Who is our greatest (hardly) working director? Godard? Scorsese? Wenders? Arthur Hiller?
Oh, yeah! Timpani! It’s Jerry Lewis!
I’ve spent more of my adult life defending Jerry Lewis than any other pussycat mush genius on the planet. The six films he directed and starred in for Paramount in the ’60s alone have secured him a spot in the Pantheon alongside the heralded likes of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Jacques Tati.
The sounds of reader’s fingers scratching their heads can be heard all the way here in Escondido. To quote Mr. Lewis’s oft-used Telethon defense, “For those who understand, no explanation is necessary. For those who don’t, no explanation will suffice.”
There are moments sprinkled throughout Jerry’s career that even his staunchest supporter over the age of nine finds difficult to endure: the Let Me Be a People number in Cinderfella, the mawkish give-and-take between Morty and the Ritts Puppets in The Errand Boy, and numerous admonishing cries of “We’re not pallys anymore” are but pebbles in shoes, planted to remind viewers that the Idiot has a heart.
3 Ring Circus
Three Ring Circus is the only Martin & Lewis comedy not available on home video. Oddly enough, it houses Jerry at his syrupy worst. Dressed in full wonder-clown regalia, Jericho does his best to get a rise out of a cheerless girl in leg braces seated in the first row. Nothing in director Norman Taurog’s bag of tricks — not a capuchin monkey or cutaways to a convulsive Joanne Dru — draws so much as a smile. It isn’t until the clown cries that the child begins to howl. Check the video: the schmaltz begins to ooze at 1:34:20.
Max Rose trailer
Max Rose stands poised to make Three Ring Circus look like Dante’s nine circles of hell. Judging by the trailer, theatre chains showing the picture would be wise to stock their concession stands with insulin.
The last moviegoers saw of Jerry was Peter Chelsom’s Funny Bones. (Where was everybody when the animated sequel to The Nutty Professor premiered?) On the shelf since 2013 and pretty much panned by all who’ve seen it, it’s shocking that Max Rose is getting a theatrical release instead of holding its American premiere at a Red Box near you. I’ll be there opening day if not sooner.