Jerry Lewis: The Total Film-Maker

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Well, anyway, the man's a stone cold genius. I prefer him to Chaplin, Keaton, Tati, who else ya got? At least seven of these are masterpieces but The Ladies Man stands as quite possibly the greatest film comedy of all-time. I grovel before him while dreaming of a 12-DVD box set of his greatest (which, as always with Jerry, also means his grossest) telethon moments.

Kevin John Bozelka, Thursday, 23 June 2011 16:49 (4 years ago) Permalink

Red Zone Nutty

ephendophile (Eric H.), Thursday, 23 June 2011 16:55 (4 years ago) Permalink

I prefer him to Chaplin, Keaton, Tati, who else ya got?

we part company here

already president FYI (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 23 June 2011 17:04 (4 years ago) Permalink

yeah i was gonna say. a lol is a lol but.

strongo hulkington's ghost dad, Thursday, 23 June 2011 17:06 (4 years ago) Permalink

preferring Lewis to Keaton is like preferring Blackmore's Night to Deep Purple

frog in a bs place (underrated aerosmith bootlegs I have owned), Thursday, 23 June 2011 17:10 (4 years ago) Permalink

preferring lewis to chaplin is like preferring getting punched in the nuts to eating a pizza

strongo hulkington's ghost dad, Thursday, 23 June 2011 17:11 (4 years ago) Permalink


frog in a bs place (underrated aerosmith bootlegs I have owned), Thursday, 23 June 2011 17:13 (4 years ago) Permalink

site for jerry lewis fans:

don't click that btw.

frog in a bs place (underrated aerosmith bootlegs I have owned), Thursday, 23 June 2011 17:14 (4 years ago) Permalink

oh now you knew i was going to click on that

strongo hulkington's ghost dad, Thursday, 23 June 2011 17:14 (4 years ago) Permalink

all the "I cannot tell a lie" GIS results had some extraneous bullshit :(

frog in a bs place (underrated aerosmith bootlegs I have owned), Thursday, 23 June 2011 17:18 (4 years ago) Permalink

jerry lewis chopped down the cherry tree with his big fucking dick

strongo hulkington's ghost dad, Thursday, 23 June 2011 17:19 (4 years ago) Permalink

i don't even know what i'm talking about now. i'm so tired.

strongo hulkington's ghost dad, Thursday, 23 June 2011 17:19 (4 years ago) Permalink

Oh pish posh. He exploited the potential of cinema much more than either Chaplin or Keaton (both of whom, yes, exploited it exceedingly well and have many masterpieces under their belts). Tati may have surpassed Lewis on that level but he lacks Lewis' grotesque personality which is essential to his life-affirming effect. I'm reminded of something Richard Barrios's disdain for Al Jolson (a key Lewis progenitor) in The Singing Fool: "Charisma, when applied this relentlessly, becomes oppressive." But yo, Richard, that's precisely why we go to the movies (or listen to, I don't know, Morrissey): to witness a gargantuan, out of control ego as a way to measure the contours of our own steady paths. If I wanted an even-keeled experience, I'd knock on my neighbor's door and ask to borrow some sugar.

P.S. Pizza is stupid and boring.

Kevin John Bozelka, Thursday, 23 June 2011 17:32 (4 years ago) Permalink

delete "something"

Kevin John Bozelka, Thursday, 23 June 2011 17:32 (4 years ago) Permalink

You don't strike me as the type that needs more sugar.

ephendophile (Eric H.), Thursday, 23 June 2011 17:32 (4 years ago) Permalink

I certainly don't need fuckin' pizza.

Kevin John Bozelka, Thursday, 23 June 2011 17:35 (4 years ago) Permalink

Bozelka, OTM itt.

shake it, shake it, sugary pee (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Thursday, 23 June 2011 17:40 (4 years ago) Permalink


Why are the French so crazy about Jerry Lewis? Well, for one thing, some of them see him as being very much like America: infantile, hysterical, uncontrolled, giddy, uninhibited, tacky, energetic, inarticulate, obnoxious, sentimental, overbearing, socially and sexually maladjusted, and all over the place. (By contrast, at least on the surface, Allen is adolescent, neurotic, controlled, whiny, inhibited, preppy, lethargic, articulate, cynical, wormy, socially and sexually maladjusted, and confined.) It’s not so much a matter of necessarily loving all these qualities as it is envying or admiring or identifying with some of them, and being horrified by others — a sort of compressed model of the love-hate that many French people feel toward America as a fantasy object. I suspect that what many French people experience as the overcultivated constraints of their culture finds a welcome release in Lewis’s explosiveness and ungainliness, and their taste for freewheeling fantasy is partially met by Lewis’s remoteness from realism — the sheer wildness of his ideas as a writer-director, and the deconstructive habits such as the vulgar modernism that he shares with Mel Brooks, which periodically reminds us in various self-referential ways that we’re watching a film. (At one point in the mid-1960s, Godard described Lewis as “the only free man working in Hollywood.”)

