Classic Movie 2019

Classic Movie Of The Week: The Nutty Professor (1963)

Starring: Jerry Lewis, Stella Stevens, Del Moore

Director: Jerry Lewis

Essentially a comedy Jekyll and Hyde set in a science lab, this was a Jerry Lewis film at the tail end of his popularity. Professor Julius Kelp (Lewis) is walked all over by his students, his boss, and even his mother. He decides to create a potion that will bring out his more assertive side, Buddy Love, who turns out to the be the coolest and also most obnoxious cat on campus. Falling for gorgeous student, Stella (Stevens), he thinks she likes Buddy, but she prefers men with brains. Kelp must learn to integrate his more assertive side before it destroys his life and ruins his chance with Stella.

The comedy comes from Lewis inhabiting two such different characters and his inability to control when his alter ego will check out. It’s kind of interesting to see Lewis switch between his squeaky and kind of annoying Professor, who has many of the traits that Lewis comedy was known for, to a suave, arrogant, and kind of creepy Buddy. Buddy is a great creation and makes fun of some of the behaviour of the Rat Pack, like Dean Martin or Sinatra, which swings between amusing and creepy. But by playing a Dean Martin alike, he’s kind of parodying a performer who he had regularly been teamed up with, which feels a little awkward, if you think about it.

Two things I love about this film are the brightness and colour of the whole thing, and Stella Stevens. The colours in this film are so bright and cheerful, from the sets and the lab chemicals to the clothes. Lewis as Buddy Love has some particularly bright ensembles. But Stevens, with her platinum hair like a bubble around her head, often resembling a chic poodle, is so adorable. She’s perhaps intended to just be a plot device, a reason for the lead to do what he does, but I found her really interesting. She sparkles, she has some amazing outfits, her hair is chameleon like, she isn’t a push over, and she like her men with some intelligence, even though she is drawn in by Buddy’s lines. I thought she was a lot of fun and very beautiful.

I picked this film for this list because I’d heard of it before and never watched it, and it’s also listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die. But honestly, I’m not sure why it’s included on these lists. It’s a fun 60’s comedy that spawned an Eddie Murphy remake, and it has moments of genuine humour. Jerry Lewis is good as both Kelp and Love, and Stevens is delightful, and yet… for me there’s not something that makes this film really stand out amongst other Jerry Lewis films or other 60’s comedies. Perhaps it was really popular when it came out, and perhaps it represents the fashions and music of it’s time. It is a fun film, though, and quite an enjoyable, colourful watch.

See It If: you like groovy 60’s style and comedy, with some music thrown in! Come for Jerry Lewis playing two opposing characters, stay for Stella Stevens hair dos.

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