Jerry Lewis and Pat Stanley in The Ladies Man (1961)


(director: Jerry Lewis/Ernest D. Glucksman; screenwriter: Bill Richmond; cinematographer: W. Wallace Kelley; editor: Stanley Johnson; music: Walter Scharf; cast: Jerry Lewis (Herbert H. Heebert/Mama Heebert), Helen Traubel (Miss Helen Wellenmellon), Kathleen Freeman (Katie), Pat Stanley (Fay), Hope Holiday (Miss Anxious), Madlyn Rhue (The Translator), George Raft (Himself), Harry James (Himself), Francesca Bellini (Dancer), Buddy Lester (Willard C. Gainsborough, Tough Guy), Westbrook Van Voorhis (Himself), Paul Frees (supplying the voice for Edward R. Murrow); Runtime: 96; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Jerry Lewis/Ernest D. Glucksman; Paramount; 1961)

“This is one of Jerry’s more creative comedies.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Jerry Lewis (“The Nutty Professor”/”The Patsy”/”The Big Mouth”) in his second film as director, after the successful “The Bellboy,” shows us that the French weren’t completely wrong in recognizing his talent–they just went a little too far in their praise. This is one of Jerry’s more creative comedies, and shows he’s doing quite well after his 1956 split with Dean Martin.

Jerry plays the goofy spastic Herbert H. Heebert (the middle initial stands for Herbert), a recent grad of a junior college who swears off girls to become a women hater after his girlfriend dumped him for another student. This, of course, leads him to be hired as a handyman for a Hollywood boarding house, for some 30 aspiring actresses, owned by former opera star Miss Helen Wellenmellon (Helen Traubel, real-life opera singer) and managed by the housekeeper Katie (Kathleen Freeman). The slight plot allows Jerry to run through a number of sight gags as he interacts with the varied actresses. The better sequences include dancing a tango with George Raft, breaking up a takeoff TV show on Edward R. Murrow’s ‘Person to Person’ by Herbert constantly interfering with Traubel as she’s being interviewed by Westbrook Van Voorhis in the boarding house, and the inventive white interior set that has Harry James and band garbed in white tuxedos play while a cat woman dressed in black dances. Perhaps the real star of the film was the set abounding in colorful visuals and creative design, as an active camera films the split-level interior of the boarding house so all the rooms (some 60) are exposed–a set borrowed by no less a director than Jean-Luc Godard.

The film ran out of gas well before the finish line, ending in Jerry’s usual sentimentality–this time he must get confirmed that all the gals really needed the nebbish around because he’s such a nice feller and not just to run errands. The episodic film had much energy early on and scored well, even though the gags were uneven, which showed me if you can reign Jerry in he could be funny without being too annoying. But for me, too much of Jerry is not a good thing; he does wear out his welcome, even in this above average Jerry film.