shake it, shake it, sugary pee (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Thursday, 23 June 2011 17:45 (4 years ago) Permalink

This is probably racist.
dongmaster2 4 months ago

buzza, Thursday, 23 June 2011 17:50 (4 years ago) Permalink

I seriously can't watch more than a minute or two of Jerry Lewis before my flesh starts to crawl. He's like the uncanny valley of human behavior.

SNEEZED GOING DOWN STEPS, PAIN WHEN PUTTING SOCKS ON (Deric W. Haircare), Thursday, 23 June 2011 18:07 (4 years ago) Permalink

dongmaster2 otm

☂ (max), Thursday, 23 June 2011 19:04 (4 years ago) Permalink

dongmaster2 least favorite installment of the dongmaster cycle

brazenly alive (strongo hulkington's ghost dad), Thursday, 23 June 2011 19:05 (4 years ago) Permalink

1 month passes...

Automatic thread bump. This poll is closing tomorrow.

System, Friday, 29 July 2011 23:01 (4 years ago) Permalink

Automatic thread bump. This poll's results are now in.

System, Saturday, 30 July 2011 23:01 (4 years ago) Permalink

Thanks, bud.

third-generation stripper (Eric H.), Saturday, 30 July 2011 23:17 (4 years ago) Permalink

judd apatow option doomed/saved this from the git-go

king of torts (strongo hulkington's ghost dad), Saturday, 30 July 2011 23:24 (4 years ago) Permalink

plus that photo choice

you call it trollin' i call it steamrollin' (Dr Morbius), Saturday, 30 July 2011 23:43 (4 years ago) Permalink

On fat ladies trying to lost weight: "Who cares?"

third-generation stripper (Eric H.), Monday, 1 August 2011 13:57 (4 years ago) Permalink


third-generation stripper (Eric H.), Monday, 1 August 2011 13:57 (4 years ago) Permalink

I am going to miss Jerry's effortless pomposity about showbiz when he's gone; he may be the best ever at it. "I don't allow people in my family to use the term 'TV'" vs there's nothing good on. Real Sammy Maudlin stuff!

satan club sandwich (Dr Morbius), Tuesday, 2 August 2011 19:48 (4 years ago) Permalink

hardcore oatmeal (Jordan), Tuesday, 2 August 2011 21:52 (4 years ago) Permalink

oh, that Berle story. I was waiting for "And then Gracie Allen picked up a fork..."

Is it possible that MDA got tired of the chairman boasting about his cocksmanship in print, at his unseemly age?

satan club sandwich (Dr Morbius), Monday, 8 August 2011 18:35 (4 years ago) Permalink

I feel like I watch his movies and I don't understand them

Richard Nixon's Field of Warmth (Shakey Mo Collier), Monday, 8 August 2011 18:42 (4 years ago) Permalink

They are personal and idiosyncratic for sure. I wish I didn't understand Apatow's.

satan club sandwich (Dr Morbius), Monday, 8 August 2011 18:43 (4 years ago) Permalink

6 months pass...

Jerry live in NYC (w/ a documentary too) on his 86th birthday:

Literal Facepalms (Dr Morbius), Friday, 24 February 2012 15:35 (3 years ago) Permalink

Man, I wish I could go to that. But I'm glad I got to see him live once, in Damn Yankees. He killed.

Let A Man Come In And Do The Cop Porn (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Friday, 24 February 2012 16:17 (3 years ago) Permalink

well yeah, esp when he went offscript or did 10 minutes of his Vegas act in the middle of his big song.

Literal Facepalms (Dr Morbius), Friday, 24 February 2012 16:23 (3 years ago) Permalink

2 weeks pass...

moderator: Richard Belzer

Literal Facepalms (Dr Morbius), Tuesday, 13 March 2012 21:40 (3 years ago) Permalink

so, here's what happened. Coulda called it The Old Man and the Shpritz.

