Jump to content
 
Search In
  • More options...
Find results that contain...
Find results in...

Judging Jerry Lewis


Tikisoo
 Share

Recommended Posts

I know Jerry Lewis is a divisive entertainer-some love him, some hate him, while many simply judge him although they don't know him personally.

 

A few years ago I viewed THE NUTTY PROFESSOR for the first time and was wholly entertained by it. It's easy to discount it in retrospect, since it's pretty silly and been done since, but in it's day was a huge moneymaker.

 

I'm reading the excellent 2004 Peter Bogdanovich book WHO THE HELLS IN IT? his compilation of personal interviews and impressions of several movie stars. While most chapters are 5-10 pages long, the middle 100 pages are devoted to Jerry Lewis.

 

There is much to learn about Lewis from reading this- his humble beginnings born in a show business family, his meteoric rise to fame as a very young man, his relationship with Dean Martin, his contribution to film making/directing/writing, his behind-the-scenes contributions.....

 

Many demonize Lewis as a mean & nasty person, but here you get Jerry's perspective. Reading through it, I wholly understand how some of his actions have been misconstrued. He often played hardball with those he felt were cheating him, only to donate the spoils to his beloved MD research. And like Desi Arnaz, much of his positive contributions are intellectual and behind the scenes.

 

In it, Lewis speaks of writing a book about his complicated relationship with Dean Martin (a personal fave of mine) and am glad it has been completed & published. 

 

It's easy to see Jerry Lewis as the cynical charactor he plays in THE KING OF COMEDY. But he is so much more-a complicated person who has entertained the world with simple humor.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sure.  When I was a kid, Jerry Lewis was the "hottest thing on toast".  We couldn't WAIT for the next Lewis movie.  I still love and respect him not only for the joy he brought me in my youth, but later on for his countless and selfless hours devoted to his telethons.  But as well....

 

The story I heard often was that while he and Dean were making movies, between takes and shootings, while Dean was resting in the trailer or busy hitting on starlets, Jerry was busy bugging the technical crew...."What's THIS for?"...."How's THIS work?"..."How do you do THAT?"..."WHY do you do that?"  and the like.  Sponging up all the knowledge he could about the movie making proccess.

 

To me, many of his movies contained near equal amounts of comedy genius AND stupidity, and there's no denying many were commercial successes.   Now, many would discount Lewis's comedy as "silly" and "lowbrow", and the same could(and has been) said about the comedy of OTHER past "masters" like The Three Stooges, Red Skelton, Abbott and Costello, and the Ritz Brothers.  But can also be said of NEWER comic actors like Adam Sandler, Will Ferrell, Ben Stiller and Seth Rogen, Jim Carrey and the like.

 

TIKI, in retrospect, THE NUTTY PROFESSOR and THE BELLBOY  are STILL two of my favorite MOVIES as WELL as comedies.

 

 

Sepiatone

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Jerry, like Sinatra and Bruce Springsteen, seems to attract the most diehard loyalty from those who also grew up in New Jersey, and now have to swear lifelong affection from anyone else who successfully got out of the Old Neighborhood.

 

I know Jerry Lewis is a divisive entertainer-some love him, some hate him, while many simply judge him although they don't know him personally.

 

Many demonize Lewis as a mean & nasty person, but here you get Jerry's perspective. Reading through it, I wholly understand how some of his actions have been misconstrued. He often played hardball with those he felt were cheating him, only to donate the spoils to his beloved MD research. And like Desi Arnaz, much of his positive contributions are intellectual and behind the scenes.

 

I tend to be one of those more judgmental folks, who thinks he can sense a comic's offstage personality from his approach to humor--

The more old-school comics (eg. Sid Caesar) who tend to be more aggressive in pushing their physical humor in the audiences face, and think they had to "grab" laughs from an unwilling audience like a military campaign, often tend to be the complete **** offstage. 

And no offense to a fellow shipmate, but Jerry in interviews seems like he can't go five minutes without all-out pushing the same gawky rubber-face gags that were funny back when he was a skinny Jersey teen.

 

Growing up, the MD telethons always seemed like an "easy" ploy--Back before stars were allowed to stand up for their political causes, doing benefits for non-political good causes like poor orphans and hospitals was the quick route to being seen as a generous figure in the Entertainment Industry, like Danny Thomas for the Shriners.

Edited by TCMModerator1
Edited For Language
Link to comment
Share on other sites

like Danny Thomas for the Shriners.

 

OUCH.

Danny Thomas helped found St Jude's Hospital. 

 

(it's one of very few charities I support)

 

Sorry, knew it was one of the two.  And Thomas's charity seems to be a little more sincere, but some MD folks (my mom had ALS, and I haven't been walking so great lately either) eventually started protesting how maudlin Jerry could get with his "Kids" at telethon time.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Look at us we're walking. Look at us we're talking. We who never walked or talked before. Look at us we're laughing, we're happy and we're laughing. Thank you from our hearts forever more. But there are so many other children. Whose hopes are only a silent prayer. That they can be as lucky if you only can give your share...That song rings in ear today from watching Jerry's Kids for years.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Jerry has had a reputation for being somewhat crass to his fans. But....I can explode that reputation to a degree. When Damn Yankees came to Kansas City, I waited for him at the stage door exit outside of the Midland Theatre. It was 11 degrees outside and lightly sleeting when the show ended and I was waiting at the door. Jerry came out and I quickly, but carefully, rushed to him and asked him if I could have his autograph. He looked at me with tired eyes and put out his hand so I could give him my program. He went to sign it with the ink pen I gave him and the pen wouldn't write. He handed the pen back to me and I panicked! I feverishly started to try to get it to write on my pants. As I did this, I looked up and he stuck one finger up like "Wait a minute." He reaches into a heavy sweatshirt he was wearing and produced a red Sharpie from his pocket. He signed the program and gave it back to me and stuck the Sharpie back in his pocket. I told him "Thank you, Mr. Lewis." He smiled politely and said "You're welcome." With that, he got into the back seat of a warmed up car and was driven off as I walked away. When I looked down at the autograph, he had adjusted the program in his hand to write solid and left his thumbprint in his "J."

 

Remember...this was outside...in 11 degrees...while sleeting...and after a performance. I'd say I was a very lucky guy that night. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Jerry has had a reputation for being somewhat crass to his fans. But....

 

Nice story.

He actually was asked about this in the interview. He defended his position by saying, "Just because they bought a ticket I'm not locked into a commitment for giving more. I'm going to give them my heart & soul & sweat for the ticket they bought, but they can't have anything else. I don't know how to put it except that it feels like you're an effin'  w ache o r e. It offends me."

 

Like I said, the entire interview really helped me see things from his point of view.

 

The most tirelessly gracious star I've ever seen was Debbie Reynolds. She came out after her performance and signed & spoke to everyone waiting. She was amazingly generous. 

 

I can wholly understand Lewis' position. Can you imagine what it's like being mobbed by people trying to get a piece of you? For an autograph? An autograph they're just going to sell on the internet anyway?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Look at us we're walking. Look at us we're talking. We who never walked or talked before. Look at us we're laughing, we're happy and we're laughing. Thank you from our hearts forever more. But there are so many other children. Whose hopes are only a silent prayer. That they can be as lucky if you only can give your share...That song rings in ear today from watching Jerry's Kids for years.

 

I distinctly remember this song as being part of the United Cerebral Palsy telethons.  There was a local telethon in the area in which I grew up, hosted by local news personalities and peppered with Grade B and C celebrities from Hollywood.  The song was part of what was called the "money shot".  Get the kids in a big circle, on crutches, in wheelchairs, walk them around and the phones would ring off the hook.  They usually did it when donations were lagging  and things were quiet.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...

I just finished watching CINDERFELLA (1960). It was another Tashlin/Lewis film....Jerry's preferred director....he liked Tashlin's "cartoon" approach.

 

The story was very thin, despite having been based on the fairy tale Cinderella. It's really only a vehicle for Lewis' s p a s t i c* comedy. At times, his antics are adorable & hilarious, as when he's choreographed dancing. Other times, he just comes across as goofy, like his silly facial expressions. I guess a little humor for everybody.

 

It's kind of like watching all 3 Marx Brothers rolled into one person.

 

Talented Ed Wynn & Judith Anderson absolutely give weight to the production. Too bad Anderson was typecast as an evil matron, she was such a beautiful woman in her youth. Guess it helps believability for an evil matron to be beautiful, like Snow White's stepmother.

 

At the very least, it's an entertaining hour or so. It's been worthwhile revisiting his filmography as an adult. Although my favorite role of his will always be in THE KING OF COMEDY.

 

*really? bleeped out ****?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

© 2023 Turner Classic Movies Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Cookie Settings
×
×
  • Create New...