Jerry Lewis turns 85 today, and if you only know him as the guy who yells “Hey lady!” or as the host of the annual Muscular Dystrophy Telethon, then allow me to educate you. Lewis, in days with Dean Martin and afterwards, was one of the biggest movie stars in the world, turning out a series of hits for Paramount.
What’s more, he was a tireless innovator and experimenter with the medium of movies. He invented the video assist, which allowed a director to watch what was being filmed on a screen, giving him an accurate picture of what the camera saw. It’s now used in virtually every movie made today. And in his comedies, he constantly stretched the boundaries of cinema, creating elaborate visuals and building incredible sets. (The set for “The Ladies Man,” which the clip below is from, was a colossal house that allowed for amazingly fluid camerawork.)
And, sometimes, he’d take a break from the comedy and just have fun with images and music. This is one of my favorite Jerry Lewis scenes of all time, mostly because (a) it’s so damned strange, (b) it’s beautifully executed, and (c) it completely ignored the reality of the movie it’s in. (How did that room get so big? Where did the orchestra come from?)
Happy birthday, Mr. Lewis, and many happy returns.