The Ladies Man (1961)
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- 95 min.
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I don't have a lot of experience with Jerry Lewis but generally I like him. I've seen him in Martin Scorsese's King of Comedy which isn't at all his typical role and I've also seen him in The Nutty Professor. TNP hasn't aged very well if you ask me but it's definitely better than the modern retelling of the story with Eddie Murphy.
The Ladies Man isn't really the kind of movie that could be very well remade. It takes place in an all women's boarding house with Jerry Lewis playing the most sensitive man on earth. The kind who is reduced to tears multiple times. The way in which The Ladies Man is filmed is really cool because the boarding house set is built as if it were a dollhouse. Apparently the most expensive set for a family comedy at the time, the effect of panning from one room to another without any cuts is nice to watch as is the effect of zooming out and getting long shots of the entire, open-roomed house.
Herbert H. Heebert has just graduated from college in a small town by the name of Milltown. It should be one of the happiest days of his life and he's so thrilled because he wants to go discuss marriage plans with his childhood sweetheart Faith who he's waited for all his life (Shary Layne). His feelings of delight are quickly dashed as he sees Faith leave with another man. Herbert swears he'll never get involved with women again and leaves for California to live out his days as a bachelor. He gets hired soon after in a boarding house without fully knowing the details of what he's getting himself into.
The rude awakening that Herbert gets treated to is really funny. Here's a guy who gets to work and live in a boarding house with no one else but young women who are aspiring actresses or musicians. Besides the harmless pet that is Baby of course. But no, Herbert refuses any sort of closeness with women and makes that abundantly clear many times. He tries to leave many times but the ladies of the boarding house block his exits and want to help him by making him feel needed.
Jerry Lewis is an interesting comedy performer. In The Ladies Man, it's like he's a modern Charlie Chaplin with lots of physical comedy. He makes crazy facial expressions along with lots of clumsy moments where he's falling all over the place or making other things fall all over the place. He's also what I'd call a "sound comedian." He screams, shouts and does everything else in between. It's not the kind of comedy you really see anymore but that's what makes it so interesting to watch. Imagine a silent comedy film with lots of clever gags, but updated with sound and I guess you get a good idea of what TLM is like.
Speaking of the jokes and the gags, there is some absolute gold here. On more than one occasion I was crippled with laughter. I would say that 90% of what's in The Ladies Man has aged well over the last 53 years and anyone can appreciate what's there. The jokes in TLM are quotable and memorable and that's what makes it a true comedy classic. I'll probably never get tired of the hat gag with Buddy Lester as the intimidating Willard C. Gainsborough.
The Ladies Man is a historical piece of comedy that truly is a must watch. Again, my experience with Jerry Lewis is pretty limited but I loved him in this film. It really is his film with Lewis starring, directing, producing and even writing. Apparently, Mel Brooks was the original screenwriter for the film but most of his material was removed and rewritten, so he didn't want to be credited. I can tell you that Jerry Lewis' work didn't make me miss Mel Brooks at all.
see the bisection sets in godard's TOUT VA BIEN and many of wes anderson's films
What an awful movie. Cancer and AIDS are funnier than Jerry Lewis.
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In 5 official lists
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This movie ranks #100 in The 100 Greatest Comedies of All Time (BBC Culture)
This movie ranks #370 in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
This movie ranks #483 in Jonathan Rosenbaum's Essential Films
This movie ranks #518 in Sight and Sound 2012 - Combined List
This movie ranks #835 in They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?