WEIRDLAND: Jerry Lewis
Showing posts with label Jerry Lewis. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jerry Lewis. Show all posts

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Happy Anniversary, Jayne Mansfield! Jerry Lewis (Movie Stars of the 1950s): Larger than Life

Frank Tashlin made a couple of bizarre films with Jayne Mansfield, who one might argue was a cartoon version of 20th Century Fox’s other zaftig blonde, Marilyn Monroe. Mansfield’s first real success had been in the Broadway version of Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? and her part was an explicit parody of Monroe. Her first film with Tashlin at Fox was The Girl Can’t Help It, which includes many early stars of rock and roll, like Fats Domino, Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent. As the critic Dave Kehr pointed out in his article for The New York Times: "The most absurd figure in Tashlin's films is not the heavy-bosomed blonde but the pathetic male in a pure, helpless state of arousal, continually provoked by the eroticized environment that surrounds him." Jayne Mansfield became a living cartoon of nuclear-powered 50’s femininity in “The Girl Can’t Help It”; Jerry Lewis was her polar opposite, a frightened kid trembling on the edge of a hormonal explosion. In 1956 Mansfield and Lewis had appeared together in Las Vegas, posing with a cake at the Sands Hotel's fourth anniversary celebration. Mansfield was beautiful and curvaceous but possessed comic timing and a sympathetic warmth that many other bombshells couldn't--still can't--muster. Tashlin's films have been somewhat neglected in the US, in part because of his close association with Jerry Lewis. “Decades before postmodernism became fashionable, Tashlin was gleefully constructing a world of simulacra and surfaces in which images refer only to other images and characters cobble their identities from mass media and pop culture.” Frank Tashlin died in 1972, but the world he satirized 50 years ago is still with us, in some ways more than ever. Source:

"I remember as a kid, having dreams at nights of becoming a superclown and saving the world from terrible troubles"  Jerry Lewis

Especially as he gained more control over his movies, Jerry Lewis offered up truly schizophrenic characters. An unleashed maniac offering episodes of comedic anarchy as it can barely contain itself is the core character. But Lewis wants you to love this maniac and know he has the soul of a poet. He establishes this with scenes so mawkish that their pumped-up sugar drools out the sides of the screen. On the one hand, he is a force of nature maniacally destructive and sputteringly out of control. The plots of many of the Lewis films are simple: The Bellboy -- Lewis is amok in a hotel; The Ladies' Man -- amok in an all-girls' boarding house; Who's Minding the Store? -- amok in a department store. On the other, he is a tormented soul, a wounded butterfly, a romantic, an emotionally stunted child. Jim Carrey, however, never looks back in his offensive routines. If you've always wondered what it was about Jerry Lewis that sent the French into ecstasy and the loyal fan screaming, check him out in The Disorderly Orderly. If it leaves you cold, venture no further into Lewis land. —Scanlines (1999) by Louis Black for The Austin Chronicle

Jerry Lewis was a challenging and enigmatic figure long before the French got their hands on him. Although the merits of Jerry Lewis's self-directed films have been hotly debated, comparatively little attention has been paid to the highly successful 1950s films that made possible his move into film directing. Lewis first met Dean Martin in August 1944 when they were signed as individual attractions at New York's Glass Hat Club. Martin was the headliner, while Lewis played his record act and served as master of ceremonies. That's My Boy (1951) had a serious-minded story that anticipates such melodramas of masculine crisis as Rebel Without a Cause (1955), Tea and Sympathy (1956), and Home from the Hill (1960). The film's plot deals with questions of how to be a man, and how to be a man among men, with Lewis playing a characteristic psychoneurotic cowed by a hyper-athletic father but finding solace in the sheltering embrace of Martin's gentle buddy. The Stooge (1952) offers the most dramatically sustained exploration of the two-man relationship, with its intermingling of affection and hostility, togetherness and difference. The promise of their union coexisted with a strong awareness that the competition between the two men, and between their distinctive talents, always threatened to rend the partnership asunder. News of Dean Martin's dissatisfaction began to filter into the public arena during the troubled production of 3 Ring Circus. Lewis reported: "During the filming Dean kept blowing his top at me and everyone else, saying he was fed up to the ears playing a stooge.... It developed into psychological warfare for the balance of the picture". Their partnership was clearly on a downward spiral. Reported schisms and rumor-mongering made it difficult for audiences to believe that their freewheeling, fun-loving act was grounded in authentic feeling. 

The Spring 2018 FILMS OF THE GOLDEN AGE is out! Articles: The Five Lane Sisters, Jerry Lewis Part I (by Charles Tranberg), James Mason, Kaye Ballard, Tom Tyler, SHANE (1953), SECRETS OF THE FRENCH POLICE (1932), and the regular feature OVERLOOKED IN HOLLYWOOD (profiles on Lester Vail, Mary Nolan, Lewis Wilson, Peggy Conklin, Rebel Randall, and Paul Page). Charles Tranberg: People might have found Dean Martin more handsome but I would say that is probably true that Jerry Lewis was "cuter." Ironically, despite of Martin being the official heartthrob of the duo, Shawn Levy hints in The King of Comedy (1997) that Jerry Lewis had the most active sexual life, since Martin's seduction game often worked on a superficial level. Lewis himself had confessed to Levy: "I never could stay mad at women, because I had a high sex drive."

When the end came in 1956 the masquerade was over. While he could win over popular audiences, the new Jerry Lewis who rose with such untimely haste from the ashes of the beloved entertainment team met with a remarkably hostile reception from cultural tastemakers. Attacks on his aspirations and abilities were to become commonplace in the press long before "the French" staked their claim to him. The opposition grew more vocal as Lewis explored territories barred to the simple funnyman of old. By the end of the decade he was not just one of the best beloved of American entertainers; he was also just about the most reviled. Films such as The Caddy, Scared Stiff, The Stooge, and Living It Up had teased with the Lewis figure's status as a harassed misfit, but the team's partnership dynamic had always trammeled the poignancy. Unshackled from his quarrelsome partner, Lewis was free to use his familiar Idiot/Kid figure to develop a more extended treatment of the comic misfit as a beleaguered outcast questing for acceptance. Lewis contextualized the traumatic breakup of Martin within a bionarrative of abandonment that stretched back to his lonely childhood. Lewis fleshed out this biographical narrative in an article by journalist Bill Davidson: "I've Always Been Scared," shortly after the partnership folded, in February 1957. This article exposed a bruised sensitivity cowering in the shadow of the manic clown. "All my life," Lewis declares, "I've been afraid of being alone". In a story he would repeat, Lewis portrays himself as a pathetic outsider who deploys the mask of comedy as a protective shield. Seeking love and acceptance via the showbiz success his father never attained, Lewis is compelled to win the substitute gratifications of applause and laughter: "If I could make people laugh, I thought, they'd like me and let me be with them". 

