The Ladies Man

Released:  1961

Cast:  Jerry Lewis, Lillian Briggs, Helen Traubel, Kathleen Freeman, Buddy Lester, George Raft

SUMMARY:  Herbert H. Heebert (Jerry Lewis) has just graduated from junior college as the valedictorian, and plans to marry his childhood sweetheart and fiancée the next day.  However, on the very day of graduation he finds her locked in an embrace with another man.  Herbert abandons his plans, swears off women forever, and heads to Hollywood.  He finds a job as a handyman/errand boy at a boarding house, but does not realize that it is a women-only boarding house:  he is literally the only man in the huge house.  The house is run by former opera star Helen Welenmelon (Helen Traubel); as the former handymen have all left in three days or less, Ms. Welenmelon tells the girls to make Herbert feel needed.  The girls oblige, but Herbert still tries to leave on multiple occasions.  He finally gets used to his place in the house, and becomes friends with one particular girl named Fay.  However, the girls ultimately decide that it was wrong of them to try to keep Herbert there against his wishes:  the next time he tries to leave, they don’t stop him.  To their surprise — and his own — Herbert comes back, having chosen to remain at the house with the women.

MY TAKE:  I thought this film started out fairly well, even though I think Jerry Lewis is a little too over-the-top.  In his movies with Dean Martin, Dean’s cool and calm demeanor counteracted that craziness and balanced it out:  without that, it’s sort of like watching Jim Carrey.  Lewis actually wrote, directed, produced and starred in this movie, which is impressive, but I thought things fell apart after the first twenty minutes or so.  There’s really no plot once Herbert takes the position in the house, it’s just a series of gags.  How he gets over his anti-women stance isn’t really examined, and the ending was downright confusing.  Fay goes off on the girls for asking Herbert to do things for them — but isn’t that what he was hired for?  In addition, you never see them asking him to do outrageous things, so it kind of came out of nowhere.  To top things off, there’s a hint of romance between Herbert and Fay, but nothing ever happens.  The house set is impressive — it was built without the fourth wall, making it look like a dollhouse.  At the time, it was the most expensive comedy set ever created, and the fact that it’s completely functional (the characters can go up and down the stairs and through the house naturally) is really cool.  However, it doesn’t make up for a complete lack of story.

RATING:  Disappointing.

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