Boeing Boeing [1965)

This one is pretty lame.

Maybe I will rewatch it someday and extol its hidden splendor.

But it’s not bloody likely.

Tony Curtis drags this film down with his horrible performance.

[like a photocopy of a fax of a teletype of his turn in Some Like It Hot]

Curtis is positively not funny in this film.

Or charming.

Or anything redeeming whatsoever.

He sucks.

Which isn’t much help for Jerry Lewis.

And as uber-talented as Lewis is, Jerry can’t salvage this last picture he made for producer Hal B. Wallis.

And perhaps Jerry didn’t really care to anyway.

Fuck it.

Just get the contract over with.

Suffice it to say, this film is fairly godawful in just about every way.

Even character actor Thelma Ritter [Rear Window] has one of her final performances ruined by this vacuous vehicle.

Bad film.

Not recommended.

 

-PD

The Errand Boy [1961)

Yesterday I lost a good friend.

On the job.

Yes, that’s right:  she died at work.

And though she may not have known that she was my friend, she was.

She was a wonderful, sweet lady.

She had lived a long life.

And yet, she was taken from us too soon.

She was loved by many.

I do not know exactly what happened to her.

Only that one minute she had trouble catching her breath (from what I’m told) and the next she was being wheeled out dead…as we continued to work.

Dead.

High volume.

Busy workplace.

Sweatshop.

More or less.

Me, sweating by the ovens.

Slave to time.

Tempo.

Rush rush rush.

And there, a compatriot is being rolled away on a stretcher.

No white sheet.

Just an obvious lack of consciousness.

Perhaps she has been sedated?

And then the rumors trickled down.

“They couldn’t find a pulse.”

“Now it looks like they DID find a pulse.”

At the hospital…

But I have little doubt that she was already dead when I saw her for the last time.

That dear, sweet, old lady.

When I finally learned of her fate, I broke down.

I couldn’t help it.

Most of the shift I suspected the worst.

It was hard to be chipper.

Hard to interact with holiday customers in a rush.

But the finality of the news was like a left hook.

I cried.

Openly.

Cried as I clocked out.

Cried in my car for a good 20 minutes.

Cried on the way home.

Cried as I entered my house.

All in a day’s work.

Which brings us to our film.

The Errand Boy.

One of at least three Jerry Lewis films which outlines the rigors of working.

All these of which share “boy” in the title.

The Bellboy, The Geisha Boy, and The Errand Boy.

Lewis plays another immortal character:  Morty S. Tashman.

The S is important, mind you.

Morty starts out doing the kind of work which typified Norman Phiffier’s existence in Who’s Minding the Store?.

Lewis again essentially plays a stooge–a patsy…a retard.

The Errand Boy certainly has its moments, but I wouldn’t call it a masterpiece on the order of The Nutty Professor, Cinderfella, or The Ladies Man.

Nor is it really of that next tier including The Patsy, Who’s Minding the Store?, and The Disorderly Orderly.

Indeed, The Errand Boy is really like a more mature (in terms of artistic development) version of The Bellboy.

It is certainly worth seeing.

And if it isn’t painfully apparent, the substance which greases the wheels of this comedy is work.

Another day, another opportunity.

R.I.P. my friend.

 

-PD

The Patsy [1964)

So this is the next in installment in the bellboy saga.

Stanley.

Now Stanley Belt.

Formerly The Bellboy.

Which was the first film Jerry Lewis directed.

But this picture is much more sophisticated.

A real masterpiece.

I knew it had potential, but I didn’t get it at first.

Took me awhile.

[as with most of Jerry’s movies]

The highpoint might be Stanley’s studio backing singers.

Like the mother from The Ladies Man.

Jerry in drag.

Thrice.

Kinda like when the Stones did this:

stones

Dut i bigress…

The real star of this film (other than the obvious one [Lewis]) is the wonderful Ina Balin.

Wow () ()

What a sweet gal.

Sad story.

Short life.

Big heart.

And she really shines here along with Jerry Lewis.

So there you have it.

This is another damn fine film from a true genius.

Really.

Watch and learn.

And don’t underestimate Lee Harvey Oswald’s comment from the year prior…

 

-PD

Who’s Minding the Store? [1963)

Here’s a great movie.

And a great chance to take stock.

