Runtime: 1 hour, 47 minutes
Director: Jerry Lewis
Starring: Jerry Lewis,Stella Stevens,Del Moore
Genres: Science Fiction, Romance, Comedy
MPAA rating: NR (Not Rated)
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Jerry Lewis plays a timid, nearsighted chemistry teacher who discovers a magical potion that can transform him into a suave and handsome Romeo. The Jekyll and Hyde game works well enough until the concoction starts to wear off at the most embarrassing times.
"The Satanic Glow of Buddy Love’s Lounge Suits"
One of the most depressing symptoms of the phenomenon of "dumbing down" isthe drastically diminished time-frame of people’s imagination and empathy,which function well enough microscopically and telescopically (at a rangeof, say, two or three hundred years, or the day before yesterday), butwhichcannot make the small leap back thirty or forty years. It is surely on suchgrounds that Jerry Lewis’s masterpiece, "The Nutty Professor", might bedismissed as "dated" or be found "unfunny". Ever since I saw this movie asachild back in the late 60s it has haunted my imagination, and taken on amythic existence that floats free of its actual content and context. Onrecently viewing it again on a borrowed videocassette I was startled by theinternal organisation of the movie, by its pacing, and by the fact thatKelp’s odious alter-ego, Buddy Love, who dominates the movie conceptually,is actually on screen for so little of its longish running-time. Sincechildhood I had cherished Buddy Love for his wit, glamour andself-assurance, which contrast so strongly (and therapeutically) with thepainful gaucheness of Julius Kelp. Only now, as a mature adult, do I fullyappreciate just how fundamentally unlikeable he is.
It is interesting to note that his allure works better at a distance:idolised by the hipster habitues of the Purple Pit, he is viewed with deepsuspicion by Stella Purdy, even as he fascinates and intrigues her. "TheNutty Professor" is as firmly located in its milieu (the United States ofthe early 60s) as "War And Peace" is in its (Tsarist Russia at the time ofthe Napoleonic Wars); therefore, talk of "datedness" is beside the point.Asan exact picture of life in 2001 the film is hopeless, but as a myth orparable, with Kelp, Buddy Love, Stella, et al., as archetypes, its power isundiminished. Jerry Lewis has never been happy playing it straight, andBuddy Love is as extreme and grotesque in his way as the hapless Kelp. Heisalso by no means entirely free of Kelp’s flaws; his clumsiness during theslow dance with Stella shows how aspects of Kelp’s personality continue topermeate his, and point to the incompleteness and volatility of themetamorphosis. Even his name, opportunistically extemporised for Stella’sbenefit, contains a deep irony, since, in spite of his superficialpopularity and supreme sexual confidence, he is essentially friendless andincapable of deep feeling. If kindly Kelp is crippled by involutedintelligence, the sybaritic, self-seeking Buddy Love is stunted byaffectlessness. (I am puzzled by the IMDb reviewer who found himinsufficiently monstrous.)
Buddy Love’s glittering lounge suits emit a satanic glow, and Jennifer, thecaged mynah-bird, is a kind of familiar to Kelp, whose Faustian alchemyeffects his painfully achieved and all-too-brief transformations into thiseerie nightclub singer who generally only appears after nightfall (his onediurnal appearance being a spectacularly successful bid to persuade theotherwise pompous college Principal to sanction his headlining performanceat the Senior Prom). In view of their acrimonious split it is tempting toview the Buddy Love persona as an acerbic commentary on Lewis’s erstwhilepartner Dean Martin, but the character also contains generous helpings ofFrank Sinatra, and is perhaps best seen as a broad swipe at the Rat Pack.The wider message of the film is that kindness and intelligence (which Kelpalready possesses) are far more important than the kind of shallow andflashy qualities that invest Buddy Love with his powerful but limitedappeal(the rapid wearing-off of Kelp’s formula, whose ingestion is attended bysuch agonising side-effects, shows that such a persona is literallyunsustainable for any length of time).
Kelp’s final speech at the Prom, when his appearance as Buddy Love has beencut catastrophically short, is indeed "heart-wrenching", but as both asumming-up of the main themes of the movie and a token of Kelp’s increasedself-knowledge, it is indispensable. This brilliant and disturbing filmusescomedy as a vehicle to explore serious questions about the nature ofidentity. The Kelp who wins Stella’s love is a better-integratedpersonalitythan either his earlier self or the grotesque alter-ego of Buddy Love, butanote of mild cynicism (defusing any hint of sentimentality in Kelp’s Promspeech) is sounded when Stella pockets two phials of the formula put onsaleby Kelp’s formerly timid father (to whom he had entrusted it). (He had alsoentrusted it, of course, to his domineering mother, but it is perhapssignificant to observe that the formula presumably only works withmen.)