The psychological narrative articulated by these articles highlights the degree to which Lewis's star image occupied a very different constellation from the carefree zany of old. Whereas earlier publicity stressed the congruence between the onstage and offstage selves of Martin and Lewis, Lewis's solo career instituted a strategic opposition between the "real" man alone and the onscreen comic misfit. "It may be," offers Look magazine, "that audiences are drawn to him because they see or sense the real Jerry, the lonely man of many complexes" ("Always in a Crowd-Always Alone," 1958). The director of six Martin and Lewis pictures and two of Lewis's solo films Norman Taurog told Arthur Marx: "In the beginning, he was a doll. He listened, did what I told him, and didn't bother anyone. Then one day I noticed him looking through the camera between takes and starting to make suggestions to Lyle Gregg, our cameraman, on things he had no business making suggestions about: how high a crane to put the camera on, or what kind of lens to use.... I used to tell him, 'For God's sake, Jerry, why do you want to waste your energy doing things other people are getting paid for? Nobody goes to a Martin and Lewis movie because you directed a scene. They go because it says on the marquee-Jerry Lewis in so and so; not Jerry Lewis, cameraman. Save your energy for acting'."

The Delicate Delinquent flaunts Lewis's allegiance to the youth audience. At the same time, it also distances him from the energetic and rebellious excess that marked his earlier performances. Rather than abandoning himself to the delights of sheer abandon, Lewis's delicate delinquent, Sydney Pythias, is searching (literally) for direction. Mistaken for a gang member after a street rumble, the good natured orphan is hauled off to the neighborhood precinct house, where he encounters patrolman Mike Damon (McGavin). A reformed juvenile offender himself, Damon has a mission to save slum kids from criminal temptations. Sydney is perfect for such rehabilitation as he lacks social and familial ties, or any other external context of self-definition. "How does a guy know what he wants to be?" he asks Damon. "Especially somebody like me? I'll tell you what I am-I'm a nowhere." Sydney's eventual success suggests that a good heart will eventually triumph over insecurity and sheer ineptitude. For Bosley Crowther, Sydney's characteristically Lewisian eccentricities sat rather uncomfortably with the idealized authority he is allowed at the end of this "serious-message comedy": "Mr. Lewis runs a gamut from Hamlet to clown. Mr. Lewis, trying to act hard like a man, trying to fit odd-shaped blocks into odd-shaped holes, is a delirious comedian. The good intention of his message may be missed in this eccentricity."

Robert Kass suggested in Films in Review that Lewis emblematized the otherness of "young America gone berserk". From a more celebratory perspective, J. Hoberman proposes that "the young Jerry was America's id. His every cute outburst threatened to escalate into loss of control; the sight of his big mouth promised a kind of ecstatic self-annihilation" ("The Nutty Retrospective," Village Voice, 15 December 1988). The uncontrolled eruptions of Lewis's body connected with the rebellious stirrings of a nascent youth culture, which would itself erupt into national and international consciousness with the primal beat of rock 'n' roll. As Karal Ann Marling argues, "Like Elvis, Jerry Lewis seemed rebellious because he wouldn't stand still; he both projected and aroused strong emotion through motion". —Larger Than Life / Movie Stars of the 1950s: Jerry Lewis (2010) by Frank Krutnik 

Monday, April 16, 2018

"Sex and culture": Marilyn Monroe (no kind of bimbo), Method to the Madness of Jerry Lewis

There is a case for saying that Joe DiMaggio, Marilyn Monroe's second husband, was humiliated on account of the shoot when she is standing on a subway grate and her dress is being blown up in the air and she is trying to hold it down. There was some kind of deal that the dress wouldn’t go up too high. And then it’s in her face. She is exposed. But it is DiMaggio – coming from a working-class Italian-American family – who feels humiliated. She belonged to him and yet here she is seemingly available to all the world. That marriage was never going to work out. You would think that marriage to Arthur Miller would have suited her better. Author of Death of a Salesman, and scriptwriter on The Misfits (her final film), he was also one of the ace intellectuals of his era. “Egghead Weds Hourglass”, read the headline in Variety. In reality, she, the child of 20th Century Fox, was a would-be intellectual. She was certainly no airhead, no kind of “bimbo”. You would think the Monroe-Miller combination ought to have been workable. But it didn’t. Because Miller really needed a bimbo. He didn’t want to be married to an earnest undergraduate. He wanted an All-American Girl to symbolically get him off the hook of the McCarthy black list, that had him branded as a communist and Jewish to boot. Maybe Monroe could save him. But she needed him to save her. —"The pain of character assassination in the public eye" (2018) by Andy Martin

Western society has all the symptoms of a declining civilization. When sexual freedom becomes totally unrestricted, society becomes unstable and collapses. Joseph Daniel Unwin studied 80 tribes and 6 civilizations through 5,000 years of history and found a positive correlation between the cultural achievement of a people and the sexual restraint they observe. Sex and Culture was praised by Aldous Huxley: "Unwin's conclusions may be summed up as follows. All human societies are in one or another of four cultural conditions: zoistic, manistic, deistic, rationalistic. Of these societies the zoistic displays the least amount of mental and social energy, the rationalistic the most. Investigation shows that the societies exhibiting the least amount of energy are those where the opportunities for sexual indulgence are the greatest." According to Unwin, after a nation becomes prosperous it becomes increasingly liberal with regard to sexual morality and as a result loses its cohesion, its impetus and its purpose. The effect, says the author, is irrevocable. JD Unwin also infers that legal equality between women and men is necessary to institute before absolute monogamy is instituted, otherwise the monogamy will erode in the name of emancipating women. One can choose to see Unwin’s work as the foretelling of a doomed American civilization. Whatever the case, the importance of sexual morality in everyday life should not be overlooked due to its strong correlation with civilizational flourishing. Sexual restraint and ethics are not products of an ancient past that progress can suddenly replace; they are arguably the lynchpin of all of the technological and scientific progress of today. Source:

