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CINDERFELLA(director/writer: Frank Tashlin; cinematographer: Haskell B. Boggs; editor: Arthur P. Schmidt; music: Walter Scharf; cast: Jerry Lewis Jerry Lewis (Fella), Ed Wynn (Fairy Godfather/Mother), Judith Anderson (Stepmother Emily), Henry Silva (Maximilian), Robert Hutton (Rupert), Anna Maria Alberghetti (Princess Charmaine); Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Jerry Lewis; Paramount; 1960)
“It’s a dreadful comedy that’s only for diehard fans, critic apologists for such lame slapstick laced with sentimentality and the French.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A glossy updated version of the Cinderella fairy tale, with Jerry Lewis playing a male Cinderella. It’s a dreadful comedy that’s only for diehard fans, critic apologists for such lame slapstick laced with sentimentality and the French. Frank Tashlin (“The Geisha Boy”/”The Disorderly Orderly “/”Rock-A-Bye Baby”) directs it seemingly for the kiddie crowd, leaving no room for adults to get into such a childish attempt at comedy. It leaves us with the mushy message “ordinary people must learn to accept one another.”

The thin plot has the dim-witted nice guy Fella (Jerry Lewis), after the death of his wealthy father, pushed into servitude in pop’s luxurious Bel-Air family mansion by his wicked stepmother Emily (Judith Anderson) and his two greedy and boorish adult stepbrothers named Rupert (Robert Hutton) and Maximilian (Henry Silva). They wish to get their paws on a hidden fortune Fella’s dad hid for his son, as Fella has dreams that dad is trying to tell him where he hid the loot. To Fella’s aid comes a whimsical fairy godfather, played by Ed Wynn, who is given such awful dialogue that he can’t manage to even garner a laugh out of such a silly role. The fairy godfather prepares the klutzy Fella for the visit to the mansion of the beautiful Princess Charmaine of Monrovia (Anna Maria Alberghetti), a Grace Kelly type, and shows his charge how to steal the eligible lady away from the mercenary Rupert.

The only thing worth savoring was the lavish set designs. In set pieces involving Jerry serving dinner and drinks to the mean-spirited family, playing polo, golf and tennis with the boys, and dancing with the Princess at the dinner held in her honor, there was not one sight gag that was even remotely funny. It’s best viewed as an empty attempt to get laughs through pantomime and slapstick, but can’t get over its mawkish whimsical mood it falls into. It’s surprising how bad this film is since the premise seems inviting for Jerry’s usual inane humor.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”