BELLBOY, THE: DVD
If there's one thing the prestigious Miami Beach Hotel, The Fontainebleau, offers its patrons, it's service. Stanley (Jerry Lewis) is a member of The Fontainebleau's team of dedicated bellboys, answering the needs of his guests with enthusiasm and a love for his job that makes other employees scratch their heads in wonderment. Unfortunately with the bumbling Stanley on the job, anything that can go wrong, will go wrong, and being on duty day after day at the ritzy hotel only offers Stanley more opportunities to shock guests and fellow staff with his quirky behaviour and disastrous antics.
Review by Craig Miller:
While the crackpot antics of Jerry Lewis may not be everybody's comic cup of tea, for a generation, and of course the majority of France, he was the epitome of slapstick/ goofball comedy and, during the height of his performer powers in the 1950s/60s, he was the equivalent to gold when it came to the box office.
As this story/review goes, during 1960 Paramount Pictures didn't have a summer Lewis film to release, so in the space of some four plus weeks, Lewis wrote, directed, starred in and even created the opening credit music to The Bellboy. This up-beat, 100% Jerry Lewis feature is more a series of silly sketches than a traditional motion picture, but one thing is for sure, it sure does sizzle with that trademark Lewis goofiness.
Because The Bellboy is primarily a 70-minute plus skit show centred in and around the swanky Fontainebleau Hotel, there is basically no continuity and Lewis finds himself with a blank canvas on which to go absolutely nuts. A lot of the humour is old by today's standards - mixed-up identities, double take situations, crude slapstick - but his wonderful timing and the energy in which Lewis delivers these gags still tickles the funny bone.
Directorially, there is not much to this picture at all. Many of the scenes and comic set-ups involve one shot framing, no camera movement, and the jokes play out as intended. This film style does tend to look a little dull in places but, basically, watching it is just like reading a good, yet dated, joke book.
While The Bellboy might not be a comic riot for everyone, the extras package on this wonderfully presented single disc are certainly worth checking out. Rarely with films of this age is there anything much to talk about in regards to special features, but this is an exception.
The big highlights are the behind-the-scene features, featured under the Archival Materials heading of the DVD. There's about 10 minutes of rehearsal footage from the film, showing Lewis practising a few of the film's key gags before final filming, and some wonderful footage of Lewis's actual stage show from his time at The Fontainebleau (while Lewis was filming the movie, he was also performing shows at the hotel of an evening).
The three deleted scenes, which are as amusing as anything else in the film, treat us to some more Lewis gags, and there's also some interesting, but brief, footage from Lewis's own home video collection of the Bellboy bus tour with commentary from his son Chris. This tour footage details how Lewis was one of the first big time Hollywood stars to travel around state to state to promote his films, entertaining audiences before and after the screenings of his movie.
The audio commentary with Jerry Lewis and fellow comedian Steve Lawrence is a little weak at times, but it's mainly due to these comic stalwarts getting so wrapped up in the film that they basically forget to speak for longish periods. The commentary is at its best when Lawrence sets Lewis up with questions he can run with, and mostly when they do speak, it is quite entertaining.
It may have no story and no plot and star a comic who made a name for himself going cross-eyed, looking confused and scratching his head, but The Bellboy is more interesting as a look into the Hollywood and humour of a much simpler time than a piece of comedy to be judged by today's standards. The gags are old, the comedy is as subtle as a sledgehammer and the demeanor of the film is as sweet as candy, but really, what could sum up that cinematic time any better?
Published November 4, 2004
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BELLBOY, THE: DVD (G)
CAST: Jerry Lewis, Alex Gerry, Bob Clayton, Bill Richmond, Milton Berle, Sonnie Sands, Eddie Shaeffer
DIRECTOR: Jerry Lewis
SCRIPT: Jerry Lewis
RUNNING TIME: 69 minutes
PRESENTATION: Widescreen 1.78:1; Dolby Digital: English Mono
SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary with Jerry Lewis & Steve Lawrence, Rehearsal footage, Milton Berle blooper, Deleted scenes, Jerry receives a letter from Stan Laurel featurette, promo spots, Bellboy bus tour with commentary from Chris Lewis, Theatrical trailer
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount
DVD RELEASE: November 11, 2004