Literal Facepalms (Dr Morbius), Wednesday, 21 March 2012 17:58 (3 years ago) Permalink

Little wonder that, in a star-studded video of birthday wishes played near the tribute's end, '50s kids Werner Herzog (wishing Lewis a future "saturated with life") and Lou Reed materialized.


we can be gyros just for one day (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Wednesday, 21 March 2012 18:15 (3 years ago) Permalink

Thanks for posting, Morbs. What a wonderful tribute. Wish I could've been there.

we can be gyros just for one day (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Wednesday, 21 March 2012 18:17 (3 years ago) Permalink

some folx showed up on videotape AND in person, ie Jerry Stiller and Joe Piscopo.

De Niro, Bogdanovich, Letterman and the comedy team of Tom Hanks & Jonah Hill also sent regards.

Literal Facepalms (Dr Morbius), Wednesday, 21 March 2012 18:21 (3 years ago) Permalink

It's always great to see Jer getting the respect he deserves.


we can be gyros just for one day (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Wednesday, 21 March 2012 18:31 (3 years ago) Permalink

I'm really sorry we couldn't run a photo of him doing that from this event

Literal Facepalms (Dr Morbius), Wednesday, 21 March 2012 18:34 (3 years ago) Permalink

lou reed's last record w/ Metallica is (unintentionally) funnier than anything jerry lewis has ever (intentionally) done for a laugh.

kurwa mać (Polish for "long life") (Eisbaer), Wednesday, 21 March 2012 19:02 (3 years ago) Permalink

it was nice to hear the Ladies Man butterfly gag get a big laugh

Literal Facepalms (Dr Morbius), Wednesday, 21 March 2012 19:19 (3 years ago) Permalink

"Thanks for the mail now baby let's wail."

Eric H., Wednesday, 21 March 2012 19:23 (3 years ago) Permalink

needed work on the chalk drawings imho

eclectic husbandry (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 31 October 2013 03:48 (2 years ago) Permalink

Jonathan Rosenbaum's notes for the Viennale tribute to JL:

Indeed, the fact that the monster impact of Martin and Lewis on American society of the 1950s briefly preceded that of Elvis Presley suggests that, in their own manic fashion, Dean and Jerry helped to usher in the youth culture of the 1950s and its own liberating physical impulses (associated mainly with sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll) in which Lewis’s body spoke louder than his words (which often took the form of gibberish anyway) and seemed to have an erupting and convulsive will of its own, cutting through all the multiple restraints that characterized American society during this period. (See, in particular, the extraordinary and singular dances performed by Lewis in such films as Sailor Beware, Living It Up, You’re Never Too Young [1954], Cinderfella [1959], The Ladies Man [1961], and The Nutty Professor [1962].)Despite the fact that Lewis was saddled with a producer at Paramount, Hal B. Wallis, determined to keep his and Martin’s comedies as innocuous and as formulaic as possible — a service Wallis provided even more ruinously to Elvis Presley a little later by similarly and systematically de-radicalizing and dry-cleaning his star’s image and appeal in relation to sex, ethnicity, race, and politics — Lewis, unlike Presley, gradually acquired enough clout to exercise creative control as writer, producer, and director, even though he initially received no screen credit for this. Wallis fully succeeded, however, in depriving Lewis of any of the cultural prestige that he routinely assigned to his adaptations of Broadway dramas during the same period — many of these about frustrated middle-aged woman (e.g., Come Back, Little Sheba, The Rose Tattoo, The Rainmaker, Summer and Smoke) — and sometimes being rewarded for his good middlebrow taste with Oscars. For Wallis and his constituency, “art” usually meant the legitimate stage (especially Tennessee Williams), literature, and/or foreign actors such as Anna Magnani and Anthony Quinn — lessons that Woody Allen would benefit from (as would Arthur Penn, Francis Coppola, Martin Scorsese, among other culturally ambitious American directors) when he openly emulated European filmmakers and “serious” American playwrights, something Lewis has never done....

eclectic husbandry (Dr Morbius), Monday, 4 November 2013 17:07 (2 years ago) Permalink

2 months pass...

Fitting my theory that Jerry doesn't even believe what he's saying during some of his most quotable outbursts, in this case "Women aren't funny," here he goes on at great length to praise Carol Burnett as a great artist and clown. Bonuses of chomping on candy and the "garbage" (entertainment, presumably) America has endured since 1948:

eclectic husbandry (Dr Morbius), Wednesday, 8 January 2014 02:45 (2 years ago) Permalink

2 months pass...

