We lost Jerry Lewis this year when the comic legend died at age 91. Anyone under the age of 40 doesn't know much about him at all and anyone from 40-60 may know him from his often-lunatic performances during the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon for Muscular Dystrophy or an amazing dramatic turn in Martin Scorsese's movie "The King of Comedy."
Lewis was apparently a complicated guy to deal with, frustrated with his legacy but impatient with anyone who tried to help promote his work. The Jerry Lewis 10 Film Collection, a new DVD box set, goes a long to way explaining why Lewis was the top box office draw in the world and you can get a copy for around $20 online.
Jerry Lewis first made his name partnered in a nightclub act with Dean Martin. Dean was the smooth romantic singer and Jerry was the dope who disrupted the set. There's very little record of their club act, but its riotous success made them the highest-paid live performers in the country in the early '50s and led to a successful series of movies with Paramount.
As Lewis got more interested in making films, his relationship with Martin soured and they had what would be the ugliest showbiz breakup until the Beatles split more than a decade later.
This collection contains almost every film Lewis made in the decade after that split and includes almost every important movie from the most successful era in his career.
It starts with one of his best pairings with Dean. "The Stooge" is said to include scenes based on their live act and eerily predicts the bad blood that would mark their impending breakup.
The rest of the films are either directed by Lewis or former cartoon director Frank Tashlin. Lewis' gags in these films are meticulously created and choreographed and, when they're funny, it's obvious why moviegoers loved his work.
What these movies are not is tightly scripted. Lewis is making movies that interest him and expects the audience to follow what he's doing.
The best scenes in these movies are incredible: the ball scene in "Cinderfella," the silent movie-inspired bits in "The Bellboy," the Buddy Love scenes in "The Nutty Professor" and the Ed Sullivan sequence in "The Patsy" are all hilarious and impeccably filmed and edited.
Many of the movies in this box feature self-congratulatory commentary tracks from Lewis. They're compelling and weirdly entertaining in their own somewhat alarming way.
Check out the complete list of titles (with the studio's full descriptions) below.
The Stooge (1952)
Comic farce with some surprising dramatic and autobiographical moments starring Dean Martin as Bill Miller, an accordion-playing vaudevillian who decides to go solo without help from his partner (Richard Erdman). After falling flat on his face, Bill’s manager suggests he recruit a “stooge” in the form of a zany, put-upon second banana. Enter Ted Rogers (Jerry Lewis). But how long can Ted remain the butt of Bill’s jokes without proper credit? Polly Bergen, Eddie Mayehoff also star. 99 min.
The Delicate Delinquent (1957)
In his first solo outing, Jerry Lewis plays Sidney L. Pythias, a nerdy janitor who gets caught in the middle of a gang rumble and is arrested for being a juvenile delinquent. Officer Mike Damon (Darren McGavin, in a role written for Dean Martin) sets out to reform the "delinquent" Sidney, who soon becomes a cop. This mirthful mix of silliness and sentiment based on the Damon and Pythias legend co-stars Martha Hyer, Horace McMahon. 100 min. BW/Rtg: NR
The Bellboy (1960)
Jerry Lewis wrote, produced, directed, and starred in this plotless comedy par excellence--Jerry’s tribute to silent film idol Stan Laurel--as inept bellhop Stanley. You’ll check in for laughter as Stanley turns a posh Miami Beach resort upside down, and welcomes such guests as Milton Berle, golfer Cary Middlecoff, Laurel imitator Bill Richmond, and Jerry himself! Narrated by Walter Winchell. 71 min. BW/Rtg: NR
The fairy tale classic is turned on its head when Fella (Jerry Lewis) gets some help from his Fairy Godfather (Ed Wynn) after his father dies and he’s left in the care of his rotten stepmother (Judith Anderson) and her two sons (Henry Silva, Robert Hutton). But things soon turn around for Fella after he meets Princess Charming (Anna Maria Alberghetti), and loses his shoe. Will Princess find the wearer of the shoe...and will the couple live happily ever after? With Count Basie. 87 min. C/Rtg: NR
The Errand Boy (1961)
Le Grand Goofee, Jerry Lewis, is Paramutual Studios’ gopher Morty Tashman, who turns Tinseltown upside-down with one hilarious misadventure after another after his boss (Brian Donlevy) solicits him to spy on his fellow lot workers and report back any incidents of wastefulness and laziness. Frenetic film farce features a slew of celluloid chuckle-makers, including Sig Ruman, Milton Frome, Benny Rubin, Fritz Feld, Doodles Weaver, Joey Forman, and Joe Besser, with a cameo by the cast of TV’s "Bonanza." 92 min. BW/Rtg: NR
The Ladies Man (1961)
Jerry Lewis is at his zany best playing Herbert H. Heebert, a young recent college grad who swears off women after his girlfriend leaves him for another man. But that plan quickly proves moot when Herbert takes a job as a houseboy at a Hollywood home for wayward girls. What could possibly go wrong? Helen Traubel, Pat Stanley, George Raft, and Harry James and His Orchestra (performing "Bang Tail") are also featured in this wacky outing. 95 min. C/Rtg: NR
The Nutty Professor (1963)
Considered by many to be his best film, writer/director/star Jerry Lewis' slapstick spin on the Jekyll/Hyde story finds him, as nerdy college professor Julius Kelp, inventing a mysterious potion that turns him into hip, conceited stud Buddy Love (whose persona, some say, was based on Dean Martin). Stella Stevens plays his love interest, Miss Purdy. With Del Moore, Kathleen Freeman. 107 min. C/Rtg: NR
The Patsy (1964)
An inept hotel bellhop named Stanley Belt is groomed for stardom by a late comedian's management team after their meal ticket is killed in a plane crash. With no talent to speak of, Stanley is soon given the boot by his handlers...but one team member (Ina Balin) has taken a shine to the goofy “patsy,” and stays by his side on his unlikely road to success. Madcap farce--intended as a sequel to “The Bellhop”--co-stars Peter Lorre (in his last film), Keenan Wynn, Everett Sloane; Jerry directs. 101 min. C/Rtg: NR
The Disorderly Orderly (1964)
The diagnosis is bellylaugh after bellylaugh when Jerome Littlefield (Jerry Lewis), an attendant who experiences "sympathy pains," turns a quiet hospital upside down in this hilarious comedy. But when Jerry’s former high school crush becomes a patient, he realizes that his love for her is the cause of his problems as he attempts to heal her...and himself. With Susan Oliver, Jack E. Leonard, Kathleen Freeman. 89 min. C/Rtg: NR
The Family Jewels (1965)
If one Jerry Lewis isn't enough for you, how about seven of him! In this heartwarming comedy Jerry portrays six wacky uncles of 10-year-old heiress Donna Peyton (Donna Butterworth) who must choose a guardian, as well as her faithful chauffeur. Spending two weeks with each of her offbeat relatives, Donna discovers that her ideal father may have been under her nose all along. With Sebastian Cabot, Neil Hamilton, and a cameo by Jerry’s son’s band, Gary Lewis and the Playboys. 99 min. C/Rtg: NR