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

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 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