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Jerry Lewis films

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Any comments on these, both Lewis' own films and the Martin/Lewis movies?  I used to like those Martin and Lewis films, and I'm surprised by two things--1) how many there were in such a such time span, 2) that the last one came out in 1956 (well before I was born).

Even TCM doesn't seem to do much with these films.

I recall The Nutty Professor being pretty good, and I really like Jerry in an altogether different kind of role in The King of Comedy.

 

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Posted (edited)

I think there's more to Lewis than the lazy "the French love him" trope that usually gets trotted out whenever the subject of his films comes up, as if no thinking person could possibly find much value in broad comedies where subtlety tends to be in short supply. But both his solo films as well as those with Martin aren't well-known, for which blame can largely be assigned to their spotty availability on home video during the period when home video has been at its peak popularity. There have been two DVD box sets of the Martin & Lewis films, which went out of print and were later resurrected as manufactured-on-demand releases by Warner Archive, but those seem to be out of print now as well. Likewise, there was a 10-film box set of Lewis' films which came and went. Aside from THE NUTTY PROFESSOR, I don't think most people could name a Lewis film. 

A very different type of "Lewis film" (he wasn't involved in the production but is certainly the protagonist) that may be of interest is 2014's TELETHON, a behind-the-scenes look at what went on in preparation for the 1989 MDA telethon:

 

Edited by Dave Garrett
corrected production/release dates for TELETHON

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Used to watch the Martin & Lewis movies on TV when i was a kid, my dad was a fan. I enjoyed them but i remember very little. There was one where they were in the navy?

For his 'solo' films, i remember seeing The Nutty Professor when i was a kid, always thought i was cool because i recognised that Professor Frink from The Simpsons was at least partially based on him.

I've also seen Hardly Working, helped me see the funny side when i was a young man applying for work and taking on jobs that i sucked at/didn't last long at.

 

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When we were in fourth or fifth grade, my best friend and I saw the one with Jerry and Dean in the Navy (I think it was "Sailors Beware") three times in one day. Can't remember why exactly -- we thought the movie was funny, but seeing it three times in a row was also a kind of mutual self-imposed dare, like licking a flagpole in below zero weather.

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Solo films...I have a couple that come to mind right away as being worth watching...not as coherent films, but as collections of some really funny physical comedy bits.

  • Who's Minding the Store
  • The Sad Sack
  • The Bellboy
  • Cinderfella
  • The Patsy
  • The Disorderly Orderly

And of course, Nutty Professor, which actually has both a premise and a plot. The others are mostly just premise to hang the gags on, but when the gags are as elaborate and as well-played as some of these are, it's ok.

Still waiting for The Day The Clown Cried. Seriously.

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Many think Lewis was (is? He's still with us) a certified genius. Not only did he write his films, he directed, starred, edited, and even did the music for them.  He really was a one-man movie machine.  He's also widely credited for first using "video assist"--videotaping what he was filming so he could view it immediately and make changes.

 

 

gregmo

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I was once alone in the press room at the Cannes Film Festival trying to type up an article when Jerry Lewis appeared followed by a plethora of French tv crews. He sat at a typewriter and did some funny schtick, then jumped up and left the room with the crews all following him and still shooting.  For some reason, they all (including Jerry) ignored me.  I used to wonder about the French cineastes' fascination with Lewis but then I actually watched some of the films he directed.  They're quite innovative though I prefer Jacques Tati  but maybe he's exotic to me the way Jerry is exotic to the French. Their camera techniques do have some similarities. 

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Well, Tati was definitely *heavily* influenced by Lewis. I think he said that more than once. It is true that the French love Lewis, but then, they've always had a soft spot in their hearts for physical comedy.

 

 

gregmo

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I prefer Lewis solo to Martin and Lewis, although the two Frank Tashlin-directed films, Hollywood or Bust and Artists and Models are favourites. I find Tashlin's solo Lewis films to be the best, such as the aforementioned Who's Minding the Store and The Disorderly Orderly -- both hilarious and beautifully made. Tashlin, a former Warner Bros cartoon director, found a human cartoon character in Lewis.

However Lewis also became a very good director: The Ladies Man and The Nutty Professor are innovative and great fun. I never understood the criticism of him. At his best he was brilliant.

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I get at least part of the criticism - apart from his movies, Jerry Lewis became - and remained - one of the most "obnoxious" public figures of 20th Century America. I mean the guy would show up on a talk show or a variety show and just not know what a line was, never mind not knowing where it was, never EVER mind knowing when it might have been crossed. Just relentless, like an endless loop of the most aggressive portion of a Buddy Rich solo. And the older he got, the less popular he became, the more he upped that ante. Sometimes it was hilarious in spite of its awkwardness, sometimes in spite of it, but always, it was awkward.

