Cover image for Enfant terrible! : Jerry Lewis in American film
Enfant terrible! : Jerry Lewis in American film
Pomerance, Murray, 1946-
Publication Information:
New York : New York University Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
xii, 274 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PN2287.L435 E54 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



The one thing everybody knows about Jerry Lewis is that he is beloved by the French, those incomprehensible hedonistic strangers across the sea. The French understand him, while in the U.S. he is at best a riddle, not one of us. Lewis is someone we take profound pleasure in excluding, if not ridiculing.

Enfant Terrible! Jerry Lewis in American Film is the first comprehensive collection devoted to one of the most controversial and accomplished figures in twentieth-century American cinema. A veteran of virtually every form of show business, Lewis's performances onscreen and the motion pictures he has directed reveal significant filmmaking talents, and show him to be what he has called himself, a "total filmmaker." Yet his work has been frequently derided by American critics.

This book challenges that easy reading by taking a more careful look at Lewis's considerable body of work onscreen in 16 diverse and penetrating essays. Turning to such films as The Nutty Professor , The Ladies Man , The King of Comedy , The Delicate Delinquent , Living It Up , The Errand Boy , The Disorderly Orderly , Arizona Dream , and The Geisha Boy , the contributors address topics ranging from Lewis's on- and offscreen performances, the representations of disability in his films, and the European obsession with Lewis, to his relationship with Dean Martin and Lewis's masculinity. Far from an out of control hysteric, Enfant Terrible! instead reveals Jerry Lewis to be a meticulous master of performance with a keen sense of American culture and the contemporary world.

Contributors include: Mikita Brottman, Scott Bukatman, David Desser, Leslie A. Fiedler, Craig Fischer, Lucy Fischer, Krin Gabbard, Barry Keith Grant, Andrew Horton, Susan Hunt, Frank Krutnik, Marcia Landy, Peter Lehman, Shawn Levy, Dana Polan, Murray Pomerance, and J. P. Telotte.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Acknowledging the common disdain for Lewis, Pomerance (sociology, Ryerson Univ.) finds Lewis's primitivism modernist, an alternative to subjugating discipline. In personal musings, Leslie Fiedler shifts Lewis from "cripple comedy" to "blackface minstrelsy," and Lewis's sympathetic biographer Shawn Levy (King of Comedy, 1996) recounts the performer's harshness. Part 2 examines Lewis's masquerade element: Andrew Horton on the Yugoslavian Arizona Dream (1993), Craig Fischer on Lewis's "mercurial" acting style, and Krin Gabbard on Lewis's radical revision of The Jazz Singer in his 1959 TV remake. Marcia Landy finds international respect for his assault on American banality. Part 3 defines the social implications of Lewis's films, specifically male bonding, norms of intelligence/stupidity, cultural difference, and mediated reality. Lucy Fischer relates The Disorderly Orderly, Lewis's role on Ben Casey, and the beginning of his muscular dystrophy marathons. Part 4 analyzes the themes of four films, including alternative masculinities in The Nutty Professor and Lewis's treatment of work in The Ladies Man. Barry Grant (in "Hello Deli!") discovers the mature Lewis in The Delicate Delinquent, and Pomerance reads The Errand Boy as "a minor masterpiece" about "the social structure of language and linguisitic power." These original, varied approaches are the heftiest appreciation of Lewis in English. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. M. Yacowar University of Calgary

Table of Contents

Murray PomeranceLeslie A. FiedlerShawn LevyAndrew HortonMarcia LandyCraig FischerKrin GabbardFrank KrutnikMikita BrottmanLucy FischerDavid DesserJ. P. TelotteScott BukatmanPeter Lehman and Susan HuntDana PolanBarry Keith GrantMurray Pomerance
Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Introductionp. 1
1 Jerry and Me
1 Whatever Happened to Jerry Lewis? "That's Amore ..."p. 19
2 Being Rupert Pupkinp. 31
2 Jerry Lewis, Faces Off
3 Dreaming of Jerry Lewis's Arizona Dreamp. 43
4 Jerry Agonistes: An Obscure Object of Critical Desirep. 59
5 Flaming Creature: Jerry Lewis and Screen Performance in Hollywood or Bustp. 75
6 The Day the Clown Quit: Jerry Lewis Returns to The Jazz Singer's Rootsp. 91
3 Jerry Lewis and Social Transformations
7 Sex and Slapstick: The Martin and Lewis Phenomenonp. 109
8 The Imbecile Chic of Jerry Lewisp. 123
9 Sick Jokes: Humor and Health in the Work of Jerry Lewisp. 137
10 The Geisha Boy: Orientalizing the Jewish Manp. 153
11 Jerry in the City: The Topology of The King of Comedyp. 167
12 Terminal Idiocy (The comedian is the message)p. 181
4 Jerry-Built
13 "The Inner Man": Mind, Body, and Transformations of Masculinity in The Nutty Professorp. 195
14 Working Hard Hardly Working: Labor and Leisure in the Films of Jerry Lewisp. 211
15 Hello Deli!: Shtick Meets Teenpic in The Delicate Delinquentp. 225
16 The Errant Boy: Morty S. Tashman and the Powers of the Tonguep. 239
Works Citedp. 256
Contributorsp. 265
Indexp. 269