The Nutty Professor (1963)

If you see just one Jerry Lewis movie, this should probably be the one; fans claim it’s his masterpiece, and though it’s overlong and not especially funny, it is fascinating and well-made. Lewis is Julius Kelp, a socially inept chemistry professor who whips up a formula to make himself more attractive and self-assured. The result is Buddy Love, a callous, egotistical womanizer. Some critics at the time read Buddy as Lewis’ dig at former partner Dean Martin, but later writers have persuasively argued that Buddy is the real Jerry Lewis — the greasy-kid-stuff Vegas Jerry we see beseeching us belligerently every Labor Day. Lewis has perhaps never been as impressive (or as self-revealing) a performer as he is here; he was extremely courageous to make himself look so bad as both Julius and Buddy. For a keen analysis of the film and how it fits into the context of Lewis’ life, check out Shawn Levy’s excellent 1996 bio King of Comedy.

Explore posts in the same categories: comedy

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