(director: Frank Tashlin; screenwriter: John Fenton Murray; cinematographer: W. Wallace Kelly; editor: Arthur P. Schmidt; music: Walter Scharf; cast: Jerry Lewis (Lester March ), Mae Questel (Cecilia Albright), Zachary Scott (Gregory DeWitt), Joan O’Brien (Wanda Paxton), Jesse White (Pete Flint), Jack Weston (Leopold), Francine York (Sexy Girl), Barbara Pepper (Fishing Girl), Ted de Corsia (Policeman), Milton Frome (Cop at Pier); Runtime: 83; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Paul Jones; Paramount/Olive Film; 1962-B/W)

One of the better Jerry Lewis slapstick comedies.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

One of the better Jerry Lewis slapstick comedies. It’s finely written by John Fenton Murray as a parody of noir film hardboiled private detectives and is slickly directed in B/W by Frank Tashlin (“Rock-A-Bye Baby”/”The Glass Bottom Boat”).

The socially awkward but genius electrical maven, the 25-year-old TV repairman orphan Lester March (Jerry Lewis), yearns to be a private detective and gets his chance when his gruff private detective client Pete Flint (Jesse White), who he idolizes, needs him to come along to get access to the mansion of a billionaire to search for a missing heir and possibly collect the $100,000 reward offered by the dead billionaire’s daffy spinster sister Cecilia Albright (Mae Questel, the voice of Betty Boop) if the lost son is found. If not found in a week the dead man’s sister would inherit everything. On the mansion visit Lester is spotted by Cecilia as her missing nephew Charles Albright Jr., who as a child vanished and unknown to the family was raised in a nearby orphanage. But Cecelia’s misled by her greedy fiance into believing she’s only imagining that she saw him. With the recent death of the family patriarch, an electronic empire magnate, Cecilia wishes to share the inheritance with her lost nephew if he’s found in time. But her unctuous soon-to-be husband, the evil lawyer Gregory DeWitt (Zachary Scott), instead wants to kill the heir and then kill Cecilia after marrying her. Using the butler Leopold (Jack Weston) as an assassin, Gregory plots to kill the goofy repairman by running him over in a manhole, blowing up a fishing boat, and electrocuting him and finally by tossing him over a cliff. When all that fails, the killers try to run him over with a bunch of robot electric lawnmowers invented by the deceased billionaire. In the meantime the pretty family private nurse Wanda (Joan O’Brien) has learned Lester’s true identity and has fallen in love with him. She will then team up with Pete to prevent her man from getting killed.

What passes for clever is that the homicidal butler is a “president of the Peter Lorre fan club,” and that Jerry is a hoot constantly talking techno babble. Zachary Scott plays his role as straight out of one of his noir films. I’m no Jerry fan, and found Weston getting me to laugh more than the star could do with all his usual pratfalls. O’Brien makes for a lackluster lead, whose love for Jerry was never as convincing as her love for his money. Jesse White’s chubby ladies man/tough guy private eye role never worked for me, as I think this was just the right part for Dean Martin.