“A threedimensional philosophy, including a regard for the past and a care for the future, is characteristic of developed virile minds; a two-dimensional outlook, implying an exclusive regard for the present, suggests either a lack of development or a state of degeneracy. The introduction of an irregular continence into a society accustomed to sexual freedom is the most important and the most painful of all social revolutions. In the 16th century England, when the aristocrats modified their absolute monogamy, they had lost their supremacy to the rising middle classes, who preserved absolute monogamy. Nominally until the 19th century marriage was indissoluble; but throughout their history the English were casuists in any matter which concerned the relation between husband and wife, and, by passing a special bill through a parliament which they dominated, the nobles proclaimed the dissolution of the indissoluble bond. Towards the middle of the twentieth century some failure of nerve was apparent throughout the society; there were signs, too, that the middle classes were losing their supremacy. No further records are available, and the productive energy of the English remained tremendous, for sexual intercourse and divorce by mutual consent had not become part of the inherited tradition of a complete new generation. Indeed the majority of the population still insisted on some degree of compulsory continence. Evidence is not lacking, however, that such customs were falling into desuetude. After great social energy has been displayed in a civilization, new and alien elements appear. The society begins to discriminate between the slovenly and the elegant, between the vague and the exact. When an atom emits energy, the outer electrons seem to jump down a quantum or a number of quanta; finally they are locked against the nucleus; and what was once a massive event of low density becomes a small event of high density. When a human society radiates energy, precisely the opposite occurs. We begin with a society in which all the individuals are locked together by forces we do not understand; such a society displays no energy; but, as soon as we energize it, individuals begin to leave the nucleus, and form, as it were, an energetic belt around it, the behaviour of this belt determining the cultural condition of the society. If the society is energized again, more individuals leave the nucleus and join the outer belt; others leave the belt itself, assume still newer modes of behaviour, and form a second belt, this belt in its turn determining the cultural condition of the society. And the more energy a society displays, the greater is the cultural distance between the outer belts and the original nucleus, which, indeed, may even be disintegrated. If any society should desire to control its cultural destiny, to display its productive energy for a long time, and even forever, it must re-create itself, first, by placing the sexes on a level of complete legal equality, and then by altering its economic and social organization in such a way as to render it both possible and tolerable for sexual opportunity to remain at a minimum for an extended period, and even forever. In such a case the face of the society would be set in the direction of the Cultural Process; its inherited tradition would be continually enriched; it would achieve a higher culture than has yet been attained; by the action of human entropy its tradition would be augmented and refined.” —"Sex and culture" (1934) by JD Unwin

Jerry Lewis talked about the inherent intelligence involved in comedy. Comedy is a grid of unsuspected associations; the synaptic leaps are corrosive abstractions, no less than in social or biological science. Jerry explained that it was crucial for him to “present himself as a good man,” that he seeks to be funny for people who share his values, for “people who understand you.” Gregg Barson, director of the documentary Method to the Madness of Jerry Lewis, wisely spoke about the liberating power of playing in disguise—“He was able to look at Jekyll and Hyde and see that, hey, that’s funny, that you can be this double life”—and showed a clip of “The Family Jewels.” For Lewis, the doubleness inhered in the process. He spoke not of directing himself but of directing “Jerry”—as soon as he went on-camera, he became a character, but one who drew on his own inner being. He was, from the start, a double, himself in disguise. I’ve long considered Jerry Lewis to be a radical democrat—revealing the most humiliating, debasing incompetence, awkwardness and servility that may mark his most modest of viewers, and extracting from these burdens the radiance of virtue and even a miraculous power. There’s an extra level of pathos to Lewis’s career—its truncation. Asked by David Susskind in 1964 TV how he connected with “millions of people,” Lewis answers: “You have to be one of the millions of people.” And, in response to the link between comedy and tragedy, Lewis said: “I think that it’s quite sad the mere fact that you walk out in front of an audience. There is a sad connotation to the fact that you say, 'Ladies and gentlemen, watch me, I’m going to show off.' Well, that’s pretty sad, having to do that.” The great paradox—the one from “The Nutty Professor”—is that Lewis distinguishes his comic persona, Jerry, from himself. It’s the suave incarnation of Buddy Love that renders him attractive, but it’s the pathetically overlooked nebbish who, via Lewis’s fearlessly self-revealing, even self-abasing artistry, gives him the symbolic feet on the ground that renders his milieu of Hollywood universally touching and ordinary. —"Jerry Lewis and Buddy Love" (2012) by Richard Brody

The dancer in the white room of The Ladies Man (1961) Sylvia Lewis who played 'Miss Cartilage' remembers: “I got a call from Jerry to come talk to him about working in ‘The Ladies Man’ and he signed me to do it. I spent 11 weeks on the set, just hanging around hoping to get 10 minutes with him to begin rehearsing. But it never happened until towards the end of shooting, even though I was paid for being at the studio every day. He was always very kind and respectful to me. In fact, I can say during my Hollywood years I was never treated better by anyone. I just remember Jerry telling me about how he would get visions in his head when we worked together.” The late Secretary of Defense Leslie Aspin, then a congressman from Wisconsin (known for his opposition to the war in Vietnam), penned these words in 1977 in the conclusion of his nomination of Jerry Lewis for the Nobel Peace Prize: “Jerry Lewis is a man for all seasons, all people and all times. His name has, in the hearts of millions, become synonymous with peace, love and brotherhood.” Source: 

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Marilyn! The New Musical, Jerry Lewis

