Jerry Lewis and Stella Stevens in The Nutty Professor (1963)


(director/writer/producer: Jerry Lewis; screenwriter: Bill Richmond; cinematographer: W. Wallace Kelley; editor: John M. Woodcock; music: Walter Scharf; cast: Jerry Lewis (Professor Julius Kelp/Buddy Love), Stella Stevens (Stella Purdy), Del Moore (Dr. Hamius R. Warfield), Kathleen Freeman (Millie Lemmon), Howard Morris (Mr. Kelp), Elvia Allman (Mother Kelp), Les Brown (Himself), Med Flory (Football Player), Norman Alden (Football Player), Skip Ward (Football Player), Milton Frome (Dr. Levey), Buddy Lester (Bartender), Marvin Kaplan (Man at Nightclub), David Landfield (College Student), Julie Parrish (College Student); Runtime: 107; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Ernest D. Glucksman; Paramount; 1963)
“Silly, manic, juvenile, square, unfunny in an offensive way and serving as an egomaniacal testament to Mr. Lewis.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

To improve his social life, a nerdy, tongue-tied, accident-prone, absent-minded, young chemistry professor, Julius Kelp (Jerry Lewis), who is in hot water with the school administrators for his failed experiments damaging school property, drinks a magic potion he concocts that temporarily turns him into the strong and handsome but obnoxious nightclub singer Buddy Love (trying to look and act like Dean Martin). The bashful prof has eyes for his dream-girl, hot popular student Stella Purdy (Stella Stevens), and through this alter ego plot device hopes to attract her. He also hopes to deter those student football jocks from bullying him, who regularly push him around and even lock him in a storage closet.

This ridiculous situation is mined for a host of sight gags for Lewis to go through his manic moron act and play to his huge ego that he’s really cool.

So you think 50 million Frenchmen can’t be wrong about making Jerry Lewis a comic icon, then check this film out! If The Nutty Professor is considered by the French Jerry’s best film — I’d hate to see the others the French liked. It consists of vulgar, childish, stupid, obnoxious, and hard-to-sit through sight gags, parodies, and nostalgia laced scenarios from Lewis asa self-indulgent lounge lizard acting hipster cool (I guess Rat Pack cool) in the campus hangout The Purple Pit (where all the students look and act as if they’re middle-aged). At the hipster lounge Buddy Love gets Stella’s attention and they swoon together as he dazzles the student crowd with his jazzy cool-like demeanor. Buddy teaches the bartender (Buddy Lester) how to mix potent special drinks and convinces the trendy pop culture crowd he’s their role model leader (spoofing on the New American youth culture). But the potion wears out and when it does Lewis is returned at always the most inopportune time back into being a nebbish clod.

The Nutty Professor comes with a tacked on preachy moral lesson to resolve the Jekyll-and-Hyde dilemma of the plot. In the scene where the potion quits on him in the middle of a speech to the student body, Lewis then becomes serious and passionately urges that people must learn to like themselves and not try to pretend to be someone else to get others to like them. Stella buys into this nonsense (delivered more as an afterthought to the comedy than arrived at as a real concern) and the two remain an item for the future to live happily ever after, as she’s suddenly in love with both Jerrys. Ugh!

Silly, manic, juvenile, square, unfunny in an offensive way and serving as an egotistical testament to Mr. Lewis, is how I found this bad joke filled romantic comedy. Jerry’s idea of cool is square at any age or time period. The film was remade by Eddie Murphy in 1996 with hardly any better results.