A love letter to the Lewis lunacy and legacy, JERRY LEWIS: THE MAN BEHIND THE CLOWN is a sixty minute salute to the rubber faced farceur and film maker.
The picture begins with a recorded quote from Lewis, “there are three things that are real: God, Human Folly and Laughter.” Lewis certainly made a lucrative living from the latter two.
The Lewis brand of comedy is grounded in the juvenile and infantile, making more faces than a watchmaker and delivering more falls than a forest in Autumn.He freely admits that he has “always been five years old.” Even now at ninety.
Performing and show biz was in the blood with his father, Danny Lewis, a moderately successful singer vaudevillian. By twenty, Jerry had eclipsed his dad’s celebrity and teaming with Dean Martin, became part of a show biz sensation, a partnership between the playboy and the putz that played over a series of movies, TV shows and live engagements.
Mentored by director Frank Tashlin, Lewis finally achieved his dream of directing a picture himself, The Bell Boy, in which he paid homage to the silent screen stars that had influenced him – Chaplin, Keaton and Laurel & Hardy.
The film was a financial success and soon Lewis was writing , producing, directing and starring in a spate of movies. Most were reliably same same , the sort of stuff studios like – safe – and when Lewis decided to swerve and curve, as in The Ladies Man, the fear that fooling with the formula was palpable.
His masterpiece as a writer producer director star was The Nutty Professor, a fact reinforced in the film by Martin Scorsese who would go on to direct Lewis in The King of Comedy, in a performance that seemed to stun critics and audiences because of its lack of mugging and cold core of steely cynicism. Scorsese is surprised people didn’t see the makings in his portrayal of the professor’s alter ego, Buddy Love
As JERRY LEWIS: THE MAN BEHIND THE CLOWN is a French production, much is made of the popularity and reverence the French have for the funnyman, illustrated by archival interviews with Louis Malle and Jen Luc Goddard.
There’s also an Australian connection, with comments by Jerry Lewis impersonator, Tony Lewis, and comedian, Shaun Micallef.
Gregory Monro’s film is choc full of clips from Lewis’ films and ends with a double punch – a recent interview with Jerry Lewis counting his blessings and continuing to revere Dean Martin, and a closing credits piece with Sammy Davis Jnr doing a wild Jerry Lewis impersonation.
As a punchline, Jerry Lewis calls “Cut!”