Our emotional state in a given moment may influence what we see, according to findings published in a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. In two experiments, researchers found that participants saw a neutral face as smiling more when it was paired with an unseen positive image. The research shows that humans are active perceivers, say psychological scientist Erika Siegel of the University of California, San Francisco and her coauthors. “We do not passively detect information in the world and then react to it – we construct perceptions of the world as the architects of our own experience. Our affective feelings are a critical determinant of the experience we create,” the researchers explain. Ultimately, these experiments provide further evidence that what we see is not a direct reflection of the world but a mental representation of the world that is infused by our emotional experiences. This research was supported by the U.S. Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences and a National Institute of Mental Health T32 grant (MH019391) to E. H. Siegel. Source:

Gemma Arterton has spoken with The Times about her role as Marilyn in It’s Me, Sugar, which opens the new season Sky Arts’ Urban Myths in the UK ‘Marilyn used her vulnerable side to get what she wanted and to manipulate people,’ says Gemma Arterton, on a break from filming a stingingly satirical scene in which Monroe and Strasberg discuss her ‘motivation’ for opening a door (Strasberg asks Monroe if her character eats cheese and Monroe replies: ‘Only on Fridays!’). ‘That was a powerful tool that she had, to make everyone feel sorry for her. But in that power she was in control. There’s a bit in our film where they’re 37 takes in and Wilder says, “Don’t worry about it!” And she says, “Don’t worry about what?” And she actually said that! So she’s very tongue-in-cheek. She knows what she’s doing. But she plays the childlike thing. It’s part of her act.’ Source:

While Bombshell, the fictional Marilyn Monroe musical from NBC’s Smash, inches toward the actual stage in a long-gestating development process, another show exploring the life of the film icon will play Las Vegas. Marilyn! The New Musical will play the Paris Theater beginning May 23 before an official opening June 1. The show features a book by director Tegan Summer and an original score by Gregory Nabours, plus additional songs made famous by Monroe. Ruby Lewis, who starred on Broadway in Cirque du Soleil’s Paramour, will take on the title role. The cast will also include Brittney Bertier as Norma Jeane (depicted in the musical as Monroe’s ever-present alter ego), Travis Cloer as Milton Greene, Randal Keith as Darryl F. Znuck, Christopher Showerman as Joe DiMaggio, Matthew Tyler as Arthur Miller, Lindsay Roginski as Jane Russell, and Una Eggerts as Jayne Mansfield. The production team includes choreographer Ferly Prado, set designer Matt Steinbrenner, and casting director Michael Donovan. Source:

I met Jerry Lewis and I will be grateful forever we crossed paths that night, when Nate was in an uncontrolled mood and Jerry intervined. Nate tried to punch him but Jerry ducked skillfully all the blows. I kissed Jerry on the cheek—I think he blushed—and wrote down my telephone number on a casino napkin. “Take care, baby girl,” mumbled Jerry, still flushed from our unexpected fixture. Las Vegas, in the early forties, was not much of anything. A small oasis, a railway depot, a little grid of streets by the tracks and then emptiness. Small town. Big desert. Big sky. Grit. Heat. Distant mountains. Stunted brownneedled cacti. Sagebrush. And Block 16, the red-light district with its gambling and its liquor and its girls, who sat on wooden chairs by the open doorways of their concrete-block shanties. Las Vegas was suddenly exploding now, in the early fifties, with entertainers like Frank Sinatra and Milton Berle and Vic Damone and Red Skelton and Rosemary Clooney and Eddie Fisher all on the Strip all at once, and when they finished their own gigs, they headed out to the other clubs and lounges to see who was doing what at 2:00 A.M. and no one went to bed until the sun had bleached the neon to a pathetic pallor. —"The Magnificent Esme Wells" (2018) by Adrienne Sharp

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Glitz, Fleeting Nostalgia, Jerry Lewis

The glamour of pre–WWII Hollywood and the glitz of postwar Las Vegas are the playgrounds of young Esme Wells and her dreamer parents—her bookie father, and her movie star wanna-be mother who never gets past showgirl roles in B-musicals. Adrienne Sharp’s fourth novel is a grimly sad story of big dreams, bad luck, and worse decisions, as Esme and her parents move from Hollywood’s scams and cheesy musicals to the Las Vegas world of casinos, high rollers, suckers, and gangsters. By 1945 Esme’s father works for mobster Bugsy Siegel as the gangster’s vision of a gambling city comes true. Underage, she works as a casino cigarette girl, where her good looks draw the leering attention of Nate Stein, a ruthless thug who intends to take over all of Las Vegas. After Bugsy is bumped off, Esme falls in with serious mobsters like Mickey Cohen and Meyer Lansky, eventually becoming Stein’s teenage mistress and chorus line showgirl. When Esme discovers her father’s involvement with the less-than-legal dealings, the story builds to a dangerous boil. This glittering noirish tragedy, with its lushly imagined period landscape and subtle feminist trajectory, is both fun to read and sad to think about. Sharp’s narrative is a bold and gritty portrayal of unreachable dreams, anchored by its notable depiction of Esme. The Magnificent Esme Wells will be released on April, 10, 2018. Source:

The 1950s occupied a central position in the nostalgic imagination of the United States: indeed, it was the revival of 1950s Rock’n’Roll in the early 1970s that first made nostalgia a household term. It therefore comes as no surprise that nostalgia for the 1950s features heavily in two recent books: Michael Dwyer's “Back to the Fifties: Nostalgia, Hollywood Film, and Popular Music of the Seventies and Eighties” (2015) and Gary Cross's “Consumed Nostalgia” (2015). Dwyer rejects this “amnesiac model of nostalgia” interpretation, arguing “that nostalgia must be understood not as a reduction or denial of history but as a fundamentally productive affective engagement that produces new historical meaning for the past as a way of reckoning with the historical present.” Cross states this form of nostalgia “binds together not community nor families but scattered individuals”, it is “less about preserving an ‘unchanging golden era’ than it is about capturing the fleeting and the particular in its ‘authenticity’”, it helps “us cope with the extraordinary speed-up of time by letting us return to our childhoods”, and is “rooted in special emotions linked to recovering distinctive memories.”  The nostalgia for the 1950s, for instance, first became a subject of cultural criticism because it infected a younger generation without recollections of the period. Cross’ hypothesis that nostalgia is a reaction to social acceleration and fast capitalism has a lot going for it. According to sociologist Hartmut Rosa, every surge of acceleration is followed by nostalgic sentiments. In fact, Rosa makes the same argument in his theory of social acceleration. Source:

