Year 8, Day 176 - 6/24/16 - Movie #2,377
BEFORE: Jerry Lewis carries over for the final time, and I'll have to engineer a new connection to tomorrow's film, the schedule is already in place and I can't change it now. While growing up, I'd mainly experienced Jerry Lewis only through two films, "The Nutty Professor" and "The Family Jewels", so whatever else happened this week, whether I dug these other films or not, at least I gained a greater understanding of his filmography. There are still films I didn't get to, but I've (thankfully) run out of the films in my collection.
THE PLOT: After his girl leaves him for someone else, Herbert gets really
depressed and starts searching for a job. He finally finds one in a big
house which is inhabited by many, many women.
AFTER: I'm honestly relieved that Jerry Lewis week is finally over - I understand that his style of comedy had its time, but I feel like that time is long gone. So much of his schtick feels so dated, so cornball now, it just doesn't play any more. I'll probably get an e-mail or two from friends who will tell me, "Oh, you just didn't watch the RIGHT Jerry Lewis films..." OK, well, tell me which ones are the good ones, then.
I know he made a good living playing these characters who were dumb, or innocent, or dumb AND innocent, but I think at a certain point you have to try something new. And by "new" I don't mean a film without a story, like "The Bellboy". Didn't he ever long to play a more serious character, a more dramatic role, you know, some real ACTING instead of just being goofy and breaking things?
Oh, right, "The King of Comedy". So I guess he eventually got there, but in between the breakup with Dean and the later, serious Jerry, there was a lot of time where he tried to keep the old routine alive, and that led to the dumb/innocent character of Herbert Heebert in "The Ladies Man". He's a man who's sworn off women after getting his heart broken, so naturally he accidentally accepts a job in a boarding-house FULL of them. You know, Herbert, you can QUIT a job. That has been known to happen.
They never really say what his job is, other than "houseboy". Why do a bunch of women need a houseboy, exactly? Is he a janitor, mechanic, all-around servant? It's never quite clear, but that's what you get when you put the premise ahead of the story. All of these women are budding actresses and musicians, I think. And they've got a pet lion named "Baby" for some reason, but this is never really explained beyond the sight gag. That can't be safe.
And then there's the mysterious Miss Cartilage, who never leaves her room, or something. Umm, how does she eat, then? And is she the same weird mime-type girl that Herbert does a dance number with? This was also quite unclear. If so, her room is enormous, as big as a sound stage, with a full orchestra, so I guess I see why she never has to leave it.
The whole house, in fact, is set up like a doll house, in that there is obviously no fourth wall, every room always has at least one missing wall so the camera can see inside, and at times we can see the entire three-story set (must have been a HUGE sound-stage...) and while this is a stylistic choice, it also interferes with my suspension of disbelief. Am I supposed to just ignore the fact that the mirrors have no glass in them, so we can see the women putting their make-up on?
Like "Artists and Models", this film is also included on that famous list of "1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", but for the life of me, I'm not really sure why. Sure, there are some surrealistic bits, and if you like nonsensical humor it's got plenty, but it's not a strong story, and most of the women characters are woefully undeveloped - outside of this one being a trombonist and that one being a mime, I couldn't really tell most of them apart. And the whole "TV crew comes to interview the house's benefactor" part just seemed really, really forced.
Also starring Helen Traubel, Kathleen Freeman (last seen in "Artists and Models"), George Raft (last seen in "Around the World in Eighty Days"), Harry James, Marty Ingels, Pat Stanley, Buddy Lester, Sylvia Lewis, Jack Kruschen (carrying over from "The Bellboy"), Alex Gerry (ditto), Madlyn Rhue, Joan Staley (last seen in "Breakfast at Tiffany's"), with cameos from Doodles Weaver (last seen in "The Birds"), Jack LaLanne.
RATING: 4 out of 10 staircases