88 today

images of war violence and historical smoking (Dr Morbius), Sunday, 16 March 2014 05:45 (1 year ago) Permalink

images of war violence and historical smoking (Dr Morbius), Sunday, 16 March 2014 10:07 (1 year ago) Permalink

one of my favorite scenes:

Montgomery Burns' Jazz (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Sunday, 16 March 2014 15:12 (1 year ago) Permalink

3 months pass...

Hoberman on the new Nutty Blu-ray set, which includes The Errand Boy, Cinderfella and "a facsimile of Instruction Book for Being a Person, the slim volume Mr. Lewis wrote, had bound and distributed to the movie’s cast and crew."

son of a lewd monk (Dr Morbius), Monday, 16 June 2014 15:52 (1 year ago) Permalink

Think I'll skip that one; I already have the "Legendary Jerry Collection" box. Now, if it had been packaged with a copy of The Total Filmmaker...

Montgomery Burns' Jazz (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Monday, 16 June 2014 16:05 (1 year ago) Permalink

5 months pass...

First Jerry thinkpiece I've seen where he's compared to Matthew Barney.

As the titles of his amateur films from the early 50s – Come Back Little Shiksa, A Spot in the Shade, Watch on the Lime, Fairfax Avenue (a play on Billy Wilder’s Sunset Blvd.) – suggest, Lewis was poking fun at ‘respectable’ classics, frequently giving a specifically Jewish twist to this mainstream fare. Judging from the handful of clips that have emerged from these productions, they wore their marginal status as a badge of honour, their lack of production values functioning as an implicit critique of Hollywood gloss (anticipating the approach of later independent directors such as Jim McBride and John Cassavetes). Lewis even mocked the self-importance and solipsism of Hollywood’s rituals, staging his own red-carpet premieres for these shorts at his own house, and hosting award ceremonies in which he and his collaborators took home every statuette.

Lewis is so widely regarded as part of the Hollywood elite that it is worth noting how strongly opposed to it his formal, aesthetic and ideological practices are, his craving for independence as a filmmaker being the external expression of a deeper radicalism. His persona as a performer involved a rejection of restraint, dignity and good taste, and it was clearly this which endeared him to both children and revolutionaries while attracting the opprobrium of those who believed Stanley Kramer and Fred Zinnemann to be great directors, and Laurence Olivier a great actor.…/comment/b…/jerry-lewis-where-respect

things lose meaning over time (Dr Morbius), Wednesday, 19 November 2014 17:13 (1 year ago) Permalink

Anecdote from a friend on FB who went with his husband to this Joan Collins thing:

Joan Collins was actually very enjoyable. It was a One-Woman Show and she spent an hour and fifteen minutes showing slides and talking about her life, then spent another 20 minutes fielding questions from the audience. I wanted to ask her about the greatest movie she's ever done, "Empire of the Ants", but chickened out. Her stories were great though, especially her catty ones about the other actresses she worked with. And I loved when an audience member asked her if she was still friends with Linda Evans, and she answered, "I've never been friends with Linda Evans". Me-Ouch!
Sitting right across the isle from us was none other than Jerry Lewis, who made it very obvious that he didn't want anyone bothering him at all. (Skip sneaked a picture of both Joan and Jerry, although he was warned there were no pictures allowed of anyone. Jerry was looking a little ragged around the edges, but Joan looked amazing. It's hard to believe she's 81 years old!

Skip posted a blurry photo later -- nothing revelatory, Jerry looked like Jerry -- with this note:

And here's Jerry, trying to escape the few fans that wanted to shake his hand. ALL were assholes, actually, during the Jerry encounter at the end.

Ned Raggett, Monday, 1 December 2014 05:24 (1 year ago) Permalink

from the NYT Book Review's piece on Norman Lear's autobio:

"His memoir covers 92 extraordinary years of life in which, among other things, Lear flew 52 missions as a radio operator and gunner in World War II, wrote television scripts for the country singer Tennessee Ernie Ford and witnessed a naked Jerry Lewis blow out a birthday candle attached to his penis."

things lose meaning over time (Dr Morbius), Tuesday, 9 December 2014 15:51 (1 year ago) Permalink

I was going to say the obvious question was "How many candles?"

Letsby Avenue (Tom D.), Tuesday, 9 December 2014 16:00 (1 year ago) Permalink

9 months pass...

NYT's Jennifer Schuessler:

The Nutty Professor has moved a few steps closer to academic respectability with the announcement that the Library of Congress has acquired the personal archives of Jerry Lewis.

