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ERRAND BOY, THE (director/writer: Jerry Lewis; screenwriter: Bill Richmond; cinematographer: W. Wallace Kelley; editor: Stanley E. Johnson; music: Walter Scharf; cast: Jerry Lewis (Morty S. Tashman), Brian Donlevy (Tom Paramutual aka T.P.), Howard McNear (Dexter Sneak), Dick Wesson (The A. D.), Robert Ivers (Young NY director who argues with T.P.), Pat Dahl (Miss Carson), Kathleen Freeman (Mrs. Helen Paramutual aka Mrs. T.P.), Stanley Adams (Grumpy), Doodles Weaver (Weaver), Fritz Feld (Roaring 20’s Director), Joe Besser (Man watching rushes), Sig Ruman (Baron Elston Carteblanche), Rita Hayes (Singer who dubs Davitt), Renée Taylor (Miss Giles), Iris Adrian (Movie Queen, Anastasia), Felicia Atkins (Serina); Runtime: 92; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Ernest D. Glucksman; Paramount; 1961)
“The film is a series of sight gags, with not too many hitting the mark.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

In his second effort as a director, Jerry Lewis (“The Bellboy”/”The Patsy”/”The Nutty Professor”) gets some zany slapstick comedy out of being turned loose on the back lot of Paramount. The film is a series of sight gags, with not too many hitting the mark. It’s not a terrible film (Jerry’s big ego is kept in check and the insider’s look inside a studio has its moments), but it’s at best only mildly enjoyable. It was just not that funny (almost all the gags were obvious and forced), creative or reflective. The film hits the pits when Jerry converses in a sentimental way with the Ritts Puppets.

The slight plot has the CEO of “Paramutual Pictures,” Tom Paramutual (Brian Donlevy ), not understanding how his studio is losing money when the box office is good (this is never resolved, but what’s left open as a possibility is that the studio is too timid to take chances with new talent). The unique solution to find how the profits are wasted is to hire some undercover person as a spy who is not known by any any of the studio personnel, but it has to be someone who is too stupid to know that he’s being used as a studio spy. Moronic paperhanger Morty S. Tashman (Jerry Lewis) is recruited by Tom for the job of errand boy and spy, and the spineless company sycophant Dexter Sneak (Howard McNear) is the only one outside the board who knows Morty’s true mission. This gives Morty room to wander around the studio lot and cause havoc in everything he attempts, from giving typists the wrong script changes to breaking up a film shoot to disrupting the birthday celebration of a movie queen during her film’s wrap.

Lewis’s brand of humor just doesn’t connect with my funny bone. The spoof on the pretentiousness of the film industry just had no bite and the premise is never developed, but the veteran character actors such as Fritz Feld, Doodles Weaver and Sig Ruman pop up in the changing skits to make things bearable.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”