WEIRDLAND: April 2018

Monday, April 23, 2018

Jerry Lewis Collection, 1950s Homes

Paramount Home Media Distribution has assembled a collection of 10 classic movies starring the late comedian Jerry Lewis and will release the 10-disc set on DVD only on June 12. The marquee title is 1963’s The Nutty Professor, which celebrates its 55th anniversary this year. Considered by many to be Lewis’ most memorable film, The Nutty Professor has Lewis portraying a socially awkward professor who invents a serum that turns him into the handsome but obnoxious Buddy Love. The film was included on the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 funniest American films of all time. The 10-DVD set also includes the following: The Stooge (1951)—Features one of Lewis’ earliest pairings with Dean Martin as a musical-comedy duo, The Delicate Delinquent (1956), The Bellboy (1960), Cinderfella (1960), The Errand Boy (1961), The Ladies Man (1961), The Disorderly Orderly (1964), The Patsy (1964) and The Family Jewels (1965). Source:

Not only Jerry Lewis played the irrepressible big kid to Dean Martin's smooth crooner, there was also a generational gap between both in regard to gender dynamics. Whereas Martin—who bridled over his role as Lewis’s stooge—represented the old heterosexist guard, Lewis was a cultural pioneer by breaking up (at least on film) with the Fifties's rigid concepts of male/female courtship. Although Martin was the official ladies' man of the duo, Lewis also provoked odd feelings of attraction on the bobby soxers generation. Liz Renay, showgirl and Marilyn Monroe look-alike who became Mickey Cohen's lover, was remarkably discreet in discussing her association with Jerry Lewis in her biography My Face for the World to See (2002). Another of his dalliances was with fashion model Lynn Dixon in the early 1950s. She was introduced to Lewis by Milton Berle and their affair  lasted from 1949-1952.

Information gathered by psychologist Lewis Terman in the 1930s showed that of women born before 1890, 13.5 percent had sexual intercourse before marriage. Social research showed that heterosexual intimacy had become common among unmarried youth. For those born in the decade after 1900, the figure rose to 50 percent, with an even higher percentage for women born in the following decade. By 1930 only 12 percent of white married women worked, and limitations upon married women working became even greater during the Depression. Studies during the 1920s and 1930s by physicians, psychiatrists, and sociologists supported the changing values of the new morality and stressed the importance of sexual pleasure within marriage. Studies of different middle-class populations from the late 1920s found large majorities of married couples using some form of contraception on a regular basis. Behaviorist John Watson noted the pervasive presence of sexual themes in the culture of the day—movies, novels, newspapers, and magazines. As a consequence, "'Virtue,' 'purity' in the old sense, rarely exist and are not even considered desirable. But new values are coming into vogue: individuality—clear-sightedness—independence in thought and action."

Wini Breines explores white middle class America and argues that mixed messages given to girls during the 1950s lent fuel to the fire that would later become known as Feminism. Researchers at the University of Arkansas have discovered that though straight partners have sex more often, bisexual and lesbian women have more orgasms – by far. They found that heterosexual men “usually always orgasmed when sexually intimate,” doing so 95 percent of the time. In contrast, straight women orgasm in just 65 percent of cases. They found that women were 33 percent more likely to orgasm when they were having sex with another woman. Dr Kristen Jozkowski said: “Sex that includes more varied sexual behaviour results in women experiencing more orgasms”. Sex between women “was excitingly diversified,” she explained.

The postwar boom led to government policies that helped multiply homeownership rates from roughly 40 percent at the end of the war to 60 percent during the second half of the 20th century. According to Harvard professor and urban planning historian Alexander von Hoffman, a combination of two government initiatives—the establishment of the Federal Housing Authority and the Veterans Administration (VA) home loans programs—served as runways for first-time homebuyers. Initially created during the ’30s, the Federal Housing Authority guaranteed loans as long as new homes that would create the modern mortgage market. An analysis of housing and mortgage data from 1960 by Leo Grebler, a renowned professor of urban land economics at UCLA, demonstrates the pronounced impact of these programs. In 1950, FHA and VA loans accounted for 51 percent of the 1.35 million home starts across the nation. These federal programs would account for anywhere between 30 and 51 percent of housing starts between 1951 and 1957, according to Grebler’s analysis.