The archive, acquired by a combination of donation and purchase, includes more than 10,000 moving-image materials and paper documents covering Mr. Lewis’s seven-decade career, from an early screen test before his movie debut to prints of hits like “The Errand Boy” and “The Bellboy” to various outtakes and bloopers.

The archive also contains the amateur movies Mr. Lewis directed at home, including “Fairfax Avenue” (a spoof of “Sunset Boulevard”) and “The Re-Enforcer” (starring Dean Martin).

Additionally, it contains copies from Mr. Lewis’s many television appearances on shows like “The Tonight Show” and the more obscure “Broadway Open House,” as well as footage of his nightclub act with Mr. Martin and his work with the Muscular Dystrophy Association Telethon.

To mark the acquisition Mr. Lewis, 89, will give a performance on Oct. 9 at the State Theater in Culpeper, Va., not far from the library’s Packard Campus for Audio-Visual Conservation, where his archive will be stored.

“For more than seven decades I’ve been dedicated to making people laugh,” Mr. Lewis said in a statement. “If I get more than three people in a room, I do a number. Knowing that the Library of Congress was interested in acquiring my life’s work was one of the biggest thrills of my life.”

The library also holds collections relating to a number of other comedians, including Bob Hope, Groucho Marx, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.

skateboards are the new combover (Dr Morbius), Friday, 18 September 2015 15:05 (4 months ago) Permalink

2 weeks pass...

My comedian friend went to this and said Scorsese was quoting The Total Film-Maker from memory.

“Comedy in visual terms is always preferable to verbal,” he offered. “The visual gets to the brain faster. The eyes are faster than the ears.”

skateboards are the new combover (Dr Morbius), Wednesday, 7 October 2015 17:51 (4 months ago) Permalink

Oh man, thanks for posting those! Must've been amazing to be in that room.

Montgomery Burns' Jazz (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Wednesday, 7 October 2015 18:07 (4 months ago) Permalink


Scorsese called “The Bellboy,” Lewis’s first feature as a director, “a virtual dictionary of visual thought.” Speaking of one of Lewis’s most spectacular achievements, “The Ladies Man,” Scorsese (who was eighteen when it came out) said that the freely associative logic of the dance scene involving the “woman in black” suggested a new kind of movie grammar (what does Jerry think she’s going to do with that rope?), and that the movie over all presented them with new possibilities: “There’s a story, but is there a plot? It freed us up.”...

Lewis parodied Spencer Tracy’s scene of captivity in “Captains Courageous,” imitating him with a chain around his neck and crying out—with a rush of Yiddish, saying of the Catholic Tracy, “Really, he speaks better Jewish than I do.” But Lewis brought the discussion back to his craft, explaining that what he learned from Tracy was, “He had a wonderful time. I had to find the device so that when I made a film, I could have a wonderful time.”

That device turned out to be technical mastery. Lewis said, “In my first three days at Paramount, nobody could find me”—because he was wandering the studio, talking with and learning from technicians in every department, from camera and sound to lighting and editing (but, he said, not the contracts department—“not lawyers”).

skateboards are the new combover (Dr Morbius), Friday, 9 October 2015 14:18 (4 months ago) Permalink

he did a thing at the Friars Club too

While a frantic Leroy Anderson orchestral composition played in the background, Mr. Lewis recreated a famous bit in which he appears to pound away at an invisible typewriter.

And he sang an a cappella rendition of “Somebody,” from his 1960 comedy “Cinderfella,” with lyrics that poignantly observe, “In a cabin or a castle, even though you rise or fall/ Without somebody, you’re nobody at all.”

A further test of Mr. Lewis’s endurance awaited when the show was over. For a half-hour, he remained seated onstage in his chair while he received the good wishes of his fans, gently mocking their inquiries (“What a dumb question”) and discouraging them from taking selfies with him.

“It’s going to turn into an Italian wedding if you do that,” he explained more than once. “It’ll never end.”

skateboards are the new combover (Dr Morbius), Friday, 9 October 2015 18:56 (4 months ago) Permalink

1 month passes...

Love, Wilco (C. Grisso/McCain), Tuesday, 10 November 2015 09:46 (3 months ago) Permalink

3 months pass...

NYC MoMA 90TH BIRTHDAY RETRO, mostly w/ 35mm prints and outtakes plus... basically similar to the 1988 Astoria retro that opened the Moving Image Museum:

we can be heroes just for about 3.6 seconds (Dr Morbius), Wednesday, 10 February 2016 20:32 (4 days ago) Permalink

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