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FAMILY JEWELS, THE (director/writer: Jerry Lewis; screenwriter: Bill Richmond; cinematographer: W. Wallace Kelley; editor: John Woodcock; music: Pete King; cast: Jerry Lewis Jerry Lewis (Willard the chauffeur/Donna’s six uncles), Donna Butterworth (Donna Peyton), Sebastian Cabot (Dr. Matson), Neil Hamilton (Attorney), Jay Adler (Mr. Lyman, Attorney), Robert Strauss (Pool Hall Owner), Gene Baylos (Clown), Herbie Faye (Joe), Milton Frome (Pilot); Runtime: 99; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Jerry Lewis; Paramount; 1965)
“Since I find one Jerry Lewis too much, seven of them was way too much for me to handle.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The Family Jewels follows along the lines of the much superior multiple role comedy of Alec Guinness’s eight-role one in the 1949 Kind Hearts and Coronets. Jerry Lewis (“The Bellboy”/”The Patsy”/”The Nutty Professor”) directs, produces, stars and cowrites it with Bill Richmond. The slight plot is carried out in episodic scenes, with some laughter generated but too many skits falling flat in this uneven comedy. Though Lewis puts forth a tour de force performance playing seven roles in disguise, the film seems to drag in spots and it also takes a long time to set up an obvious joke that hardly seemed worth the wait.

The story has the sweet 10-year-old, Donna Peyton (Donna Butterworth), a rich industrialist’s orphaned daughter, pick one of six wacky uncles (all played by Jerry Lewis) to be her guardian. The heiress, set to inherit 30 million dollars, visits each for a two week stay and is accompanied by the family chauffeur, bodyguard and loving father figure Willard (Jerry Lewis).

The uncles include a daffy but kindhearted sea captain; a depressing clown who hates kids and quits the circus to dwell in Switzerland; a spastic photographer of beautiful models; the funniest uncle, a Terry-Thomas like bumbling airplane pilot of a junk plane attempting to take a bunch of old biddies to Chicago; the photographer’s twin brother, a dizzy Sherlock Holmes type of effete private detective assisted by Dr. Matson (Sebastian Cabot), who is a Dr. Watson type; and a gangster uncle who was thought to be deceased but resurfaces to kidnap Donna for the loot. The film’s funniest bit has the gangster uncle take off his ‘funny mask’ disguise to reveal a face even uglier beneath.

Since I find one Jerry Lewis too much, seven of them was way too much for me to handle. It had a workable premise to elicit comedy, which it did at times, but it was slow developing and too much sentimentality seeped through for it to be that appealing, in my opinion, to anyone but diehard Lewis fans and those who might live in France.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”