To assess.

Work.

And money.

I got engaged.

Recently.

Yay me!

It’s a very big thing.

I’ve never been engaged before.

But today I’m scared.

Because I’m poor.

Money fluctuates.

And I worry I won’t be able to provide for my love the way I would want.

Kinda like Jerry Lewis in this film.

A schmuck.

Hard-working, but still entry-level.

That’s me.

Whaddle-it-be, man?

And yet, I’m rich in love.

I love.

And my love loves me.

This I know.

And so.

I will take that knowledge forth.

My love doesn’t love me for my money.

Because I haven’t got much.

But what if I had less?

And what if what if???

Money troubles.

Many bad things happen in money troubles.

But I am just over-excited.

I tip too much.

I go a little overboard.

If I could only write like Mozart…

But I do.

In my own way.

These strains you haven’t heard in a long while.

Because they have been buried.

We have to suffer.

And so I suffer now in this moment.

Fear.

Oh, the ignominy!

Of picking up trash.

Of licking the boots of bourgeoisie.

Those who fancy themselves to be above their position.

Like me.

Fair enough.

To kiss ass.

With a master’s degree.

Obviously I’m in the wrong line of work.

But I press on.

Dumb, but steady.

Trying to be honest.

Trying to make an honest living.

Learning hard lessons.

If someone would abandon me for over-loving, then to hell with them.

YOLO.

YOLT.

JOLT.

That thunderbolt looms large.

I am flawed.

Pressed on all sides.

Said Saint Paul.

Like the Star Wars trash compactor.

So I make this a prayer.

Knowing my love believes in God.

I pray to you, Lord, that you will give me a chance.

That you will help me with my mistakes.

That you will not make others suffer because of my ignorance.

I pray, Lord, that you will put opportunities before me.

And that you will help me to be a better person.

I am not used to all of this.

Can I pull it back and win?

It is to God that I pray.

Beg, knowing I am blessed.

Blessed simply by the same grace which is available to every man and woman.

All creations of God.

I ask God help with my health.

My peace of mind.

Please help with my striving to be healthy.

Please give me strength and grace to overcome the obstacles now before me.

And I ask you, Lord, to give me guidance in my career.

In work.

How to spend my time.

Where to spend it.

And how to spend my money.

How to save it.

Give me wisdom, dear Lord.

I have nerves.

But I am an artist.

And God is my parachute.

Do not tempt the Lord your God.

Who helps those who help themselves.

With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.

Jesus.

God’s got this.

 

-PD

The Disorderly Orderly [1964)

So here’s another movie I was wrong about.

Kinda like how I was wrong about Stan Laurel appearing in The Bellboy.

At least I think I was wrong.

Did I say that?

Because it turns out it was an impersonator.

But back to this here movie.

I couldn’t appreciate it on first viewing (all couple minutes I lasted) because Jerry’s style was so pungent.

Jerry Lewis.

A new star in my firmament.

Peter Sellers still reigns supreme in my pantheon.

And Sacha Baron Cohen still takes the cake for living comedians.

But Jerry Lewis is breathing down Peter’s neck.

And so this film ranks up there.

The Nutty Professor is still probably the best.

And Cinderfella holds a dear spot in my heart because it was the film which proved to me that Lewis was not merely a one-hit-wonder.

And The Ladies Man is really one of the artful, top Lewis films.

And so The Disorderly Orderly is in this rarefied air.

It’s better than The Bellboy.

It’s better than The Family Jewels.

Hell…  Maybe I should watch those again!

But really.

Jerry Lewis was super-talented.

Indeed, let’s delineate a bit.

Lewis directed (and starred in) The Nutty Professor.

But Cinderfella, an earlier film, was directed by the great Frank Tashlin.

Why great?

Lewis deftly directed The Ladies Man while starring in it as well.

But Tashlin was back as director for this film (The Disorderly Orderly).

And so Tash was integral to the career of Jerry Lewis.

I really can’t imagine Jerry’s oeuvre without a Cinderfella.

It is indispensable.

While The Disorderly Orderly might be slightly less timeless, it is still quite an achievement.

Verily, it is a strange film (truth be told).

Indeed, about 3/4ths the way through, our film takes a turn towards dark, psychological energy.

Dreams.