Between 1953 and 1957, 2.4 million units were started under these programs, using $3.6 billion in loans. With the U.S. Treasury backing home loans and protecting lenders from defaults, the risk of a bad loan plummeted. Floodgates of capital opened, reshaping land on the periphery of cities. Mortgage rates were incredibly low during the suburban boom of the ’50s and ’60s. In 1960, the average mortgage rate was 5.1 percent. In 1950 alone, suburban growth was 10 times that of central cities, and the nation’s builders registered 2 million housing starts. By the end of the decade, 15 million homes were under construction across the country. And during that decade, as the economy expanded rapidly and interstate roads took shape, residential development in the suburbs accounted for 75 percent of total U.S. construction. Many of these new homes, large-scale, tract-style construction, were built with the backing of various government financing programs, and became available to a much broader cross section of society. “A much larger percentage of homes on the market in the ’50s were new homes, and they are much more expensive in relation to income now than they were then,” says Michael Carliner, a housing economist at Harvard. 1.2 million homes were started across the country in 2017. But adjusted for both an increased population as well as the large drop seen during the recent Great Recession, these numbers appear anemic, the lowest number per capita in 60 years. And unlike the postwar building spree, fewer new homes can be considered affordable starter homes. Builders say the combination of land, labor, and material costs makes affordable homes impossible, and only more expensive models offer enough of a profit margin. Source:

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 

Tuesday, April 17, 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

Sunday, April 08, 2018

The Breakfast Club: Criterion Special Edition

Molly Ringwald: When my daughter proposed watching “The Breakfast Club” together, I hesitated, not knowing how she would react: if she would understand the film or if she would even like it. I worried that she would find aspects of it troubling. My daughter did audibly gasp when she thought I had showed my underwear. At one point in the film, the bad-boy character, John Bender, ducks under the table where my character, Claire, is sitting, to hide from a teacher. While there, he takes the opportunity to peek under Claire’s skirt. I was quick to point out to my daughter that the person in the underwear wasn’t really me, though that clarification seemed inconsequential for her: Bender sexually harasses Claire throughout the film. Before John Hughes, no one in Hollywood was writing about the minutiae of high school, and certainly not from a female point of view. That two of Hughes’s films had female protagonists in the lead roles and examined these young women’s feelings, while also managing to have instant cred that translated into success at the box office, was an anomaly that has never really been replicated. (The few blockbuster films starring young women in recent years have mostly been set in dystopian futures.) John Hughes believed in me, and in my gifts as an actress, more than anyone else I’ve known. He could also respond to perceived rejection in much the same way the character of Bender did in “The Breakfast Club.”

This was John Hughes’s great gift in his early films as a screenwriter and director: he understood the whirling, emotionally inconsistent state of being an American teenager better than anyone else work­ing in the 1980s. The Breakfast Club, released in 1985, is the middle film of the “teen trilogy” for which he is most celebrated, bracketed by his first outing as a director, the slapsticky Sixteen Candles (1984), and the more exuberant Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986). The trilogy becomes a sextet if you also count Weird Science (1985), Pretty in Pink (1986) and Some Kind of Wonderful (1987). Hughes had been a happily married man since the tender age of twenty, making The Breakfast Club all the more remarkable. How did a baby boomer, born in 1950, become the teen laureate not only of the eighties but also­—as his films would prove surprisingly durable—of the decades that followed? In its spareness, The Breakfast Club could almost be a black-box theater production: five kids of disparate backgrounds are compelled to spend nine hours together in one room, gaining insights into themselves and each other along the way. Bender is all kinetic energy and he’s also the first to break down and reveal his vulnerability. All of the characters in due time reveal similar holes in their souls, though not in a straight and steady line toward hug-it-out reconciliation. There is tension nearly to the very end. The character of Bender was the macho type who did not give a crap. It was his was of coping with the world. He was actually a nice guy, that is why he got the girl. Hughes was the rare adult who retained access to this volatility, and the even rarer filmmaker who could turn it into art. Seems John Hughes was right all along: Those wicked cliques were made to be broken. Source:

