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Although he's quiet, Stanley does have a tendency to work with a slapstick style that includes various amusing facial expressions. When famous actor Jerry Lewis comes to stay at the hotel, people around Stanley notice the strange resemblance between the actor and Stanley and this causes Lewis to have trouble with his entourage.
Jerry Lewis was at the height of his popularity when he took his first directing credit, on The Bellboy, which turned out to be a huge hit and one of his funniest movies. But it wasn't business as usual: The Bellboy has no storyline, and the central character (a bellhop at the fantastically ornate Fountainebleau Hotel in Miami) executes his role essentially without speaking. Some of the gags are duds or dated, but the good ones are great: Jerry's anxious stroll across a cavernous, empty ballroom, and a small masterpiece involving four telephones at a reception desk. There's also a hilarious sequence in which the movie star "Jerry Lewis" comes to the hotel, which gives Lewis a chance to speak ("Stop with the brushing!"). The Bellboy is very short at 71 minutes, but contains essential proof of Lewis's gifts as comedian and director. --Robert HortonSee all Editorial Reviews
- Archival materials
- Theatrical trailer
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"The Bell Boy" was the first movie Lewis directed and, in 1960, was the beginning of a several-year period when he had separated himself from Dean Martin and before he began making awful, maudlin movies with only a few forced laughs. He's still young enough to project a youthful helplessness without being "over the top" or too old to carry it off any longer.
The most unique feature of "The Bell Boy" is that throughout the entire movie (until the very end), Stanley, the Jerry Lewis character doesn't say a word. It's as if it's the last silent-era comedy ever made. While there is little or no plot in the movie, that actually adds to the surreal way in which Stanley lives his seemingly random existence via a series of episodic sight gags. To me, the silence in the film (with no soundtrack) is fascinating. Most movies of the past several decades are afraid of silence, and every second of time must be filled to tell us how to think and feel. The silence only adds to the effectiveness of the mood and humor that Lewis creates. It helps us to focus on what's actually happening, as well as forcing us to zero in on Lewis many comedic reactions and befuddlements. However, the lack of plot and conventional humor are also common criticisms of the film.
But for me the humor wins out in the end. My favorite scenes include:
Stanley is asked to get the luggage from a car and goes to the rear of a VW. After a cut in the film, Stanley is shown knocking on the hotel room door, holding an engine in his hand.
Stanley taking 5 minutes to put one chair out of hundreds in place, and then, miraculously, by the time his boss comes he's put them all in perfect order.
A woman checks into the hotel to lose weight, and just when she is about to leave after having lost her weight, Stanley innocently gives her a gift of a box of chocolates. The next shot shows her back to her original, obese size.
There's also a scene where the "real" Jerry Lewis appears and Milton Berle plays a bellboy, as well as a scene where the real Milton Berle appears with Jerry Lewis playing Stanley.
Also worth seeing: the scene where the exasperated boss of the bellboys yells, "Stanley! There's only one Stanley!" And then a Stan Laurel look-alike comes walking by.
Not everyone will like "The Bellboy," but for me, it's still one of the funniest films ever made. The humor is somehow purer, and Lewis' directing talents are put to the test since without a plot or music, the visual is at a premium. "The Bellboy" demonstrates that Lewis knew exactly when to cut the film and what to leave out of a scene for maximum comedic effect.
Now keep in mind, this is a Jerry Lewis film, and I realize that some people just don't "Get" Jerry Lewis. If you are one of those people, this film is NOT for you. Oddly enough his early films with Dean Martin don't fall into this category, but that's another story.
You could almost compare this film to an episode of Sienfeld. It's a movie about nothing. There is no big plot, and there is no central event. It's essentially a look at life in a fancy hotel through the eyes of a simple minded bellboy.
A true test of an actor's skills is the way they can get a message across without speaking. In this film, the bellboy doesn't speak. It's not a silent movie, everyone else around him speaks and in many cases, shouts, at the bellboy. They bark out orders, order him around but they don't speak WITH him, or seem to care what he has to say.
One of the more interesting things about this film is seeing Jerry Lewis play himself, as a movie star guest of the hotel. You get to see an entirely different character.
There are very few Jerry Lewis DVDs out. I hope this is the first of many.
In the same vein as Charlie Chaplin, the Three Stooges, Laurel and Hardy, Lewis performs his rip-roaring, hilarious comedy not by saying anything funny, but by his gestures, manners, especially facial expressions, to elicit laughter.
This story takes place at the posh, swanky, flamboyant Fountainbleu Hotel in Miami Beach, Florida. Lewis works as a bellboy along with more than a half-dozen others. He caters to the whims and demands of those rich enough to stay there. Yet this movie is not about a plot, it's about showcasing Lewis and his gifts for comedy. It's about making the audience laugh out loud.
As a homage to the silent motion picture era, Lewis speaks little in this movie. He stays quiet for more than 30 minutes at the beginning relying more on his physical comedy than on words. He finally speaks up in a different role than a bellboy but as a guess of the hotel where he converses with 50s comedy legend Milton Berle.
For 75 minutes, Lewis slapstick, absurdity, clownish antics carries the film. There's no real plot. The movie is about Lewis's comedy antics. That alone makes The Bellboy worth seeing. Lewis is a masterful comedian doing his routines. End result: hysterically funny.
Unlike the comedy where quick one-liners, comebacks, and barbs are exchanged, verbal comedy, this is about juggling five telephones at the same time: physical comedy.
Lewis' brand of humor was at its height during the silent motion picture era. Silence picture stars as Buster Keaton and Stan Laurel each made their claim to fame through "physical comedy." The same brand of comedy Lewis brought to the big screen in 1960, forty years after that style of comedy was the "toast of the town" during the roaring twenties. He pays tribute, homage, and respect to the old masters in his movie.
And to say the least, Lewis is a master himself of "physical comedy." He walks like a comedian, he gestures like a comedian, his manners are of a comedian, and for sure, he's a bona-fide comedian.