Nightmares, really.

Shame.

Transgression.

Jerry Lewis as a peeping tom is bizarre.

As a stalker.

[especially considering that the real-life Lewis would be stalked in the ’90s by a man named Gary Benson (who subsequently spent four years in prison…ostensibly for stalking Lewis {according to the infallible Wikipedia})]

Humiliation.

Let’s dissect.

There should be some comparison to Mel Brooks’s’s High Anxiety.

“neurotic identification empathy”

Amen, brother!!!

Let’s list the timeless characters:

Julius Kelp

Fella (!)

Herbert H. Heebert [whose moniker bears a striking resemblance to Nabokov’s world-class pervert Humbert Humbert]

and Jerome Littlefield.

This list will grow.

Soon.

But for now, we can consider the timelessness of dear, squeamish Jerome Littlefield.

Too sensitive for this world.

Definitely too sensitive to be an MD!

The whole drama with psych patient Susan Oliver is thoroughly bizarre.

The film language dips from a rollercoaster zenith to a stomach-bottom nadir.

WTF, Jerry Lewis?  WTF?!?

But remember, this is a Frank Tashlin film.

Or is it???

Every Jerry Lewis film is THOROUGHLY DOMINATED BY HIM.

It is obvious that improvisation plays a large part in the final product.

Not to mention silent gestures which loom larger than any script ever could.

Suffice it to say, The Disorderly Orderly is a sort of “flawed masterpiece”.

No, it’s not on the level of La Règle du jeu, but Frank Tashlin was no Jean Renoir.

And yet…Jerry Lewis was.

In his own way.

Which brings us to a perfect non-ending.

Jerry Lewis is an essential part of French cinema.

Put that in your ceci-n’est-pas-une-pipe and smoke it!

 

-PD

 

The Ladies Man [1961)

Here’s a nearly-perfect film.

Which didn’t do it for me at first.

Never had I seen Jerry Lewis be SO ANNOYING as he was in the start of this movie.

But I was wrong.

And so I gave it another chance.

All said, The Ladies Man ranks up there (for me) with The Nutty Professor and Cinderfella in the Lewis pantheon.

This is a real work of art.

This must be where Godard got the idea for the mise-en-scène of Tout va bien.

Doll house.

Two sound stages.

A huge production.

And so, in retrospect, I highly recommend this film.

You just have to adapt to Lewis’s singular style.

It can be a bit grating–a bit jarring from film to film.

But it is worth the work.

Jerry Lewis was a true comedic and artistic genius.

Give him a chance.

Go deeper into the films.

You won’t be sorry.

 

-PD

The Bellboy [1960)

This one is pretty good.

I didn’t give it much of a chance at first.

Sometimes black and white movies are hard to watch.

[if you grew up on color]

Kinda like silent films are hard to watch.

[if you grew up on sound]

And sorta how Shakespeare is hard to read.

[if you grew up on comic books]

This one doesn’t rival the top dog [The Nutty Professor].

It doesn’t begin to touch the neck-and-neck silver medalist Cinderfella.

But it’s a whole lot better than The Family Jewels.

Which is to say, black and white sometimes trumps color.

The Family Jewels had everything it needed.

Except that it’s a mediocre film.

The Bellboy has nothing it needed.

Kinda like Psycho.

But it OVERACHIEVES for its resource level.

What is most significant about The Bellboy is that it truly has NO PLOT.

It does, however, have characters.

[particularly Stanley (Jerry Lewis)]

So then, taking the French love of Jerry Lewis into account, one might say that The Bellboy is a rather intellectual (!) series of situations after the manner of Debord.

Or further, that The Bellboy is a long-form work of nonsense in the mold of Finnegans Wake.

Whichever comparison is most fitting, The Bellboy stands up as a watchable, enjoyable movie.

One more thing…

There ARE true (true!) flashes of genius in this film.

The sequence with Milton Berle.

Bits with Stan Laurel (and Stanley [Lewis]).

Prefiguring Peter Sellers by way of multiple characters (Lewis playing himself as well as the bellboy Stanley).

The Jerry Lewis oeuvre is very interesting indeed.

 

-PD

The Family Jewels [1965)

Not all classics are masterpieces.

This film mainly serves to show how truly genius The Nutty Professor was indeed.