Dean and Me is a snapshot of how a couple of divergent characters came together to literally change the face of popular entertainment: Martin and Lewis were the post-war pulse of a battle weary nation, and the resulting hilarity and hi-jinx looked like it would never end. So when the duo officially called it quits, 10 years to the day after getting together, fans were flummoxed -- and the confusion continued as neither man spoke to the other in 20-plus years. Many people outside the industry believe that the creative process comes easily and exacts never-ending rewards. Lewis debunks all those myths, especially when he's listing a performance schedule that required three shows a night (finishing around 3am) for several weeks, including a daily schedule that required publicity stops and business meetings. Lewis makes it very clear that Martin loved the ladies -- as he puts it, "often and very well" -- which was part of the make-up of male oriented show business in the '40s and '50s. Appearances are deceptive, though, and it's implied that Lewis had the higher sex drive of both entertainers.

Lewis does not blame his partner for the inevitable and bitter break-up in 1956. Instead, he makes it very clear that the separation was almost all his idea. He wanted to expand into filmmaking, and Martin was happy with continuing the nightclub comedy act. But there is also a kind of backward compliment being paid here, since Lewis indicates that it was Martin's seething rage, his lack of individual respect and his cold interpersonal nature that drove the divide between them. It's Dean's desire to step out of Jerry's generous limelight (Lewis was the beneficiary of glowing notices while Martin was universally panned) that really drove the decision to quit. Few see that Jerry Lewis is actually a bridge between the old fashioned chuckles of Hollywood's Golden Era and the more experimental, existential humor of the post-modern period. Instead, he seems forever fated to be the dopey dude, the kooky caricature of a nerd. Sadly, such a sentiment diminishes a great deal of very good work. Thanks to a famous collaboration with director Frank Tashlin and his own turns in the creator's chair, we can witness the rise, fall, and unjust dismissal of an amazing artist.

The Ladies Man (1961): It remains a monumental achievement in set design and art direction. Throwing his weight around as a box office behemoth, Lewis demanded and received an entire Paramount soundstage to create what is, essentially, an entire four story house complete with grand concourse, spiral staircases, open walled bedrooms, and an old fashioned elevator running up the side. It was a massive masterpiece of a playset, and Lewis made the most of it. Visually it is amazing, the comedy relying more on small moments than the epic environment created.

The Errand Boy (1961): As a love letter to the studio system, it stands as one of his true classic comedies. A skewering of Hollywood hubris in combination with the filmmaker's fleet footed physical shtick resulted in a creative combination that would underscore his next few films. Tinsel Town never took such a well-intentioned tweaking.

It'$ Only Money (1962) (with director Frank Tashlin): Relatively forgotten, even among Lewis fans, this oddball detective farce -- Lewis is a TV repairman and alongside a shifty private dick, get caught up in the search for a rich family's missing heir -- is one of the funnyman's forgotten gems. Lewis is loose and screwy in every scene, with terrific nonsensical, non-sequitur patter and ad-libs that equal his best moments on screen. Tashlin really amplifies his anarchic style, and Lewis loses himself in the relatively low key role.

The Nutty Professor (1963): Without a doubt, this stands as one of comedy's major cinematic milestones. By riffing on his relationship with ex-partner Martin (who Buddy Love is obviously mirrored after) and putting to use every kind of cleverness imaginable, we get a wonderful whirlwind of dopiness and deftness. In this Jekyll and Hyde satire, Lewis actually display a character study, not just weird variations of his persona, and the emotional underpinning of the relationship with Stella Purdy is heartfelt and very human. If you wonder what keeps Lewis part of the motion picture equation, even four decades later, this fantastic film is the answer.

The Patsy (1964): Often cited as one of Lewis's more cynical films, this droll look at celebrity and the shallowness of fame is, in reality, on par with The Nutty Professor as a certifiable sensation. A dynamite combination of silent film gags, pop culture spoof (see Ed Sullivan mocking himself!), and insightful evisceration into the cult of personality, it's a brilliant and brazen farce.

Three on a Couch (1966): Attempting to make the leap into more 'adult oriented fare', many feel Lewis succeeded with this sincere psychobabble. The therapeutic theme is prevalent throughout Lewis’s films, including That’s My Boy (Hal Walker, 1951), The Delicate Delinquent (Don McGuire, 1957), and The Disorderly Orderly (Frank Tashlin, 1964). One of the film’s most magical sequences is Lewis and Leigh dancing in a ballroom with a beautiful, dreamy lassitude (Lewis’s back to the camera and Janet Leigh’s enraptured eyes looking heavenward as the two glide on an arc of rapture).  Three on a Couch becomes a film about the need for expressing love and a restatement, in different terms, of the self-reliance theme of The Nutty Professor. Source:

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Happy Anniversary, Jerry Lewis!

Jerry Lewis (The Joke Explained) video. Happy Anniversary!

Don’t try to sound wise or informed about Jerry Lewis, don’t try to shed light. He rejects being understood, quite properly, and his impulses live in darkness—a fact Jerry’s every twitch elucidated. The countless commentators who worked through the decades to label Jerry, judge him, pass sentence, never sat with him at the table, yet eagerly framed him in personal, not professional, terms. It is interesting that Jerry, an unwavering source of brilliance, was somehow not a source of illumination. Illumination was neither his method nor his path, although he was a blinding sun. The confession speech at the end of The Nutty Professor, where he breaks up during “That Old Black Magic,” then stands on the stage and tells the story of his life: it is pure sunshine, if also, simultaneously, degradation. One positively needed him to keep on, to be an ultimate survivor, a defier of time who would never lose his path in the desert of the real (Zizek). To claim that at the end he was no longer young is an immaterial lie, because he was young in a way that hurt us to consider: embarrassingly young, insouciantly young, proudly young, critically young, a person with young sensitivities, to whom rudeness was an attack. 

