The Ladies Man
“The Ladies Man” leads off with two intriguing premises. The first promises a film set in a small town where everyone is as nervous and clumsy as Jerry Lewis. The second promises a plot revolving around the adventures of a young man who works as an errand boy in an all-female rooming house who is terrified of females. The small town idea generates a hilarious sequence of spazzmatic collisions in the town square, but we never return to that town square nor its inhabitants. After Jerry’s graduation from Junior College, he discovers his girlfriend with another guy and sets off to find a job and live a bachelor’s life. The problem is that every potential employer seems to be a nymphomaniac. He accepts the job as an errand boy without knowing he will be living in a house of effervescent females, but following the obligatory scene of his attempted escape from this powder puff environment, there is faint trace of his femme de phobia. But although he fails to follow through on either premise, Jerry finds plenty of material to keep his audience in stitches.
The picture is not based upon a theme, but a place, and this living dollhouse is one of the very best sets Jerry has ever laid to ruin. Visually it suggests what Tashlin might have done with Hitchcock’s “Rear Window” set, and we the audience are the happy voyeurs, eagerly anticipating our encounter with each delightful resident. But this is no Russ Meyer tease-a-thon. It’s a family comedy and even its mind is clean. The ladies find Jerry endearing because he honestly cares about their well-being. He stays with them because he believes they need him. It is this belief that results in his pushing himself too fervently into too many situations in which he has no business intruding, most hilariously in a sequence that parodies Edward Murrow’s television program, “Person to Person,” in which he interviewed celebrities in their home.
Like the hotel in “The Bellboy,” the visual consistency of the ladies’ rooming house connects the otherwise unrelated skits. Although the gags keep coming and over-ride the inconsistencies in Jerry’s own character.
The Errand Boy
Jerry tried another black and white quickie in the vein of “The Bellboy”, but lightning did not strike twice. “The Errand Boy” is an incoherent mess. For every funny routine, there are a dozen failed bits, some no more than a two-line exchange. Scenes end in black-outs before the expected wallop of a punch line. This kind of random pointlessness might have played in the days of silent two-reelers, but does not sustain a feature film. Jerry got Tashlin back for his next picture, which was shot in nine weeks as opposed to the frenetic five week shoot of “The Errand Boy.” Even so, Paramount must not have been too happy with the results, as the picture was shelved for a year before its release preceding the Christmas rush in 1962.
It’s Only Money
“It’s Only Money” was the first of three movies produced by Paul Jones, who had produced many of the best Martin-Lewis pictures. Putting him in charge was Paramount’s first step in taking away Jerry’s autonomy. John Fenton Murray had only written a few marginal pictures, but his television resume included work for Red Skelton and Danny Thomas, among many others. He did a fine job of working a steady stream of gags into a tightly plotted story. Tashlin was brought back as director. Having to work on a smaller budget in black and white, he was unable to shoot the works on art direction, so concentrated on the performances, which was exactly what Jerry needed. Relieved of the duties of producer, writer, and director, Jerry wasn’t able to focus on what he did best. “It’s Only Money” might have looked like a cheapo television show, but it moved like lightning, and Jerry was never trapped into the desperate corner where he felt duty-bound to be funny. He gave a relaxed yet consistently hilarious performance that was backed up by an excellent supporting cast. This isn’t one of those movies that helped secure Jerry’s reputation in the pantheon of comic geniuses, but it kept the audience happy, as well as earning Jerry another chance at auteurist glory.