By JOHN E. BIALAS
Broadmoor Bureau Chief
I turned against Jerry Lewis when I saw “The Nutty Professor” at a movie theater at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi in 1963, the year the film came out.
I was 11 years old at the time and months later I would enter the sixth grade at Nativity Elementary.
I was never a fan of “The Nutty Professor.” Jerry Lewis’ Nutty act was too goofy and his Joe Cool was too pompous, and the kid in me believed the latter part reflected the real Jerry. I didn’t like the real Jerry.
Give me his 1950s films and, much later, “The King of Comedy,” the 1982 Martin Scorsese work of geninus in which Rupert Pupkin stalks Jerry Langford. Those movies represent Jerry Lewis’ best.
My favorites include “The Delicate Delinquent,” “The Sad Sack,” “Rock-a-Bye Baby,” “The Geisha Boy,” “The Bellboy,” and “Cinderfella.”
All are from 1957 to 1960 and they are classic LOL comedies. A theater at a military base was usually the venue for the films because my Dad was a sergeant in the Air Force. His tours of duty took us to Japan and the Philipines before we moved to Keesler in 1960.
We lived in base housing and our address was 5440 C Street, which was within walking distance of at least three movie theaters.
I saw a lot of movies at those theaters, and “The Nutty Professor” was a classic. It was a classic disappointment. I couldn’t handle Jerry Lewis playing two roles, one as Professor Julius Kelp and the other as Buddy Love.
Perhaps I was too young to appreciate a man drinking a magic potion to improve his social life.
Had I been 21, maybe I would have enjoyed the premise.
After “The Nutty Professor,” Jerry Lewis had a couple of good 1960s films, one of them “The Disorderly Orderly,” but none matched the awesome entertainment he provided in the 1950s.
And don’t get me started on his Labor Day telethons. Though working for a great cause, the man was over the top and unwatchable.
I’m sorry I don’t love Jerry Lewis as much as you do, but his death brings out the contrarian in me.
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