"That Old Black Magic"!
Further to my earlier review, I would wholeheartedly endorse the opinion ofother reviewers that the original Lewis movie is superior – vastly superior- to the crass Eddie Murphy re-make. Lewis’s subtle points about Buddy Love(whom, I am unsurprised to learn, he loathed) are utterly lost in the Murphyversion. If Lewis’s movie fails as popular entertainment, it is because itmakes extraordinary intellectual demands on its audience, requiring them tosee beyond the surface glamour of Buddy Love to the moral rottenness andegotism within. Strangely enough, however, Buddy Love is not without pathos.There is enough of Kelp in him, together with the shakiness of hischemically-induced persona, to lend a faint suggestion of vulnerability.Perhaps even this is part of his satanic charm (he literally charms thepants off the college Principal). It is no coincidence that his calling-cardnumber is "That Old Black Magic"!
As Usual, Far Superior To The Remake!
My one line summary just about say it all. The remake did well due tothe advancement of special effects, stage make-up and prosthetics. Thisfilm did not have that luxury. Jerry Lewis is fabulous as the gawky,quirky Professor. Both his natural comic acting talents and his naturalstraight acting talents shine through. When seen one after the other(i.e the remake and then the original or vice-versa) you can do nothingbut agree with me that the original is the far superior film of thetwo. Eddie Murphy does his best with the remake and the sequel but theremake just doesn’t have the class that the original has. Now I knowthat there are going to be those that say the remake must be betterbecause there was no sequel to the original but lets be honest now, intodays day and age and as things currently are in the film world’sstate of affairs, if a film is (in the executive’s and the board ofdirector’s eyes)successful enough, a sequel is always churned out. Backin the sixties when the original was made this very rarely happened ifit happened at all. Those same people will also say that the remakemade more money but that’s because there are FAR more cinemas aroundnow and it’s effectively cheaper to go now even with a semi-bankableactor like Eddie Murphy.
(A bankable name, for those that don’t know, is a name that guaranteesthe film being successful regardless of weather or not they can act.Will Smith has somehow become a bankable name and he has less abilityto act than Pavarotti does to tap dance. The list of people like thatis too big to put them all in and quite frankly I don’t want to spendthe time doing so. The same thing regarding the names that can act butan example of one that can is George Clooney.).
At the time when the original was made Jerry Lewis was the biggest boxoffice draw of them all; I don’t think that has ever been able to besaid of Eddie Murphy. It’s because of this that when you take intoaccount how much money was taken on the original due to how many wereable to see it and how many went to see the remake you will realisethat the original comparatively took more and was therefore a better,no, not better, far superior film.
who is buddy love?
over the decades there has been a huge amount of conjecture about justwho the buddy love character is meant to be skewering. the conventionalwisdom has been that it is either a scathing indictment of Jerry’sformer partner Dean Martin or else that it is meant to be a veryunflattering commentary on Frank Sinatra. i think that there MAY beelements of truth in both of those analyses. after all, an artist (&especially a writer) sketches characters from an amalgam of severalpeople he or she has known or at least met, most of the time. but ithink that this character is meant to be a "scathing indictment" onLewis himself. he himself admitted as much in his autobiography. now,i’m not apt to blindly believe everything Lewis says or writes abouthimself, but i think this is a VERY plausible explanation. over theyears, many of you may have noticed just how grating Lewis can be inhis private/public life. like when he appears "as himself" on TV talkshows or gives interviews or quotes about himself to the press. one ofthese things that particularly comes to mind for me was a quote thatwas printed (& reprinted & reprinted & reprinted) many years ago. hewas asked why he thought so much of the American public seemed todislike him & his reply was something like, "because i’m a successful,internationally famous, multifaceted, multi-talented genius." i’mparaphrasing there because i don’t have the EXACT quote on hand. but isure remember it pretty well, as do a lot of other people. this quote,of course, only added a lot of fuel-to-the-fire for people who alreadydisliked him a great deal. if Lewis can be believed about the buddylove character being based on the darker aspects of himself that he sawIN HIMSELF, then Lewis is not MERELY an ego-driven, megalomaniacal,narcissist (although a very talented one) but is also a real personsensitive enough to take a hard look at his own shortcomings as a humanbeing & is brave enough to put that all up there on the big screen foranyone to see. -bobby cormier
An outstanding movie!
The Nutty Professor(1963) is the best movie Jerry Lewis ever made or willmake. The supporting cast which features some of Jerry’s regulars(DelMoore,Kathleen Freeman, and Buddy lester) add to this delightful, zany, andcomical remake of Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde. The wide-eyed, sweet, innocentStella Stevens as Stella Purdie and the haunting background music ofStellaby Starlight makes this an outstanding film!
A Most Entertaining Movie
I love watching the Nutty Professor with Jerry Lewis as the star.Whenever it comes on TV I don’t care what else is on I always watch it.As my kids were growing up they joined me in laughing as we watched.
This is a great family movie that everyone should watch with his or herloved ones. If you haven’t seen it yet you are really missingsomething. I am sure it will always be my personal favorite.
I just wish Mr. Lewis made a Nutty Professor II.
I saw the re-make it was entertaining but it couldn’t beat theoriginal. I think anything Mr. Lewis is in will be a smash. I just wishwe could see more of him here on Canadian TV.
It’s too bad we don’t have more actors like Mr. Lewis.
My favorite movie ever!
Great movie–Jerry Lewis at his best. Good clean comedy.Never get tired of seeing it.My favorite movie ever!!!
It IS a masterpiece; you just have to "get" it…
Some people just don’t get it. Buddy Love is not SUPPOSED to be funny.He’s SUPPOSED to be obnoxious, and shockingly opposite to the trueidentity of our man, Professor Julius Kelp.
This was all the brainstorm of Jerry Lewis, who has admitted that BuddyLove is really the true self of JERRY LEWIS. It was the first time thatLewis allowed this side of himself to be seen. And, the way he dancesin and out of it is sheer genius.
Maybe Stella Stevens was a bit ‘lame’ – she was never a great actress,anyway. But it is the diversity of performances given by Lewis, thatmakes this film a ‘masterpiece’….
If you prefer the Eddie Murphy re-makes, then you did not understandthe original at all.
This is Jerry’s masterpiece
This Jerry’s masterpiece — his Annie Hall — the one for the ages thatwill be re-watched however the rest may (or may not) endure.
Jerry-as-professor is a variant on Jerry’s usual screen idiot, but withamusing double-talk, and good physical comedy. He also manages toconvey real pathos under all the clowning.
Jerry’s smarmy "Buddy Love" character is surprisingly complicated — anass and a bully, but with hints of vulnerability and patheticdrunkenness. "Ain’t enough you got the best? You want me to be on-timetoo?" The character anticipates his "Jerry Langford" in the King ofComedy. It’s a self-less performance — playing an unflattering partvery very well.
The alluring and wide-eyed Stella Stevens helps too.
Just in Time Jerry Lewis Makes a Movie that Cannot be Ignored
Director-Writer-Star Jerry Lewis’ Timing was Perfect, because He Madethis, His Masterpiece, at the Very Last Moment before Pop CultureChanged Dramatically a Year Later with Beatlemania. It was Done in theLast Gasp of the Rat Pack and Rock n’ Roll as We Knew it.
It was a Time when the Plasticville Fifties would Shortly be Shoved inthe Dustbin of History and a More Mature, Philosophical, andChallenging Freedom in Art would be Forthcoming and a New Zeitgeistwould Zip onto the Scene.
There’s No Way the Hybrid (Dean Martin-Frank Sinatra-Jerry Lewis) BuddyLove could have Passed for Anything Resembling Hip just a Year Later.So Jerry Lewis Snuck this One in just in the Knick of Time. It is theMovie that All of Jerry Lewis Movie’s are Compared, With or WithoutDean Martin. It’s so Representative that it is Accurate to Say that ifYou Only Ever See One Jerry Lewis Movie, See this One.
The Film is Enchanting with its Classic Dual Personality Story,Effervescent Technicolor, Stunning Leading Lady, and the Jerry Lewis"Charm" of Silent Slapstick, Sight Gags Galore, and SmarmySentimentality (that rarely worked so well for Jerry).
It is His Best Remembered Movie, His Most Popular Movie, His MostCritically Acclaimed Movie, and it has the Ability to Soften the MostHardened of His Critics to at Least Acknowledge there is a Talent atWork Here.
The Depth and Greatness of that Talent is Up for Debate. But thisMovie, while Containing a Goodly Amount of the Jerry Lewis Schtick, isUndeniably an Entertaining Oddity with so Much Vibrancy on Screen it isDifficult to Ignore and Must be Considered Art.
The Sight Gags, Always a Highlight in Jerry’s Films, are Fantastic hereand there is an Equal Amount of Drama to Balance the Silliness and theTransformation Scene Contains some Terror.
Overall, it is Widely Considered the Peak of Jerry’s Success bothCritically and at the Box Office. He would Never Again be as Good orsuch a Phenom. Although Hardly Done Making Movies, He would Never AgainCome Close to this Type of Terrific.