Jerry Lewis' first directorial effort, 1960's The Bellboy was the ultimate vanity project. Having signed a record-breaking deal with Paramount the previous spring to give the studio 14 films over a seven-year period for $10 million plus a now-unimaginable 60 percent of the profits Lewis produced, wrote, and starred in the film as a mute bellhop at Miami's glitzy Fountainbleau Hotel. An homage to the great screen comics who preceded him (and Lewis' own self-aware testament to his comedic gifts), The Bellboy is one of the actor's best films. Composed as a collection of black-out sketches in classic silent-screen style, Lewis gives the misadventures of his speechless character, Stanley, an update by tossing in a broad swath of Ernie Kovacs-ish surreality there's less outright slapstick here than in most Lewis films, with the comic successfully aping the stylings of Charlie Chaplin and Jacques Tati. Adding to the fun is Lewis also appearing briefly as "Jerry Lewis," big-time film star, who arrives at the hotel via motorcade with a butt-kissing crowd of hangers-on. It's a film that shouldn't be missed by anyone who loves classic screen comedy even those who don't usually care for Jerry Lewis. Paramount offers The Bellboy as part of the "Jerry Lewis Widescreen Collection" it's a pristine, gorgeous transfer in rich black-and-white, with excellent monaural Dolby Digital audio (in English or French with optional English or Spanish subtitles). The disc features an odd commentary track with Lewis and singer Steve Lawrence, who serves as the comic's foil, laughing at all his jokes and sucking up shamelessly. The pair spend long stretches just quietly watching the film and chuckling, with Lewis occasionally remembering what he's there for and offering an anecdote at the film's end, Lewis says of The Bellboy, "I guess I'm proud of it," and it's hard to tell whether he's being modest or he genuinely isn't aware that this probably is his finest work. Also on board are some deleted and additional scenes (including interesting rehearsal footage), a minute-plus of color film narrated by Lewis' son, Chris, from Lewis' promotional bus tour to promote the movie, an obscure film tidbit with Lewis addressing a letter he received form Stan Laurel, promo spots, and the theatrical trailer. Keep-case.
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