It's a Jerry Kind Of Week
You're Never Too Young (1955) A Best Of M&L?
Does anyone laugh at these boys anymore? Jerry Lewis, who just turned ninety, is being feted nationwide, mostly by those, I suspect, who remember his antics at a popular peak. In other words, old folks leading the claps. Jerry's last of the first momentum, that lasted an amazing twenty years, was Which Way To The Front? (1970), an agreed-by-virtually-all stinker. After that it was fitful comebacks, first an old-style slapsticker, Hardly Working (1980), for those of the loyal still buying movie tickets, and then critic triumph that was King Of Comedy, the title of which sounded like the ultimate Jerry Lewis vehicle, but was instead a grim takedown of celebrity-obsessed nuts, directed by Martin Scorsese. He was a Lewis-lover who adjudged The Nutty Professor a masterpiece, and I'm surprised JL didn't turn up in further Scorsese pics (Jerry might have been great in Goodfellas, or more so, Casino). I remember Lewis lugging scrapbooks onto 80/90's talk shows to argue he'd once been the biggest and would be again. It didn't quite happen that way, but he was still fine at whatever guest-actor opportunity came knocking (especially in dramatic capacity of multi-part Wiseguy episodes).
Whatever you think of Jerry Lewis, he was never less than completely fascinating. He's like Mickey Rooney for always pushing at the gate, always ready to work. Unlike with Rooney however, it was not for the money. Jerry had his pile from early on, so persists for creative expression, admirable by anyone's measure. He recently donated the kit-caboodle of a personal archive to the Library Of Congress, which will surely keep their staff up late, for this is about the most extensive ongoing record of a career that anyone ever saved. There's even The Day The Clown Cried, for which a lot of folks will go on living just to finally see at post-dated time Jerry has stipulated, June 2024 according to Lou Lumenick of The New York Post. In the meantime, Lewis keeps blowing out candles, gives interviews, and does one-man shows where he says whatever heck he pleases to delight of those who attend for just that. I'd frankly be afraid to meet Jerry, for same reason I'd have shrunk from Groucho in an earlier day, but here's the question: Has JL mellowed in old age?
TCM is giving us the Jerry bounty this month, so many of his I can't keep up with, let alone watch. Seems like near-everything, save The Day The Clown Cried. Well, not really --- a number of Paramounts aren't included, there's but smattering from
Ray is fabulous in this. He might have found a whole new career as comic heavy if not for coming juggernaut that was Perry Mason (imagine Burr in any number of Disney live actions to come, for instance the Keenan Wynn flubber parts). You're Never Too Young doesn't linger long in backdrops, moving swift from hotel to train to girl's school where balance of action happens. I think it's loads better than Artists and Models, which tends to dawdle more and let routines linger past welcome (all of which puts Norman Taurog neatly on par with, if not ahead of , Tashlin). You're Never Too Young indulges Jerry as would-be choir director, march leader, the sort of stuff Lewis would glom onto as pantomime set-pieces and develop further in solo features. There is real menace here via Burr, and a degree of suspense maintained by the very best comedies. Some Like It Hot owes plenty to You're Never Too Young. I'd suggest Billy Wilder looked closely at this one, in part because it was a remake of his own The Major and The Minor, and also as partial inspiration for his 1959 set-up with Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon pursued by baddie George Raft. Some Like It Hot and You're Never Too Young are, in that sense at least, two peas in a pod.