RIP Jerry Lewis. Fantasy Femmes Remember

Very sad to hear of the passing of this iconic funny man. I always admired his talent and his dedication to help those in need with his many philanthropic causes. Below are comments from some of the sixties starlets that worked with him over the years who had nothing but praise for him that I interviewed for my book Fantasy Femmes of Sixties Cinema:

Joan Staley:

“Jerry Lewis is Jerry Lewis.  There is no switch that turns him on or off.  He is what he is.  I think every great comedy performer has a dark side.  And I think it is part of that dark side that lends itself to the pathos that you have to have in order to be a strong comedic actor, especially in the type of humor that Jerry does.  I worked on The Ladies’ Man for many weeks.  Jerry Lewis [who directed] was kind enough to let me off after about six weeks because I had an offer for a TV pilot.”

Joan O’Brien:

“Jerry Lewis was totally off the wall and we had a lot of fun working on this film [It’s Only Money, 1962].  He had me laughing so hard and so long during some scenes we had to stop and start over.  We wasted a lot of time and money just cutting up and laughing.  He was such a practical joker and had all of us including our director, Frank Tashlin, in stitches.  You never knew what Jerry was going to do next.  You could play the same scene with him ten times and it wouldn’t come out the same way twice.  But Jerry could be serious also.  He was very generous and gave me a book that I still have called You’re Better Than You Think.  Inside he inscribed, ‘and you really are Joannie.’  I was going through a period of time with a bad marriage and feeling down and depressed.  I was unhappy about a lot of things.  Jerry really set my head straight…”

Francine York:

“Jerry could be a little bit of a maniac sometimes.  When he had someone like Frank Tashlin directing him, he’d fool around a lot.  But when he was directing himself using Paramount’s money he’d be more careful and serious.  Watching him direct himself in The Nutty Professor was really something!  When he called, ‘Action!’ he’d go from being Jerry the serious director to Jerry the actor playing the suave Buddy Love or the nerdy Prof. Kelp.  It was amazing to watch.  On The Disorderly Orderly, he missed one of his pratfalls and hurt his back.  We filmed this up in the Doheny Estates for about eight weeks.  When I did Cracking Up with him in 1982 he was really nervous.  It was right before he had his heart attack and he was a basket case throughout the shoot.  This was a funny movie but Orion went bankrupt and it didn’t get released in the U.S.  But it was a huge hit in Europe because they just revere Jerry.  They thought my part was so funny because I was speaking fractured French and it was subtitled.  But the average American didn’t know I wasn’t speaking real French.”

Julie Parrish:

“Overall I had fun doing this movie [The Nutty Professor]. Watching Jerry Lewis play this outrageous character was a great experience.  He was always making the cast laugh.  However, one moment he’d be a really nice person and the next minute he’d be crazy.  He scared me.  I had a scene with a few of lines.  I drank a lot of coffee that morning because we sat around a lot.  Those were the days when you could be on a movie for three months and not do much.  I don’t even drink coffee but because I was bored I drank it.  I got very nervous from drinking the coffee and I was also nervous about doing the scene.  Since I didn’t do it correctly he yelled at me.  I tried to do it right a second time and he yelled again.  I started shaking all over.  So he cut the scene entirely.”

Celeste Yarnall:

“I was so in awe of Jerry Lewis and thought he was amazing. Frenetic is a good word to describe him on the set [of The Nutty Professor] but he could be charming as well.  He wore Alfred Dunhill cologne, which smelled wonderful.  One day when he walked by I said, “Jerry you smell so good.’  The next day he handed me a bottle of it.  He also gave me a very good talk about being a young girl in Hollywood and what I should expect.  I think he could see that I was a very straight-laced young person.  I was very pristine and was lucky to have gone out in a car on a date at this point.”

Deanna Lund:

“Jerry was just lovely to work with. But to be honest it was a little confusing.  Because he wore so many hats on Hardly Working—actor, director and co-writer—it was hard for me to get my character in tune with the right person.  First you’re listening to Jerry the intellectual analyzing the scene and speaking with the cameraman and the rest of the crew.  And then all of a sudden he’s this lunatic.  It was quite an experience.  I think it is very difficult for an actor to direct himself.  I know it’s done all the time and sometimes extremely successfully but it’s hard.  Jerry’s health also wasn’t very good at the time.”



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