barely any story, likeable characters or sentimental subplots but it's got an incredible array of hugely inventive skits. By far his purest vision, well worth seeing. It's like he knew it'd be his final time directing so threw all he could into it.

Re: Jerry Lewis?
« Reply #28 on: March 20, 2021, 08:43:56 PM »
Guests on Gilbert Gottfried's Amazing Colossal Podcast often have anecdotes about Jerry Lewis and they invariably have him being an absolute bastard, but Gilbert always says, "I can use that old line, 'Well, he was always nice to me.'"

Re: Jerry Lewis?
« Reply #29 on: March 20, 2021, 09:46:16 PM »
Outside of a couple of standalone scenes and of course, King of Comedy, I never liked Lewis. Primarily for this reason:



That face he does, christ.

Am I very childish for finding people doing cross-eyed, gormless faces funny?