April 29, 2016

"Jerry Lewis just turned 90. It isn't trending on Facebook. Or Twitter."

"Because nobody on social media cares about or knows who the hell he is. To people my age, he's known as the guy who monopolized CBS affiliates all Labor Day weekend with his telethons for muscular dystrophy. To my dad's generation, he teamed with Dean Martin to be as big as the Beatles or Elvis.... But what isn't known is his influence in film[m]aking to legends from Spielberg, Tarantino, Eddie Murphy, just to name a few. He influenced me greatly 'look what Jerry Lewis does---he helps these folks out, and its a big person who gives back when they don't have to.' It's a huge reason why I try to get involved and help out as many wonderful non-profits (on a 1/100000th scale) it's important to give back. Its too bad as time goes on, he is slowly being forgotten. Happy 90th birthday, Mr. Lewis!"

Writes Andy Garcia.

It's funny, I read that just after writing a post about John Wayne's upcoming non-milestone birthday and, earlier this morning, having a discussion with Meade about another post — about the movie comedy that will depict Ronald Reagan with Alzheimer's disease — that including the use Jerry Lewis as an example. I was defending comedy that reaches into subjects that are not funny at all, not because I like everyone making light of what is serious, but because I recognize the special genius involved in successful transgression. Not that everyone agrees about what has been successful.

From "Enfant Terrible!: Jerry Lewis in American Film":

ADDED: AT&T's U-Verse — my cable service — is showing 2 and only 2 Jerry Lewis movies today. Why no Jerry Lewis marathon? They're the 2 movies I'd most want to see if I was going to binge-watch Jerry — "The Nutty Professor" and "The Disorderly Orderly." But, still, there should be a lot more — weirder choices, harder-to-find, harder-to-appreciate things.

41 comments:

damikesc said...

Well, there is that one movie Lewis won't allow to be released or viewed...

mockturtle said...

The apparent popularity of Jerry Lewis in France says a great deal about the French. And it'a not good!

madAsHell said...

He jumped the shark years ago with the Jerry Lewis Telethon.

dreams said...

Its not cool to like Jerry Lewis, I don't really like him either.

eric said...

but because I recognize the special genius involved in successful transgression.

Hat you call transgression I call propaganda by the party in power toward the party out of power.

Good for totalitarian regimes. Not so good for Democracy.

CJinPA said...

Not only is John Wayne's birthday passing quietly, the California legislature just voted down a resolution honoring him.

It's war, baby. And the Left is now shooting up the corpses.

eric said...

Hat=What

CJinPA said...

Oops. Just saw the earlier post on John Wayne.

tim in vermont said...

People keep denying that the French like him,but I was at a B&B in Paris once, flipping through about a hundred channels, and two of his movies were on at the same time, different channels. First laugh he gave me in decades.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Ann Althouse said.. I was defending comedy that reaches into subjects that are not funny at all, not because I like everyone making light of what is serious, but because I recognize the special genius involved in successful transgression. Not that everyone agrees about what has been successful.

Wiki: The Day The Clown Cried

The film was met with controversy regarding its premise and content, which features a circus clown who is imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp. Lewis has repeatedly insisted that The Day the Clown Cried would never be released because it is an embarrassingly "bad work" that he is ashamed of.

Carol said...

I loved him when I was 5 and he was the funny half of Martin & Lewis. Later when I was 21 or so I worked with him in Reno, and he was very nice to me, trying to cheer me while my BF sat in the audience with a new squeeze. Later he said nice things about my music, which were related back to me.

He apparently knows when someone needs a boost.

damikesc said...

I respect Jerry Lewis immensely for his work with MDA. Never got the humor personally.

dreams said...

There is something about Jerry Lewis and a few others that I find interesting and that is people who manage to lived long lives despite their poor health. Another example is Henry Kissinger who had a triple heart bypass operation(maybe quadruple bypass)at age 58 and has always been significantly overweight but has now lived to be 92 years old. I've also noticed that Jewish people, at least those who live in the US seem to have above average longevity.

richlb said...