Jerry was young against the tide. He had succeeded in retaining what so many of us are pleased to surrender. It was charming and affronting in Visit to a Small Planet that the alien he played was all of, and nothing but Jerry Lewis, and that, coming to earth for a short while (he liked to say, “I will not come this way again”) he did not offer the creepy sagacity of Robert Wise’s Klaatu in The Day the Earth Stood Still but gave instead unfamiliarity, wonder, awkwardness. Magic, which is not to imply that he acted without limit or responsibility, that he was always, somewhere underneath, “The Kid” audiences around the world came to know so well. Forget mnemonics, forget sensibility, forget pointing to something. Just use your mouth, and then recall how Jerry used his mouth, chewing and tasting language and soundfulness. It is possible to mean “saying” without meaning “that which one says.” Children do this all the time. And so do drunkards. And people suffering from certain neurological disorders. And comedians. Memories change in the winds, but their status as memories does not. They persist as iconic images. Iconic Jerry Lewis has permanence. Or the helpless, profitless attempts at well-behaved articulation, the wholly civil Jerry, as when Julius Kelp needs to explain something to his Dean (Del Moore), with the tongue emerging from the teeth. Meaning only goodness, trying very hard. But unable to meet the vicious demands of modernity, the  heartless, incompassionate orders from above, and because of a nature over which he has no authority. 

We have all been there, initiates to a much cultivated ceremony that we do not grasp, whose features are all mysteries, and surrounded by a coterie of uninterested insiders who have forgotten their own initiations and treat us like dirt. We have all been there, and have forgotten. When he invokes the memory, we resist. We say, with our lips turned down, “Such a clutz!” Indeed, clutzes we are all, but have forgotten, thinking now, in our elegance, that because we are socialized, because we survived the torture that Jerry never escapes, we were always naturally this way, always cool, and it is only with him that there is something very wrong. I love the delicate way he sings Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz’s “By Myself” in The Delicate Delinquent, because, as need hardly be said, in the late 1950s so many people took delinquency as a serious problem they were incapable of conceiving how a delinquent could be delicate. Hollywood or Bust, his previous film, had been his final collaboration with Dean Martin. Dean was a crooner, like Mel Torme, like Sinatra, like Tony Bennett. Jerry used a harshly tuned whine, like an animal in pain. Jerry was always in sympathy with the “animal” in pain. The question with Dean and Jerry was never who could sing better but which voice we preferred to hear. I was supposed to prefer Dean, but I preferred Jerry.

Life happens. Erosion happens. Jerry lived his life in his art, he gave his life in his art. Perhaps every Jerry fan has his own Jerry but I have surely never met a Jerry fan whose own Jerry was a Jerry I recognize.  I learned to love the Jerry who was in love with Anna Maria Alberghetti in Cinderfella. The Jerry running up and down the stairs to carry a telephone message to Dean in Artists and Models. The Jerry sternly lecturing Robert De Niro in King of Comedy. My own Jerry—the single Jerry I find both impossible and wondrous—is the Morty Tashman who conducts an invisible jazz band in the “board room” sequence of The Errand Boy. It is mime, it is conducting, it is cigar-lighting and puffing to the beat, it is irony, it is sarcasm, it is desperation, it is supreme confidence, it is music. Oh, but Jerry was music. Jerry is music. The Jerry who was music has gone, but the music remains. Source:

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

“Marilyn, Madness and Me”, All the Beautiful Girls

Cal State University, San Bernardino, Palm Desert is doing a month-long tribute to the Rat Pack and they’re now presenting local writer Frank Furino’s stage fantasy of what could have caused Marilyn Monroe's death in “Marilyn, Madness and Me” at the school’s Indian Wells Theater. The story is “an intriguing fantasy that speculates on many rumors about legendary events in Marilyn Monroe's life and fits them into a pat, plausible hypothesis." The Rat Pack celebration continues March 16-17 with a tribute show to Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr., and March 23 with cocktails at Melvyn's, where Sinatra held his pre-wedding party in 1976. 

And watch for the world premiere of "Becoming Marilyn Monroe" at the next American Documentary Film Festival April 6-14. “Marilyn, Madness and Me,” a play by Frank Furino as part of the Rat Pack in the Desert celebration, 6:30 p.m. wine reception, 7 p.m. play, Indian Wells Theater, CSUSB Palm Desert campus, 37500 Cook St., Palm Desert. Source:

In All the Beautiful Girls (2018), a novel by Elizabeth J. Church's, Lily Decker becomes a Las Vegas showgirl in the 1960s. Her feathery, sequined reinvention on the Vegas strip introduces a world of romance, riches and fame, but perhaps only love and a true sense of agency can banish the shadow of her past. This touching and deftly written novel moves from the tragedy of untold pain into a glamorous world of Ratpackers and movie stars. Las Vegas in the 1960s with its neon lights, topless showgirls, high rollers, glamorous superstars like Frank Sinatra, is the glittering backdrop for this novel. Feeling guilty for the car accident that killed Lily's parents, ‘The Aviator,’ whom Lily nicknames Sloan, funds her dancing classes. As a showgirl in Vegas, she wears sky-high headdresses, stilettoes, and costumes dripping with feathers and rhinestones. Gaudy Vegas and life in the sixties at the dawning of more liberal times is conjured skillfully in a novel that also explores the complex issues that era presented for our loveable yet flawed heroine.  Source:

Miami Beach, Florida, February 1965: Frank Sinatra was going to be performing at the Fontainebleau Hotel for a few dates and had invited me to fly over with him from Vegas. Frank never referred to him and the guys as the Rat Pack. That came from the newspapers. He always referred to their meetings in Vegas and their shows at the Sands, as the Summit. The limo took us along Collins Avenue, which ran parallel to the beach, and before long the hotel loomed ahead of us. It also fronted the beach and was the most lavish hotel in Miami Beach. Frank had filmed a scene from the movie A Hole in the Head at the hotel in 1959. In 1960 it was also the setting for Jerry Lewis’ movie The Bellboy. Jerry shrugged, looking up at the dancing stage. “I wouldn’t mind meetin’ some of them girls.” I said: “You’re such a bullshitter, Jerry.” He jerked his head back to me. “Huh?” “You’re way too much of a shy gentleman to meet those girls,” I said. “Maybe,” he said, almost indignantly, “I ain’t as shy as I used to be.” He’d been super shy with the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Ava Gardner, but maybe he had changed since then. I remember he was big brother friendly with those ladies. —"I Only Have Lies For You: A Rat Pack Mystery" (2018) by Robert J. Randisi

