The Ladies Man
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Move over, Don Juan and Casanova - you've got competition from other than Herbert H. Heebert. After being jilted by his gal, a depressed Herbert swears off romantic entanglements and is determined to live his life as a confirmed bachelor. However, he then finds employment at a Hollywood boardinghouse for women - and the female residents go wild over the newly hired help! And that's when the hapless Herbert graduates from being a simple handyman to becoming The Ladies Man!
Jerry Lewis conjured up one of his simplest concepts for this 1961 hit, but it required a lot of scaffolding. The Ladies Man puts love-scarred Jerry (who has sworn off women) in an all-girl boarding house, infuriated by the constant temptation. Except for the opening sequences, the film is entirely shot in the four-story-high, cut-away set of the boarding house, one of the most elaborate indoor sets ever made in Hollywood up to that time. Lewis, as director, finds dozens of angles to shoot within the set; this movie is one of the reasons the French are always talking about his directorial genius. (Jean-Luc Godard, who once called Lewis "the only one in Hollywood who's doing something different, the only one who isn't falling in with the established categories," borrowed the cut-away building idea for his film Tout va bien.) There's some great physical stuff, such as Lewis trying desperately to save the crushed hat of visiting tough guy Buddy Lester, plus a lot of Lewis vocal whining, especially concerning his name: Herbert Heebert, not Herby Heebert. The film has its share of gags falling flat, but for Lewis fans it's prime stuff, not far from the high-water mark of The Nutty Professor. --Robert Horton
- Commentary by Jerry Lewis and Steve Lawrence
- Archival Materials
- Theatrical Trailer
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Comedy, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder, and you cannot fake a laugh. You either find a non-sequiter throw-away joke like the bit with the door cited above funny, or you don't. Likewise many of the non-stop gag setups and deliveries here will crack you up or they won't. Of course it's silly. It was meant to be silly. Silly done well, is just fine.
There are some great bits here: the opening "heartbreak" scene (hilariously exaggerated); the butterflies; the other "pain" jokes (the toaster); "baby"; the dance with George Raft; the surreal encounter with Miss Cartilage; the "sound test" with Doodles Weaver; the intrusions into Mrs. Wellonmellon's TV show and so on. And if none of the above make you laugh, there is the one certified classic routine of the "hat bit" with Buddy Lester doing his patented "slow-burn".
Jerry made good use of the elaborate set and his direction here is as concise and appropriate as possible. As to the DVD, unfortunately, on the Commentary Jerry offers a few useful insights, but Steve Lawrence seems to be there just to say "Great Jer" after every bit. Egregious, but I suppose they don't watch many DVD's, and fail to understand what a Commentary is about. Take the 5 stars in context.
Strengths: Nobody does broad bits of comedy business quite like Lewis.
That enormous three-story set with the fourth wall shaved away so all the action can be followed is an impressive set indeed.
Weaknesses: Lewis' cloying tendency to undermine his humor with moments of self-serving pathos.
Lewis' need to isolate certain gags and punctuate them, lest we miss the point (which seems to be his particular style).
As a love-spurned fellow who "vows never to fall in love again"--and winds up at an all-girls boarding house!--Lewis gives himself all kinds of opportunities to mug, scream & tear about the large set. As with other Lewis comedies, the comedy is hit-&-miss, but it has its moments.
Jerry's humor shines through every scene he is in, it is classic clean cut humor, just proves you can be funny without having a "Potty Mouth".
Would love to see comedy like this made today .... is it possible? ... and who would do it Robin Williams or Jim Carrey maybe?
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