BEFORE: The appearance of Jerry Lewis in archive footage in "Trumbo" allows me to connect to this film, and work in a three-film tribute to Jerry, who passed away last week. This was always part of the plan, I didn't change things up just because he died, it's also my connection to the first film in the October chain. Honestly, I meant to get to that comedy/horror film last year, which is when I watched 7 other films with Jerry Lewis (both with and without Dean) but by the time October rolled around, I had too many horror films, and whatever didn't link together had to be rolled over into 2017. Then I recorded this one from the Movies! channel (they run ads, so I usually ignore them) so that I could fill up the DVD - and it took me a year to circle back and pick up these last 2 Martin & Lewis films.
TCM ran their own tribute to Jerry Lewis on Labor Day weekend, of course, but it was only 5 films and I had seen all of them before - "The Nutty Professor", "The King of Comedy", "The Stooge", "The Bellboy" and "The Disorderly Orderly". So that leaves me with tonight's film - well, at least I didn't have to add anything else to my schedule.
AFTER: Well, I've got a lot of questions after watching this film. For starters, why is it noted on the poster that there are 503 girls enrolled in the school? What possible difference could that make? And why did they describe the film as "The Zanyest!" Did people spell "zaniest" that way back in the 1950's? For that matter, why did the poster declare that Martin and Lewis were "Back Together!" when they hadn't yet split as a comedy team? The previous picture that they were both in was another of their team-up films, so it's strange to point out that they're back together when they were never apart - it really should say "Still Together! (For Now)".
The poster also calls Dean Martin the "dean" of the girls' school, which he's not - that would be too confusing, if Dean were the dean, right? Plus it says "girl's school" when it really should say "girls' school", if I'm being nitpicky. There is a difference.
But 1955 was a different time, and there are a lot of things seen here, for the sake of comedy, that wouldn't make much sense in our modern world. Dean's character wants to serve in the military overseas, for some reason, and give up his position as a teacher at the girls' school, where he's also got a budding romance with another teacher. And Jerry's character wants to be a barber, at a hotel where they put big, fancy diamonds on display for some reason (I'm not sure why a hotel would do that...) but this leads to a chain of events where a man murders someone, steals the diamond, and then tries to use Dean's character, then Jerry's character, to help smuggle the diamond out of the hotel. (It's like the screenwriter couldn't make up his mind at first, which of the two hero characters to put into the most trouble...)
The police are searching "everyone" as they leave the hotel - so why does the thief use the pockets of strangers, who are going to be searched, also? Are the police searching "everyone" except for the young barber student? This makes no sense - also, people can usually tell when there's something in their pockets, so wouldn't whichever character notice that there's a giant diamond in his pants, especially if that pocket was supposed to be empty? I hate to get caught up in these little details, but there are so many better ways to get the diamond out of the hotel without it being found. He could have mailed it or had the diamond delivered in a package to his wife, etc.
This leads Jerry's character, Wilbur Hoolick, to get out of town, as the killer tells him to do. He doesn't have the full fare to get back to his home in Washington, so he dresses as a child to pay half fare. But to do this, he has to find a bratty kid who's 12 but is as big as an adult, and he walks the kid into a closet, presumably knocks him out and steals his clothes. This seems rather disturbing - the thought of luring a 12-year old boy away from his mother and undressing him, right? Why doesn't the mother notice that her kid is missing? And when they find the kid in the closet without his clothes, wouldn't the authorities shut down the train station until they could find the presumed pedophile? Plus, what were the odds against finding a 5-foot tall 12-year old in the first place?
Then Wilbur has to keep up the act on the train, since the killer is also on the train, and so is the teacher who Dean's character likes at the school. Because of course that school is on the exact same train line that goes to Wilbur's hometown. And of course nobody seems to mind that a 6-foot tall 12 year-old is traveling without any adult supervision. Really? The train conductors seem concerned for about a minute, but then Wilbur acting silly just what, allows them to forget the situation? I guess if anyone can pass himself off as a pre-teen child, it's Jerry Lewis, but the more he acts like a kid, that should drive the point home to everyone around him that he's not in the company of an adult.
I know, it's a comedy and I'm probably over-thinking this. The goal is to get Jerry's character up to Dean's school so they can be in a sort of love triangle with the teacher. There's another female character, who sort of has her eyes on Dean, but the film sort of forgets about her after a while, it seems she's only there to let Wilbur stay in her house with her son (who happens to be an amateur gemologist, another coincidence) - great, so the adult pretending to be a child is now bunking with a real 12-year old boy. I'm sure that's fine, too, right?
Eventually the jewel thief/killer figures out where Wilbur got off the train, and makes his way to the school, pretending to be Wilbur's father. You know, the one who let him take a train trip by himself or lost track of him along the way. And the school's headmistress just lets this terrible "father" walk out of there with his son, instead of alerting the authorities. But the cops show up, too, and this leads to a boat chase across the lake with Wilbur supposedly water-skiing and doing stunts. (Clearly it's a stuntman, because the shots with Jerry Lewis in them are obviously rear-projection stage shots.).
Wikipedia tells me this is a gender-flipped remake of "The Major and the Minor", a 1942 film where Ginger Rogers pretended to be a young girl to get a half-fare on the train. She ended up in the train cabin of an older man who taught at a military academy, and honestly that doesn't sound any less lurid or ridiculous. This version then added in the diamond theft and a bunch of tepid songs, like "Simpatico" and "Face the Music".
That's it for a couple of weeks - I'll be back with Martin and Lewis on October 1 for Halloween stuff!
Also starring Dean Martin (last seen in "Bells Are Ringing"), Raymond Burr (last seen in "Rear Window"), Diana Lynn (last seen in "Every Girl Should Be Married"), Nina Foch, Mitzi McCall (last seen in "EdTV"), Whitey Haupt, Tommy Ivo, Veda Ann Borg (last seen in "The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer"), with cameos from Hans Conreid (last seen in "The Barkleys of Broadway"), Nancy Kulp (last seen in "The Caddy"), Tor Johnson.
RATING: 4 out of 10 calisthenics