Thursday, March 16, 2006

Movie: The Bellboy (1960)

Happy birthday to Jerry Lewis, who turns 80 today.

Coincidentally, I watched his directorial debut earlier this week. The Bellboy came about because Jerry insisted that his film Cinderfella be a holiday release. Paramount wanted a summer movie, so Jerry pulled one together over the course of a month while he was performing at Miami’s Fontainebleau Hotel.

The Bellboy is a string of gags without a plot. Jerry felt the need to prepare the audience with an intro featuring studio representative Jack Emulsion, who announces that you’re about to see a film “based on fun.”

My favorite bit has Jerry, as himself, checking into the hotel with his entourage. (“Stop with the brushing!”) The payoff, involving Milton Berle, is priceless.

Jerry was clearly a born filmmaker. One look at the way he frames his shots in the Fontainebleau’s vast lobby will tell you that. The Bellboy is at times like an American answer to the work of Jacques Tati. (I’m going to link to the Tati site again, simply because it’s one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.)

Book: The Scrambled Yeggs, by Richard S. Prather (1958)

When I need a break, nothing beats one of Prather’s Shell Scott novels. This one was originally released in 1952 as Pattern for Murder. I think we all agree the reissue title is one of the greatest in the history of publishing.

Rosemarie glanced at the cover and asked, “Is Shell spanking that woman?” Yep. Happens in Chapter One.

Miscellaneous: Correction

My award-winning niece Hannah also enjoyed the Hungarian film Kontroll. What’s more, she was the one who got it from the video store. She even made two trips. regrets the error.

Miscellaneous: Links

At Mystery*File, Bill Pronzini and Lynn Munroe offer a definitive account of the life of pulp master Gil Brewer. And, via Arts & Letters Daily, a look at early avant garde cinema now on DVD, including the first film by Orson Welles.