Lewis is watchable here.

But let’s be less pithy than recent missives.

This film is better than The Geisha Boy.

[though Suzanne Pleshette looked ravishingly-mysterious in that flick]

It’s better than The Bellboy.

[which I might review if hell freezes over]

It’s better than Cinderfella.

[though just barely…because the latter has sappy “songs”]

It’s better than annoying clunker The Ladies Man.

It’s better than The Errand Boy.

It’s better than The Patsy.

[but not by much]

It’s better than godawful The Disorderly Orderly.

Jerry Lewis was a genius.

But as far as I can tell, he’s only been in two true masterpieces:

The Nutty Professor and The King of Comedy.

 

-PD

The King of Comedy [1983)

Rupert Pupkin.  The name seems funny.  It’s worth a chuckle.  And yet, this is a sad, sad story.

This is the best film Martin Scorsese has made.  It is one of the best films ever made.

Truly, it is a work of art.

The hubris…the guts it took to make this film…tremendous.

No one could have played Pupkin but De Niro.

Taxi Driver got close…real close!  But Rupert Pupkin is a more powerful character than even Travis Bickle.

Without giving too much away, lets just say that Jerry Lewis (yes, that Jerry Lewis) gets himself into a real pickle here.

De Niro and Lewis are both top-notch.  What takes it over the top?  Sandra Bernhard.  (Yes, that Sandra Bernhard.)

I would venture to guess that many film critics continue to fawn over Robert De Niro (as well they should), but Jerry Lewis and Sandra Bernhard are often discussed (respectively) in a different light.

Take Nick Tosches’ excellent book on Dean Martin (Dino:  Living High in the Dirty Business of Dreams).  Though it’s been awhile since I read it, one certainly senses that the Lewis half of Martin and Lewis was not particularly enjoyable for the author to cover.

Dino was cool.  Lewis was the stooge.  Makes me think of Iggy Pop.  Anything for a laugh.  And Antonin Artaud.  Anything to connect with the audience.  And Brecht.  Ad nauseam.

And so, since so much has been written about De Niro, let’s take a moment to appreciate Jerry Lewis.  What is important is isolating this film from the rest of his oeuvre.  Jerry Lewis–in this film–is magnificent!

It is often joked that the French see something in Jerry Lewis which Americans do not.  Such a cultural survey runs the gamut from the influence of Lewis on Godard (see the set design in Tout va bien) to the commentary of “Weird Al” Yankovic (witness the song “Genius in France”).

I have nothing to add to the Lewis debate other than SEE THIS MOVIE!

And Sandra Bernhard…poor Sandra Bernhard.  When I was growing up she was also a sort of stooge.  Her act, so over the top…  And yet, in this film she not only displays the subtlety of acting genius but she’s also strangely attractive.

At this juncture it must be pointed out that Bernhard and De Niro are a team in this film (eventually).  They are like that great New York City punk duo Suicide.  Keep your dreams.  Dream baby dream.  It was Alan Vega and Martin Rev who were the true punks of the CBGB’s/Max’s Kansas City scene.

But back to De Niro and Bernhard…their “plan” in this movie is not unlike the art terrorism of Suicide.  Yes, the plot they concoct to fulfill their respective dreams often teeters like the famed Mercer Arts Center (which precipitously collapsed one day in SoHo).

This film is all about dreams.  It’s about those fantasies we have.  It’s the famous Marlon Brando quote come to life (“I coulda been somebody”).

Rupert Pupkin is 34.  He doesn’t have a whole hell of a lot of time.  And Masha (Bernhard)…she is in love from afar with a man (Lewis) at least twice her age.

The world is not kind to Pupkins.  And Mashas…  Jerry Langford (Lewis) brushes them both off.  And so begins an unholy alliance.

From the opening credits this is pure art.  Scorsese hits emotional chords previously unknown in the history of film.  Even Robbie Robertson gets it right with the Ray Charles song right off the bat.

It is Bernhard’s hands…pressed to the limousine window…in the flash of fame…frozen for a moment.  The roles have been reversed.

And what makes it all work?  Jerry Lewis plays it straight…scared shitless.  What a masterpiece.

To take an Alan Vega lyric for a détournement, “We’re all Pupkins.”

Thank you Marty.

-PD