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Beautiful Mess, Marilyn Forever Blonde, Jerry Lewis The Last American Clown

Sired by a wealthy New York scion who abandoned her showgirl mother, Geneva Kelly is no weak-kneed fool. So how can she be falling in love with the taciturn, straight-arrow Revenue agent when she’s got Princeton boy Billy Marshall, the dashing son of society doyenne Theresa Marshall, begging to make an honest woman of her? While anything goes in the Jazz Age, Geneva’s adventures will shake proper Manhattan society to its foundations, exposing secrets that shock even this free-spirited redhead. As Ella Gilbert discovers more about the basement speakeasy, she becomes inspired by the spirit of her incandescent predecessor, and decides to live with abandon in the wicked city. —The Wicked City (2017) by Beatriz Williams

He was real. He was kind. He was funny. And under the kindness and the humor, there was an edge to him that had emerged… “I love her,” he said softly. It was like he’d been waiting just for her and until he saw her, he couldn’t really smile. “My entire life, I’ve only loved one woman. I didn’t have crushes on any of the girls I worked with. I didn’t go chasing after anybody when I tried to make it for a while after the show ended. I didn’t fall for anybody in college. I dated some but it was more because I wanted to try and forget about her, even though I knew it wouldn’t work. She’s everything for me, Keelie. You understand that? I love her. More than I’m ever going to be able to love anybody. And now I finally have the chance I’ve been waiting my whole life for... I love her, damn it. She’s my world.” —Wrecked (2013) by Shiloh Walker is a beautiful look into true and enduring love. Source:

Protagonist Del Corwyn is an aging relic—an actor who climbed from errand boy to Academy Award nominee; who kept company with Hollywood’s golden era elite; who even shared a close friendship with Marilyn Monroe. But now, Del Corwyn is facing bankruptcy. Humiliated and forced to downgrade his lifestyle and sell the home he's long cherished, Del is destined to fade into a history of forgotten legends—unless he can revive his career. All he needs is one last chance. While searching through memorabilia from his beloved past, Del rediscovers a mysterious envelope, dated 1962, containing an original screenplay by Marilyn Monroe—and proof that she named him its legal guardian. Seemingly overnight, Del goes from bankrupt, washed up has-been to the top of Hollywood’s A-list. But the opportunity to reclaim his fame and fortune brings a choice: Is Del willing to sacrifice newfound love, self-respect and his most cherished friendship to achieve his greatest dream? John Herrick's Beautiful Mess (2017) follows one man's journey towards finding love and relevance where he least expects it. Source:

Greg Thompson wrote and produced the one woman play "Marilyn Forever Blonde," which Sunny Thompson starred in for 10 years after acting off-Broadway and headlining Nevada casinos. The play explores what might have been Monroe's last day of life. The play's back story has now been made into a documentary by director Tammy Plimmer, who suggested world premiering it at the April 6-14 American Documentary Film Festival in Palm Springs. Festival director Teddy Grouya not only accepted it, he put it in the largest Camelot theater in the Palm Springs Cultural Center due to public demand for tickets. The film, "Becoming Marilyn Monroe," will screen April 10 and 12. DESERT SUN: Why is Marilyn still fascinating more than 55 years after her death? THOMPSON:  I think it has a lot to do with her softness. You can see it in her eyes in all of her photos. I have met young girls who came to the play and said they were big Marilyn fans and yet they had never seen a movie with Marilyn in it.  Only her photos! They had fallen in love with an image. The biggest compliment that I’ve received in 10 years came right in the beginning when we were in Hollywood and Marilyn's close friend (fashion designer) Richard Blackwell came backstage and grabbed my hand and said "I never thought I would see you again! Nobody gets her softness and you got it!" Source:

