DELICATE DELINQUENT, THE (director/writer: Don McGuire; cinematographer: Haskell Boggs; editor: Howard Smith; music: Buddy Bregman; cast: Jerry Lewis (Sidney L. Pythias), Darren McGavin (Mike Damon), Martha Hyer (Martha Henshaw), Robert Ivers (Monk), Horace McMahon (Capt. Riley), Richard Bakalyan (Artie), Joseph Corey (Harry), Mary Webster (Patricia), Milton Frome (Mr. Herman), Jefferson Searles (Mr. Crow); Runtime: 102; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Jerry Lewis; Paramount; 1957)
“Goes into the tank when it sinks into pathos.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
This is Jerry’s first solo effort after the break-up with Dino. One may question whether or not ten million French citizens are right about their acclaim for Jerry’s talent. After this less than satisfactory effort, I would have to question their taste. It’s a teenage social melodrama loosely themed, believe it or not, along the lines of the Greek fable Damon and Pythias. Juvenile delinquency was a big problem during the 1950s and this slapstick comedy uses that national threat for its story. Don McGuire (“Hear Me Good”) is credited as the director and writer.
Teenage bumbling janitor Sidney Pythias (Jerry Lewis) is a nice kid, but the loner is about to fall in with a tough urban gang. Kind-hearted crusading Officer Mike Damon (Darren McGavin, taking the role that was meant for Dean Martin) mistakes Sidney for a delinquent and decides to reform him despite being ridiculed as a softie by the precinct Captain Riley (Horace McMahon). The idealistic but clueless social worker Martha (Martha Hyer) also gets involved with Sidney, and both Mike and the kid fall for her. Damon influences his new charge to become a cop and he enrolls in the police academy, finishing as a rookie policeman.
Jerry sings “By Myself,” in recognition of his split-up with Dino. The comedy is mostly weak, but there’s a funny set piece here and there. Jerry confronts a Japanese sumo wrestler during a police academy defense course; during a police line-up of street teens, the local gang of toughs all look the part except for Jerry who’s overcome with fear and remorse; and Jerry’s fiddling with the Theremin invention by his neighbor, the crackpot inventor Mr. Crow (Jefferson Dudley Searles). The film goes into the tank when it sinks into pathos. Nevertheless, the low-budget film was a big box-office hit and showed that audiences will come see his nerdy shtick without Dino.
REVIEWED ON 7/21/2007 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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