But the movies, again, I find myself very much enjoying them as a series of bits. Plots, when they exist, are basic. At the humor quite often begins as 3 Stooges 101. But as relentlessly inartful as Lewis' schtick was out of the realm of film, it was that much artful in it. I mean, that vacuum cleaner scene, he took that waaaay past the point of Stooges visual/slapstick, it started getting absurdist, surreal even, and it kept on going, the joke not ending until there was almost literally no place left for it to go. And definitely no place for it to go back to.

Andy Kaufman was like that with his anti-comedy comedy, just get on a riff and ride it no matter where it goes, don't get off of it, make it kill itself, and even then, are you SURE it's dead?

So...I find merit there. Not at all times, not in all ways, but yeah, merit. And definitely enjoyment.

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On 17.3.2017 at 10:41 PM, gmonahan said:

Well, Tati was definitely *heavily* influenced by Lewis. I think he said that more than once. It is true that the French love Lewis, but then, they've always had a soft spot in their hearts for physical comedy.

gregmo

To be honest, Tati had been directing movies when Lewis was not there yet. There may well have been some cross-poliination but his mold had been cast before Lewis came along. And Tati IS more subtle (in a not immediately evident way, and some of it may be picked up only by extreme Francophiles ^_^).

As for remembering Jerry Lewis films, this excerpt might be one to be remember: ;)

 

 

Edited by Big Beat Steve

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4 hours ago, JSngry said:

.....relentless, like an endless loop of the most aggressive portion of a Buddy Rich solo....

So, for your pleasure: 

 

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The clip from The Ladies Man is pretty fascinating.  I never saw that before.  Thanks for uploading.

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53 minutes ago, AllenLowe said:

isn't that Bob Gordon on bari?

Can't be. Gordon died in 1955, the film is from 1961. Wonder who it is, though. Pretty sure it's an actual musician, not an actor.

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That's a bass sax, isn't it?

http://www.thevideobeat.com/beatnik-hippie-drug-movies/visit-small-planet-1960.html

Jerry Lewis as an alien who travels light years to Earth so he can hang out with real-gone beatniks at the "Hungry Brain" club — featuring cool cats, hip chicks and an outasight combo that includes Buddy Rich, Don Bagley, Frank Socolow and Jack Costanzo.

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that's from a play written by Gore Vidal. Though completely altered, of course.

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On 20/03/2017 at 6:06 PM, JSngry said:

I get at least part of the criticism - apart from his movies, Jerry Lewis became - and remained - one of the most "obnoxious" public figures of 20th Century America. I mean the guy would show up on a talk show or a variety show and just not know what a line was, never mind not knowing where it was, never EVER mind knowing when it might have been crossed. Just relentless, like an endless loop of the most aggressive portion of a Buddy Rich solo. And the older he got, the less popular he became, the more he upped that ante. Sometimes it was hilarious in spite of its awkwardness, sometimes in spite of it, but always, it was awkward.

Ah. I'm in the UK where we wouldn't have seen those TV moments at the time so I was blissfully ignorant. Never saw his telethons either and his (reportedly) very bad later films didn't get released here. I think I'd rather not know...

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Some of them (the TV appearances, forums, etc.) are quite fascinating, and you can do YouTube safaris to look at those, but as something to live through in real time...no.

It seems like the guy started out quite aware of his talents, and then got really bitter as time went on. Bitter lunacy is not much fun, although with the whole Creepy Clown thing, maybe it's an idea that has a last found a market. But Jerry didn't wear the makeup, except, I think, in The Day The Clown Cried, and I really, really would like to get a look at that one. A little bit of unedited footage leaked out a few years ago, and it was hypnotic. Or maybe I was in the mood to be hypnotized, who knows?

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Don't think that film will be released, certainly not in Lewis's lifetime (though, given that he is now 91, may not be that much longer). He has said repeatedly that he really hates the movie, is embarrassed by it, and thinks it's his worst work. Some jazz musicians have felt the same way about bad work of theirs that they mightily resisted seeing released.

 

 

gregmo

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Yeah, I know. Still...for a long time he wouldn't even talk about it.

Maybe we can get a Special Joint Release of The Day The Clown Cried & Tyrone Washington's Train Wreck to celebrate National We Are Fully Entitled Day.

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