A new study by a group of psychologists at SUNY Buffalo led by associate professor of psychology Julie Bowker is the first to show  that a type of social withdrawal could have a positive effect – they found that creativity was linked specifically to unsociability. They also found that unsociability had no correlation with aggression (shyness and avoidance did). Some people withdraw out of fear or anxiety. This type of social withdrawal is associated with shyness. This was significant because while previous research had suggested that unsociability might be harmless, Bowker and colleagues’ research paper showed that it could actually be beneficial. Source:

Jerry kept stealing glances at me. He was completely drawn to my orbit, acting like a schoolboy pursuing his first crush. I thought he was so cute in the way he kept trying to sneak a peak at me which made me feel so sexy. Without saying a word he'd grab me by the waist and kiss me. When there were people around, Jerry usually acted like the perfect putz. Nobody suspected that we were amorous with each other. There was something about his naiveté that made me as hot as a firecracker. One night I was seated on the edge of the bed, peeling off my stockings. “I don’t care what kind of girl you are,” he said. “I'm sure it's my kind!” the jokes never seemed to cease with Jerry. That night he looked a little wistful and he mumbled: “I don't really expect you to believe me but I care about you.” That caught me off guard and I just said “you’re being awfully decent and I believe you.” —"Jerry Lewis, the Bombshell and  The Last Vegas Show" by Jeanne Harvey Source:

In most relationships we don’t encounter an entire person; we experience a composite of the bits of that person we want. The felt burden of this is what, in a poem, D H Lawrence termed ‘image-making love.’ The truth is we like to use people. For validation, for entertainment, for simple relief from boredom. Perhaps (as Marx argued) this dynamic is intensified by capitalism, which makes commodities of people, transactions of relationships. But our instrumentalism runs deeper than this. Capitalism only exploits what is already lurking there: our all-too-easy tendency toward a vicious, unwavering selfishness. Real love, the sort of love people wander through their lives craving, wants above all to distance itself from lust by shedding its preening self-regard. Falling in love is partly the terrifying realisation that you have stepped into reciprocity; that someone is now able to cause you terrible pain. Even if indiscriminate love is impossible, it is a glorious and gloriously daunting ideal. Even ‘in the mud and scum of things,’ said Ralph Waldo Emerson, ‘there alway, alway something sings.’  Source:

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Sinatra in Palm Springs, The Real Jerry Lewis

“Somehow, the myth of Sinatra is very much alive. And you hear people in bars, restaurants, tell stories, tall tales. ‘Oh, I knew Frank. We were friends.’ And you wonder, wait a minute. This can’t be. Is this true?” wondered Leo Zahn, a filmmaker who has directed and photographed more than 600 commercials throughout his career. So he set out to make a whimsical film about all the myths surrounding Sinatra in the desert. But then he met socialite and philanthropist Nelda Linsk who actually knew Sinatra and was a close friend of his latest wife, Barbara Sinatra. “She connected me with a lot of people who I would not have been able to get otherwise,” said Zahn. What he created after two years of interviews, filming, editing and clip approvals, was the documentary “Sinatra in Palm Springs – The Place He Called Home.” It explores Sinatra’s deep attachment to the resort city and the Coachella Valley, which is where he lived for almost 50 years.

The documentary celebrates its world premiere at a sold-out screening on Feb. 20 in Palm Springs during Modernism Week. The film will show again on Feb. 25 as part of Modernism Week’s new film festival called the Architecture Design Art Film Festival which features about 26 films, documentaries and shorts, over three days.The 92-minute Sinatra documentary is Zahn’s second feature-length film. His first was a documentary on architect William F. Cody called "Desert Maverick." His film on Sinatra features more than 65 clips from movies and television appearances and includes interviews with some of Sinatra’s desert friends, family and people who knew him including comedian Tom Dreesen; entertainer Trini Lopez; Desert Sun reporter Bruce Fessier; Sinatra's wife, Barbara; and restaurateur Mel Haber. 

Both Barbara Sinatra and Haber have died since the interviews. The documentary pays tribute to the unique lifestyle Sinatra led in Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage and takes viewers to a bygone era when Sinatra ruled the desert. Palm Springs was Sinatra’s retreat. His refuge from all the hubbub of Hollywood. It was also a playground for him and his Rat Pack buddies who visited and wound up living in Palm Springs as well. Source:

The Rat Pack: Neon Nights with the Kings of Cool by Lawrence J. Quirk and William Schoell, was written and published in 1998, just before the death of Frank Sinatra on May 14, 1998. It starts with Humphrey “Bogie” Bogart and his original Rat Pack, which was the shortened variation of “Holmby Hills Rat Pack,” which included Sinatra, Judy Garland, Lauren “Betty” Bacall, Sid Luft, Bogie, Swifty Lazar, Nathaniel Benchly, David Niven, Katherine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, George Cukor, Cary Grant, Rex Harrison, and Jimmy Van Heusen. Following that, the book introduces Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis and does talk about their breakup, followed by the story of Sammy Davis, Jr., Peter Lawford, and lastly Joey Bishop. Some members came and went in the good graces of Ol’ Blue Eyes, but when you were finished, you were finished. Source:

Camille Paglia on Movies, #MeToo and Modern Sexuality: "The movies have always shown how elemental passions boil beneath the thin veneer of civilization. By their power of intimate close-up, movies reveal the subtleties of facial expression and the ambiguities of mood that inform the alluring rituals of sexual attraction. But movies are receding. Many young people, locked to their miniaturized cellphones, no longer value patient scrutiny of a colossal projected image. Furthermore, as texting has become the default discourse for an entire generation, the ability to read real-life facial expressions and body language is alarmingly atrophying. Endless sexual miscommunication and bitter rancor lie ahead. But thanks to the miracle of technology, most of the great movies of Hollywood history are now easily accessible — a collective epic of complex emotion that once magnificently captured the magic and mystique of sex." Paglia’s new book, Provocations, will be published by Pantheon Books in October 2018.