He really was all over the place quality-wise. In 1983 he stars in The King of Comedy in a dark role that won him much praise. Sort of his comeback film. And he follows that up with Slapstick of Another Kind, a movie whose viewing is probably barred by the Geneva Convention.

richlb said...

Lewis has also taken immense heat in the last several years for his outspoken opinion that women comedians aren't funny.

Ann Althouse said...

I'm going to re-watched "The Disorderly Orderly." Of all the movies I saw before the age of 18, that movie made me laugh the most. By far. To this day, there's only one movie I ever saw that made me laugh more: "Get to Know Your Rabbit."

Ann Althouse said...

Here's "Get to Know Your Rabbit" (if you want to check my comic taste).

mikee said...

You can keep your Jerry Lewis oddball movies, I'll keep Peter Sellers in The Bobo and Being There (and all the Pink Panther movies, of course).

rcocean said...

One of Jerry's problems is that he's not that funny in real life. Watch the old interviews on the Carson or Cavett show. He comes off as pompous and dull. By comparison Mel Brooks was funny as hell in person.

rehajm said...

FLAVIN!

Chuck said...



Il est un génie .


Brian McKim & Traci Skene said...

He's only useful to some as a source of embarrassing (sexist) statements that serve as "teachable moments." Every few years, they poke him with a stick at Cannes or some other gathering, then they fire up the outrage machine when he (predictably) utters an "incorrect" statement. It's disrespectful.

William said...

His comic characters sometimes seem to suffer from palsy or spasticity. Does his work on the telethon compensate for that or make him a hypocrite? I know nothing of his private life. He gives the impression of someone who would treat a subordinate with contempt. I read Carol's entry. Maybe in his private life he's a kind and decent fellow. Who knows? ........It would be so nice if God existed and let you watch the Last Judgment and understand the reasons behind His decisions. I can't even figure out if I'm a good person, much less a contradictory character like Jerry Lewis.

damikesc said...

One of Jerry's problems is that he's not that funny in real life. Watch the old interviews on the Carson or Cavett show. He comes off as pompous and dull. By comparison Mel Brooks was funny as hell in person.

His humor was slapstick and ruined his body. He was funnier than Milton Berle, who couldn't ad-lib a fart.

Eleanor said...

Many years ago Jerry Lewis was appearing at a local outdoor venue. I wasn't a Jerry Lewis fan, but Helen O'Connell was his opening act,and she was my dad's pinup girl during WWII so I picked up some tickets to take Mom and Dad. Jerry was very funny, connected to the audience in a way no other comedian I've seen in person ever has, and made me reconsider his talent. Dad was still glowing from seeing O'Connell in person so he didn't notice.

Unknown said...

.......It would be so nice if God existed and let you watch the Last Judgment and understand the reasons behind His decisions.

William, all notions of the afterlife are probably heretical, but one of my hopes, too, is that after the life we live here on earth, there will be a cosmic debriefing and recap with analysis of everything that was going on. Specifically, I hope my father will finally understand everything he did wrong.

rcocean said...

"His humor was slapstick and ruined his body. He was funnier than Milton Berle, who couldn't ad-lib a fart

Ruined his body? He was 4-F during WW2 and he's lived to be 90. Guess he did OK.

Carol said...

He gives the impression of someone who would treat a subordinate with contempt.

I think he blew hot and cold. I'm pretty sure he was taking a lot of pills in those days. Not to excuse it but the uppers and downers wreaked havoc with a lot of personalities.

damikesc said...

Rcocean, I mean he tended to be in pain.

Chickering said...

I was never a big fan, but saw this film "Method to the Madness of Jerry Lewis" on Showtime a couple of years ago, and was blown away. This guy is a genius--came up with revolutionary recording techniques, among other innovations. I had no idea....
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i4VLFyHQHqY

Oscar DeNoe said...

Saw the Nutty Professor one afternoon, about fifty years ago, in a cavernous, mostly empty theater, in Dar Es Salaam. An Indian gent, seated close by, lost it. Howling, shrieking, sobbing and laughing,he fell out of his seat, hard on the floor. Hope to never forget the sight of it.

