The Bellboy

Jerry Lewis’s first feature as director as well as writer, producer, and performer (1960) already signals his distance from Frank Tashlin, his mentor, by concentrating on gags that are funny in the sense of peculiar rather than funny hilarious or satirical. A low-budget black-and-white effort shot in and around Miami Beach’s Fontainebleau Hotel, this resembles Lewis’s later Cracking Up in that it’s much freer of continuous narrative than his other pictures: just one idea after another, each stranger than the last, with the formal properties of the medium (sound, editing, frame lines, offscreen space, mise en scene) frequently highlighted. Milton Berle and Walter Winchell put in cameo appearances, and there’s some especially unwelcome footage from a slapstick hillbilly group shoehorned in as filler; but in general this is Lewis’s purest and most formally inventive feature, and probably his most experimental work. (JR)

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