—Jerry Lewis: “When I’m directing, I become a father; when I write, I perform the man; when I act, I perform the idiot.” —Steven Alan Green, founder of The Laughter Foundation (2010): “You wanna know what fucked me up the most when it came to [meeting] Jerry Lewis? That perhaps in an unintentional way, Jerry Lewis took me through the fourth wall. If you know your comedy terms, that's pretty fucking incredible. I think my life perspective has almost been reversed. Because that's part of what Jerry Lewis did. He in fact, forced me to do that in order to deal with him; that man was not of this earth.” 

The Real Jerry Lewis: Jerry was a master at candidly acting out personal vignettes about three areas of real life—relationships, situations, and predicaments. They form the backbone of his comedy. I tried to understand what he was saying, beyond the words, when I read the notes he sent me; the “I love you’s” written across my makeup mirror at home; and the longer messages I found on my desk. In 1966, one late summer afternoon, I found the following and took it to the garden to read: “To ask how deeply I feel is like asking, ‘Where is God?’ We can answer with nothing more than “if’s” and “maybe’s.” In other words, the answers are really intangibles. My feelings, where my wife is concerned, are very deep and very sacred…She is the very reason I live…for she is the only reason I know that makes living worth anything…and the boys that she produced for me are equally worth it, but one day they’ll leave and then there will be only us… She is the first human thing that has ever cared about me or for me…Oh, there were a few beings that cared, but not enough that I could have survived. It was only when she came into my life that I realized I had a life to live…”

“As I got older, I didn’t much care about being better than them anymore… I just cared about staying alive and getting some degree of respect as a human… After so many years of being made to feel like nothing I guess I worked on being something so much… The responsibility of taking care of the loves I had always had made me feel like, “Why should I care for what one day will discard me anyway?” I don’t know if that’s the case, but it sounds right…and coming from someone who loves those tremendous loves as I do, it certainly confuses me… My constant silence, I think, has been fear… of what my love would think of what I’ve done… fear of doing the wrong thing… and losing the respect I have always felt I got from her…to be placed in the position of being disrespected and disregarded again has always knotted up my insides so badly that silence seemed the only way to avoid the possibility of rejection… very often my hiding was part and parcel of that fear…The feeling of being nothing again, or being looked at with disdain, has, for as long as I can remember, been tearing me up inside… And those tears have come out looking like torment…Well, tormented I am, and have been, and pray one day soon I won’t know the feeling anymore…”

“My wrapping myself up so completely in my work helped for a while, but the “ego” that came across was never there… I have none. But I work desperately at displaying “ego” to cover the real emptiness I know inside… As a director I have found infinite peace because I am to so many an authority, a man who knows, and not someone who is treated with “pity” or “charity”…That’s the biggest reason for the love of creativity I have, for a man is free when he is creating. The feeling of “behind the camera” feels safe, and warm, and special, and certain…“Out front camera” has been very hard and trying for me…and for the first time in my life I think I can honestly admit I hated doing it and I still do… I need all the care I can get all the time… and I only seem to be able to get that from my love, my wife… I don’t ever want to appear “indifferent” to my wife… but that appearance, too, I think is just hoping not to be a burden and an annoyance to her… I just can’t remember ever being anything but an annoyance… and when I’m told I’m not, I can’t seem to recognize that is possibly the case.”

“I know I need help… but I really believe the help will come from within… Admitting to “hating performing” might help me adjust sooner… Admitting the love I have for writing and direction will, I’m sure, take me out of the depths of my depression… and will ultimately take me into the realm of peace and contentment. I want to talk more, I want to communicate more…I want to say so much, and get help from her, I want so much to scream the things that tug away at my heart and my soul…And when I try, the hurt is so strong, and deep, and festered that I clam up, and the relief I want doesn’t come… Now to bury that grief… I find someone who has equally as much or more than I so that I can be the helping hand… For if I can help, then my hurts can’t be so bad… And for years I made that a practice…to give of myself only to forget I needed more giving than anyone…”

“With it all I am a very lucky man…to have found the real, right, and perfect human being to spend my years with. I want so much to do the right thing to keep her straight and happy and healthy. When she is ill, the reaction to it isn’t any different than when the spike is forced into the vampire’s heart…it’s the only emotional thing that can kill me, and that’s when she hurts…or when I’ve caused her pain…but my intentions are never to hurt her, never to do her a moment’s pain…Never to create a frown on her lovely face…Why those things happen are a complexity to us both…And I will serve myself from here on in as a student of care and concern and caution as to how she gets treated and how I allow much of my feelings to affect her… I can only answer “God” honestly, and he knows my worth and my intentions, I have no fear of his wrath…for I know he knows I’m basically good, and fine, and honorable when it comes to my love for her… I have no guilt about what I have done thru my blindness… And “God” knows my heart is talking, not the typewriter.” —‘I Laffed ‘Til I Cried” (1993) by Patti Lewis

A primary mechanism underpinning the development of depression is perfectionism. Whilst this perfectionism-depression link has been widely documented, the present research focused on the possibility of self-compassion as a moderator of this link. Defined as setting extremely high standards, and accompanied by a highly critical evaluation of the self in pursuit of these standards, perfectionism is a complex multidimensional construct. Several studies have shown that the striving to attain high personal standards in and of itself is not necessarily destructive. But perfectionism that involves self-criticism and concerns about being negatively evaluated by others has been linked to various forms of psychopathology, thus lending credence to the conceptualisation of perfectionism as a premorbid personality type which increases vulnerability to depression. Indeed, perfectionism has been identified as a trans-diagnostic construct which underlies and maintains many forms of psychopathology including schizophrenia. The authors found that self-compassion partially mediated the link between perfectionism and depression. Positioning self-compassion to be a mediator theoretically suggests that the perfectionism reduces self-compassion and reduced self-compassion in turn increases depression. As noted by Kristin Neff in Self and Identity, self-compassion is ‘a useful emotion regulation strategy, in which painful or distressing feelings are not avoided but are instead held in awareness with kindness, understanding, and a sense of shared humanity.’ Source: