or, How I Became a Martin & Lewis fan
(My apologies for this uber-long post; we'll just say I'm trying to make up for the lack of posts over the last ten days...if you stick with it all the way, you're a champ)
It happened fairly recently...only about nine months ago. Yet I am totally, completely, immeasurably OBSESSED with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. "Oh, I love them so!"
It wasn't always this way...in fact, the first time I saw them, I absolutely hated them, and it took awhile for my Dean & Jerry obsession to take hold. The same thing happened with my mother (regarding Dean & Jerry, I mean, lol). I have since come to the conclusion that Martin and Lewis is an acquired taste. And boy wow, have I acquired it!
Finding people to share my obsession has been a challenge. It's difficult to find someone who even knows who they are. For whatever reasons, the biggest comedy act of the century has been kept out of the spotlight...and now all we hear about are Bob and Bing, or Abbott and Costello, or Burns and Allen...if we hear about them at all. (People who hate old entertainment, I'm talking to you!) But Martin and Lewis were bigger than any of them...the pandemonium surrounding them comparable to what both Elvis and the Beatles would stir up after Martin and Lewis left the spotlight. Their movies aren't generally known, their TV work even less so, and as for the brilliance they enacted in nightclubs--well, fugedda 'bout it. I just think that with all of this "secrecy", intentional or not, it's incredible that new fans keep discovering Dean & Jerry. I know if it hadn't been for YouTube, I certainly wouldn't have. I'd never even seen them before--anywhere.
Actually, now that I think about it, that isn't strictly true. I was exposed to Martin & Lewis (or Martin and Lewis separately) through different entities, and I just didn't know it. I think the first was probably in Road to Bali, a Hope/Crosby film (actually I think it was their last) for which Martin & Lewis filmed a cameo. I had no idea who they were, but I thought they were funny, for the three seconds that they actually appeared in the film. The next was It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, where Jerry has another cameo as the Driver Who Runs Over Hat. I always liked the Driver Who Runs Over Hat but I didn't recognize him as Jerry, even after I became intimately familiar with Jerry's work! I think it's maybe something that's a tad bit out of character for him, even though he is funny and he plays his bit to the hilt. But back on topic...
Oh, yes. A couple of years ago my dad bought Move Over, Darling (a Doris Day remake of My Favorite Wife) and the special features included footage shot of the original project, Something's Got to Give, starring Marilyn Monroe and none other than Dean Martin. I didn't know who he was any more than I knew who Jerry was...actually, I think at that point I was confusing him with Rock Hudson. Whatever. At any rate, that was pretty much the extent of my Martin/Lewis knowledge.
About a year or so ago, I was watching old clips of What's My Line? on YouTube. (Have you guessed by now that I really really really love YouTube?) I excitedly clicked on the one starring Walt Disney. I couldn't wait to see it--this is the guy who made all my favorite childhood movies!
Walt was kind of disappointing--very soft-spoken and rather bland--but there was a guy on the panel with a nasally voice who kept asking Walt humorous (and at the same time, rather insulting) questions. I quickly ignored him and went on to another clip.
Several weeks later, I suppose it was, I watched a clip from the same episode--with that same nasally guy on the panel--only this time, the contestant was a rather portly lady who packaged diet pills. The obnoxious guy actually guessed her profession--jokingly of course--but finding he was right, let loose a goose-honk of a laugh. Boy, I thought, I wish this guy would shut up. He didn't, of course--he continued to slyly insult the lady, all the while garnering laughs (admittedly, from me too, but I had a sneaking sympathy with the poor lady, who actually didn't seem to mind his insults as much as one might suppose).
Fast forward to September of 2010. I had just finished watching one of my favorite movies, the Major and the Minor (Ray Milland! *swoon*) and was looking up the trivia section for it on TCM (because that's what all us movie nerds do, don't you know). Well, heavens to Betsy, if there wasn't a film listed right there under "Remakes"! Now, usually I steer as far away from remakes as I can get. But this one was done in the 50s, and I love movies from the 50s, and it said they had reversed the roles as far as gender was concerned, and that definitely sounded interesting.... so I thought what the heck, I'll give it a chance, how bad could it be?
I had no idea.
The remake was called You're Never Too Young (1955), and it starred Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, and Diana Lynn (who had a role in the original version too). I plowed through it, quickly deciding I could do without the screechy-voiced guy (and I couldn't understand all those comments on YouTube saying how cute he was...gag me with a spoon!)--now the handsome, serious one with the chocolate voice, well, he was ok in my book. Most of the film was, I thought, pretty mediocre--until I got about an hour into the film, to that part where...well...maybe you should just look for yourself. (Fast forward to about 6:10, if you like, and watch from there.)
THAT was what convinced me to take Jerry Lewis seriously. I'm pretty pathetic, aren't I?
Well, anyway, no matter how much I swooned over it, I still wasn't overly fond of the team. I went back to watching What's My Line? and dreaming about Ray Milland.
And then something provoked me, I don't know what, to again watch the clip with Jerry and the diet pill lady. I still thought he was pretty obnoxious (not to mention rude) but I did take him seriously this time. And then scrolling through the comments, I noticed one that stated, "Jerry Lewis is gay".
Now if you've spent any length of time on the internet, particularly the IMDB boards, you've probably learned not to take such drivel seriously. I mean, anybody can post a rumor about an actor or actress and claim it as truth...but this one piqued my curiosity (gay people in Hays Code Hollywood are always interesting to learn about) and I looked up both his and Dean's bios. After reading them I decided I did, indeed, like Jerry better. Dean was a playboy, and I had no interest in playboys. Reading the bio made me wonder if there was some sort of movie special on them...and lo and behold, there was! Right on YouTube, a whole biography about Jerry Lewis.
I felt sorry for him...his childhood theme seemed to be abandonment, uncaring parents, shifted from relative to relative..and not particularly popular with his peers, either. And what a perfect big brother he had found in Dean! And then, they showed the clip--the clip that sealed the deal--the clip that started the entire Martin and Lewis obsession....
(I'm trying to be really dramatic here--are you with me? Good.)
The jail sketch.
Or rather, a tidbit of the jail sketch--the part where Dean adlibs that long bit of gibberish, Jerry cracks up, and then turns to the audience, "He adlibbed, I don't know what to say now!"
It was astonishing. And hilarious! I had never seen a performer, comic or otherwise, break the fourth wall in that way. It was addicting!
I have been a fan ever since.
Over the past nine months I've watched every Colgate Comedy Hour episode I could get my hands on; I've seen all the duo's movies (except Hollywood or Bust, their last one); watched Jerry countless times in his own feature films; and laughed harder than I ever remember laughing in my life. Only Dean and Jerry can awaken that kind of hysteria in me. I have never laughed at anyone as much as I've laughed at those two wonderful monkeys. And not only that, but their relationship--that deep, deep brotherhood friendship and the adoration they showed--is tremendous. Just watch the way they look at one another. They are untouchable.
(**for those who don't know: My post title is a take-off on the book Jerry wrote about his ten-year partnership with Dean Martin, entitled Dean and Me: A Love Story. I highly recommend this book. The style is compelling, the tone reeks of old-time showbiz--it reads like a screenplay, only more so. However, I regret to say that language-wise, it is not for the faint of heart. If you don't mind that, then by all means, "Go, with my blessing!")