Kansas City said...

I never thought Lewis was funny, but respected his MDA work (although relatively few people apparently have MD -- many more have cerebral palsy). So I read these comments hoping for an explanation of why he was funny. Did not really see it. Saw the same mixed bag, mostly negative view of him as a comedian. I think maybe he came along at the right time and combined that with outsized ambition. He's done enough good that I hope he has had, and continues to have, a happy life.

J. Farmer said...

Maybe a generational thing but never got and could not stand Jerry Lewis. With the exception of The King of Comedy, I cannot think of a single piece of work of his I have enjoyed. It's also unforgivable that Lewis' Buddy Love gave birth to the persona of Andrew Dice Clay (aka Andrew Silverstein). Too bad. Dice always seemed like a pretty smart, talented guy who was never able to escape from the character that made him famous.

Saint Croix said...

Artists and Models (1955)

A+

People knock Jerry Lewis more than any other artist, maybe. And he’s made some shit. Some really annoying shit. Lewis often acts like a child, and he makes no real attempt to ground his comedy in reality. So if you’re not laughing, it’s actually pretty damn horrifying to sit through one of his films.

But I love this movie. It’s brilliant. It’s the first time Frank Tashlin ever worked with Lewis and Martin, and he’s on fire. Tashlin is a guy who made it to the movies after a couple of decades in the world of animation. So his comic sensibilities are surreal and over-the-top, filled with sight gags and fast pacing. His best two movies that I have seen are this one and Son of Paleface (with Bob Hope). Tashlin has made eight Jerry Lewis movies. The French love Jerry Lewis, and so they think Frank Tashlin is a genius. I don’t know if he’s a genius, but this is really funny.

Saint Croix said...

Way...Way Out (1966)

A

Jerry Lewis movie, I swear I love this thing. The Commies have a man and woman on the moon. So the Americans send up Jerry Lewis and Connie Stevens, the first married astronauts. It's an arranged marriage, they barely know each other. So the movie has this sweet vibe as these two married strangers start to fall in love. And there's some moon shenanigans. The Russians invade the space station, and Jerry swallows all the vodka pills. I haven't seen this movie in thirty years--it's not out on DVD, a crime--but I have fond memories. It's a happy flick. And the title song is an inspired bit of 60's pop music. A lot of sex jokes in this movie, maybe Jerry's dirtiest film. Still PG, of course!

Saint Croix said...

The Nutty Professor (1963)

A

Jerry Lewis always swore that he's not doing Dean Martin, but come on. It's too funny. He skewers him. Not just Dino, but Sinatra, the rat pack, all the crooners and half of Las Vegas. He eviscerates the whole cool facade.

Saint Croix said...

The Bellboy (1960)

A-

Jerry Lewis' art movie. It's his smartest comedy (by far).

Saint Croix said...

Get To Know Your Rabbit is up on youtube. Early De Palma effort, with one of the Smothers brothers. Thanks, AA!

Marty said...

Thanks for the link, Chickering.
I'm going to watch it in his tribute.
(I'm 67 y.o. and loved Jerry Lewis.)

raf said...

I never cared for Jerry Lewis's comedy characters. Some time ago we went to see a performance of Damn Yankee where he played the devil. He was very, very good in the role; it caused me to reevaluate him totally. Apropos of nothing, he and I share a birthday, offset by 21 years.

Steve said...

I know that a comedy about Ronald Reagan's Alzheimer's coming out of Hollywood would be terrible.

However, I can imagine it being funny and incredibly poignant. An intelligent, outgoing surrounded by the greatest power on Earth realizing that he is starting to slip. His reactions to the realization and his innate humor in reacting to that realization. His trusting loving wife there as his straight-man and ultimate support. Some of his long time 'friends' desert him, while his true friends stand by him till the realization that he's no longer in there.

The problem is that making such a movie would require an understanding of Reagan's intellect and humanity. And we know that doesn't exist in the movie industry. We'd get diaper jokes.