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Top 10 Jerry Lewis Comedy Movies (The Films Without Dean Martin)


These irresistibly zany films are at the core of my knowledge and love for Humor. As a schoolboy, the consumption of a new Jerry Lewis picture was more delicious than the finest chocolates. Umpteen viewings later, the comedies -- made during his 16 years as Paramount's savior and several as the highest-paid performer in movies -- still tickle and make me sad for the sacks who just don't get it.

1. "The Nutty Professor" (1963)

This pet project, an image-altering risk, is Lewis' fourth effort as writer-director and, in cinematic terms, his best film. Almost Disneyesque next to Eddie Murphy's crude redos, move over Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and meet Prof. Kelp and Buddy Love. Outrageous and cool in its day with Jerry somewhat restrained, but many great moments, like at the gym and that silly dance. Hey, kids, it's a gasser!
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2. "The Ladies' Man" (1961)

The funniest of a rich batch. Even Jerry cracks up during the most hysterical sequence, an improvised hat bit opposite deadpan Buddy Lester. Our star-director wisely protects the laughs at the expense of all else -- a sign of his clout and popularity -- in the loopy tale of Miss Helen Welenmelon's jilted houseboy, Herbert H. Heebert -- the "H" stands for "Herbert." (See the related link below.)
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3. "The Geisha Boy" (1958)

Written and directed by Lewis' mentor, animator Frank Tashlin, the happiest Jerry heart-warmer teams an inept magician and an orphan. On a personal note, this is the most influential movie I've ever seen. I was six. The amazing, cartoony gags -- the bathhouse flood is as uproarious as anything ever filmed -- and Harry, that surreal "bundle of bunny," opened my mind to the possibilities of comedy.
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4. "The Bellboy" (1960)

The Jerry Lewis silent movie. Oh, there are plenty of sounds to be heard as Stanley the mute bellhop bumbles into wild predicaments. To fill a hole in Paramount's schedule, from scratch to completion in three weeks, Lewis wrote and directed his first film at Miami's Fontainbleu Hotel by day, while he performed concert obligations there each night. Plotless, reminiscent of Tashlin and Jacques Tati.
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5. "The Errand Boy" (1961)

Ace stooge Morty S. Tashman is hired by the Paramutual movie studios to spy on the staff. Morty is mostly mute and bumbles into wild predicaments. Hey, it worked the previous year -- BUT HE'S NOT A BELLHOP! Wonderful behind-the-scenes look at Paramount and the golden days before computers ripped the heart and magic from motion pictures. Jerry's famous "Chairman of the Board" pantomine lives here.
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6. "It's Only Money" (1962)

Nabbed at the last minute to direct this already prepped production, Frank Tashlin returned for his sixth Jerry Lewis picture and one of their better vehicles. It's a crackerjack spoof of detective yarns with TV repairman/apprentice private eye Jerry on a quest to find the lost heir to a fortune, not knowing the lad is ... guess who? Meanwhile, swindlers and man-eating lawnmowers chase him down.

7. "Who's Minding the Store?" (1963)

Jerry's a department store flunky in love with the owners' daughter (Jill St. John). He scoots through numerous duties to prove his worthiness, including dog walking, flagpole painting, and pantomiming to Leroy Anderson's "The Typewriter," but Tashlin's ultimate live-action cartoon sequence awaits with a hungry vacuum cleaner gone berserk. Ray Walston, Agnes Moorehead and Nancy Kulp play straight.

8. "The Disorderly Orderly" (1964)

The final Jerry Lewis-Frank Tashlin collaboration dodges the scenario's comedy-deflating obstacles of illness and depression to become a slapstick success nonetheless. Set in a fancy nursing home, Jerome, the disaster prone aide, battles sympathy pains, a snail, and a gasping, high-speed ambulance chase.
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9. "Rock-A-Bye Baby" (1958)

Inspired by Preston Sturges' superlative comedy "The Miracle of Morgan's Creek" (1944), this first Tashlin-helmed film for the solo actor borrows almost nothing from the original story. To protect a mother's identity, Jerry struggles to raise her infant triplets, while fending off meddlers and the mom's kid sister (Connie Stevens). Cute and sentimental. Catch Gary Lewis as Jerry in the flashback.
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10. "The Family Jewels" (1965)

A chauffeur accompanies a child heiress when she sets out to choose her new "father" among her uncles. Jerry plays seven characters in what is essentially an elaborate collection of sketches, the highlight of which is no-frills airline mogul/pilot, Capt. Eddie. This movie is the end of an era, as Lewis, nearly 40, segued into somewhat more mature roles with diminishing physical humor and clowning.
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