“The Ladies Man” is one of the most famous transgressive comedies produced by filmmaker Jerry Lewis in the year 1961. The movie proved to be a great success for Lewis in both technique and ambition. The Ladies Man is an episodic film, which involves script with a series of gags that include everything from crude comedy to a ballroom dance with George Raft. The greatest fame of the film rests not only in the script but in the inventive set, which occupied two soundstages in the Paramount studio . As a director, Lewis presents noteworthy patience as he exposes the magnificent construction to the audience. The camera work, which involves cranes and gliders to cover several rooms in the house, is a significant work worth mentioning. In the movie, Jerry Lewis portrays the central character of Herbert H. Heebert. Herbert never responded without his mother calling him twice.
Herbert graduates from a small town planning to settle in a job with his love interest Faith. When Faith rejects him for another man, Herbert turns into a woman-hater and leaves the town in frustration. After searching for several jobs, Herbert finally arrives in California. He starts his occupation as a houseboy at a large hotel owned by an ex-opera star Helen Welenmelon, without realizing that he has to work amidst women . It is only the following day that Herbert notices 31 women colleagues in the house and decides to quit the job. However, Miss Welenmelon sways him to stay back. Most of the women think Herbert as a cute but stupid man, but an aspiring actress Fay takes special interest in Herbert and tries to help him get close to girls. On an occasion, Herbert ruins a television interview setup for Miss Welenmelon and gets into a deep trouble with the boarders’ dates, not to forget George Raft.
Herbert and the women in the hotel plan a surprise party to Miss Welenmelon on her birthday, during which Herbert impresses everyone with his acts of Charlie Chaplin, Groucho Marx and Jolson. Everyone behaves nicely to Herbert, and he realizes that it is because houseboys are hard to come by. As Herbert prepares to leave the job, the boarders express their love for Herbert, who persuades him to stay back. He finally hugs Fay and decides to remain with Miss Welenmelon and the 31 wonderful women at the hotel. Lewis never gives a clear idea of characters in the movie. The performances portrayed by the characters show personality quirks, such as a lazy girl, quiet girl, musical girl, eccentric girl and many others .
Lewis took great care of the overt sentimentalism of the film. All these elements make “The Ladies Man” a better movie to watch. The film is a breeze of frivolity as long as it focuses on Herbert’s quest for bachelorhood. However, in the end, the film looks sour for the heart-tugging drama that happens to stop Herbert from leaving the house. Lewis avoids the love affair in the film and concentrates on the crackpot rather romantic drama. “The Ladies Man” has little or no dead space as Lewis tried his best to pack as much craziness into the story as possible. “The Ladies Man” is not only a visual inspiration but also an engineering marvel of the 1960’s. Accommodating sixty large rooms with illuminated hidden lights and built-in audio receptors on a single set was not an easy task during the old days when technology was not at its peak . The well-equipped set gave Lewis an opportunity to choreograph the action through unbroken camera work.
Lewis was the first to make use of the video assist technology. He even left the set open for visitors to view the shooting. Without using a videotape, Lewis was able to see the camera-eye while performing through the placement of monitors. Lewis choreographed the ensemble scenes taking the help of Bobby Van in the brassy swing soundtrack. He effectively organized the scene in which the seductive dancer descends from the ceiling and the orchestra play the music on a balcony that doesn’t exist. Also, the jazz that runs in the background all the time is an interesting element of the film. The music plays in the background all the time, while the women complete their daily routines. As a morning routine, the women dance around to change their dress and apply make-up in front of non-existent mirrors .
The comedy portrayed by Lewis involves his expressions and never the characters surrounding him. Lewis was able to save lots of dollars for the technological innovations he implemented in the film; however, “The Ladies Man” still went over budget and schedule . The cost of the set in the film priced at $1 million was worth the amount. The film impressed several American critics and delighted the French audience. Lewis used several technological breakthroughs in the film that are famous and find their existence in the present day movies. “The Ladies Man” is a marvel for its visual flair and a powerful production value. Most part of the movie has narrative and visual invention to entertain the audience. Lewis effectively answered two fundamental questions of cinema, one as to how to see and the other as to what to see . He managed to uncover the logic behind the look that tumbles the object or the object that tumbles the look.
In the film “The Ladies Man,” Lewis experiments with the film format by pushing its limits and defining its boundaries. The audio commentary by Lewis throughout the film is an additional benefit. When Herbert realizes that his true responsibility of the job is to serve the women, he experiences an inevitable shock. His task of delivering mails to women places him in one-to-one encounters, which lead to uncontrollable laughter episodes in the audience. The movie is a funny family comedy that impressed the critics too. The central theme of the film is its comedy. Though funny and awkward, it attracts the viewers to the maximum extent. Lewis’s comedy makes him a unique comedian as he can make the audience laugh even in the most absurd and stupid situations. The climax of “The Ladies Man” is one of the most sublime scenes of American cinema. It is a movie that features genius gags, some of which descend into self-parody. A scene in which Lewis goes through a car wash in convertible bursts out laughter in the audience.
In one of the scenes, Lewis portrays fantasy when he opens a case that contains exotic butterflies . Realizing the incident, Lewis calls back all the butterflies into the box by whistling at them. The scene is a metaphor, which displays Lewis’s skills as a discoverer of beauty. In another scene, Herbert enters a forbidden room, which has a universal decor and spatial laws controlling it. The element of fantasy in “The Ladies Man” exposes pure pleasure through the magnificent camera work and the control of color in various scenes. The architectural structure of “The Ladies Man” replaces the narrative structure. To conclude, the movie “The Ladies Man” directed and acted by Jerry Lewis is one of the most famous works of transgressive comedies in the United States. The film was a 1961 release and proved to be a great success for Lewis. The set built for the film was worth $1 million and occupied two soundstages in the Paramount studio.
Jerry Lewis, the director of the film enacted the role of Herbert H. Heebert, the central character of the film. When his girlfriend Faith rejects Herbert for another man, he turns into a women-hater and loses interest in women. In the search of job, Herbert finally reaches California where he joins a hotel full of women as a house boy. Fay, one of the women, present in the house takes a genuine interest in Herbert and helps him overcome his shyness. The visual effects, the camera work, which includes gliders and cranes, the video assist technology, are a few of the noticeable features of the film “The Ladies Man” . The music track in the film mainly comprises of the jazz genre and is present in most of the scenes in the film. The movie impressed several critics for its genuine gags. Lewis took care of each minor detail of the film from camera work to choreography and visual effects. Thus, “The Ladies Man” is one of the masterpieces of Lewis in the transgressive comedy category.
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Neibaur, James L. and Ted Okuda. The Jerry Lewis films: An Analytical Filmography of the Innovative Comic. McFarland & Company Incorporated Pub, 1995.