The Nutty Professor (1963)
Like all of us, there are films that stick with you over the years because you enjoyed them in childhood. For me this one stands out for just that reason.
I loved it when this would show up on television so I could watch it once again. It fueled my love of Jerry Lewis as a boy and opened my eyes to the beauty of Stella Stevens. Thank you Jerry for not stealing all the limelight and allowing Stella to look absolutely stunning throughout the film as you let the camera linger whenever she came into frame.
By this time in his career Jerry was a one man act when he felt like it. Writer, producer, director and star. Dino was seven years removed by this time and was doing quite nicely on his own or teaming with the Rat Pack.
Taking the Jekyll and Hyde theme, Jerry twists it into (arguably) the Lewis/Martin theme. Jerry stars as Professor Kelp who is as clumsy as possible and when it comes to looking Stella in the eye, he turns to mush. Perhaps if he was just a little more muscular he’d feel more like a man. Off to the gym Jerry goes where one gag follows another.
With his workouts not giving him the results he’s looking for, Jerry turns to what he knows best. The field of science and formulas boiling in colorful test tubes. Before he knows it he’s turned into Buddy Love. A rather warped version of old pal Dean Martin. At least that’s how I see it.
Lewis has created a rather despicable character with Buddy whose ego knows no bounds. He pursues Stella who seems caught by his talent and overall look but is continually put off by his personality. When the formula begins to wear off and Kelp’s nasally voice sneaks into Love’s conversations and singing, she begins to suspect Love and Kelp are one and the same.
Along for the ride is Del Moore as the University Dean who has some funny scenes with both sides of Lewis’s characters including a Hamlet recital.
When it comes to character actresses, Lewis always seemed to find a role for Kathleen Freeman in his films and for that we should all be thankful.
Fans of Mayberry will be sure to spot Howard Morris as Jerry’s father. Morris played the rascally Ernest T. Bass who was always driving Andy Griffith and Don Knotts crazy with his rock throwing antics.
Despite pushing the boundaries with the mean spirited Buddy Love, Jerry brings forth a message for all at the close of the film. Meek and mild mannered Professor Julius Kelp offers us one of life’s lessons that he has learned the hard way.
Could it be possible that drop dead gorgeous Stella Stevens just might go for the book wormish type?
This is one of those films I almost assume everyone has seen. Lewis may not be for all tastes as the years go by but when he’s on……he’s on. Before you sit down and watch Eddie Murphy attempt to play the role, turn the clock back and give Jerry a shot.