Jerry Lewis told GQ magazine a story about how he had a one night stand with Marilyn Monroe: “Lewis is suddenly insistent that Marilyn Monroe and President Kennedy — whom Lewis admired — never had the affair many believe they had. When I look skeptical, he turns stern. ‘I’m telling you what I know. Never! And the only reason I know is because I did. Okay?’ Wait, what?? He nods, adding that Monroe used sex like he uses humor: to make an emotional connection. ‘She needed that contact to be sure it was real.’ Ok, but what was it like to make love to the most famously tragic sexpot of all time? ‘It was…’ he says, taking a beat, ‘long.’ He smiles ruefully. ‘I was crippled for a month.’

In the TV “Biography” episode hosted by Peter Graves, entitled “Jerry Lewis: The Last American Clown” (1996) guest interviewes consisted of Patti Palmer Lewis (former Wife), Janet Leigh (Actress), Stella Stevens (Actress), Connie Stevens (Actress), Kathleen Freeman (Actress), Bill Richmond (Screenwriter), etc. Archive film footage included Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin, Marie Wilson, Hal Wallis, Marilyn Monroe, Leslie Caron, Brian Donlevy, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Danny Lewis. Film Clips included a screen glimpse of Jerry Lewis through the years, in scenes from My Friend Irma Goes West (1950), Sailor Beware (1952), Living It Up (1954), Pardners (1956), The Delicate Delinquent (1957), The Sad Sack (1957), The Bellboy (1960), Cinderfella (1960), The Ladies Man (1961), The Errand Boy (1961), The Nutty Professor (1963), The Patsy (1964), The Family Jewels (1965), The Big Mouth (1967), The Day the Clown Cried (1972), and Hardly Working (1980).

Jerry Lewis was ahead of his generation in terms of gender dynamics, and despite of settling down at a young age and assuming his family man image, he was capable of reaching a wider emotional complexity than most of his contemporary showbiz fellows.  The Last Vegas Show journals (2017), inspired by Jeanne Carmen's “My Wild, Wild Life” (2006) show Lewis in his intimacy as more of a romantic suitor than a clumsy clown. He was a complete putz of a man onscreen but rarely his ideal girl was a ditz. However, Lewis would have loved working with Marilyn Monroe (the consummate ditzy sex-symbol) in a comedy. In Hollywood or Bust (1956), Anita Ekberg acted as the clueless bombshell who is obsessively adored from a distance by Jerry. Source:

“Unlike so many who knew him, my memories were not of his movies, or the MDA Telethons, but of the times when it was just us,” Jerry's widow Sandee Lewis said to Las Vegas Review Journal after he passed away. “Calling me beautiful, making me a small glass of coffee filled with just cream and sugar just like my mom, or having a stuffed Barney toy on his piano, always sitting there during his live shows, just so I could have a reminder that he was thinking of me. I remember two years ago, getting out of the car in the freezing rain in Washington, D.C., just so he could take a picture with me in front of the Lincoln Memorial.” Source:

The Las Vegas house that once belonged to Jerry Lewis is up for sale. The house is located on Reno Avenue in the Scotch 80s neighborhood, which is located just west of Interstate 15 and minutes from Downtown Las Vegas. It is listed for $1.4 million and has 6 bedrooms and 6 bathrooms. The Scotch 80s neighborhood has been home to the movers and shakers in Las Vegas since the '50s. Lewis lived at the property for thirty years. The bar in the family room was host to many celebrities, and the pool and backyard area are ideal for entertaining. The median list price for a home in the famous neighborhood is $734,000.   Source: