Patsy, The (1964)

“Now listen, and listen carefully — this kid can and will be whatever we want him to be.”

Synopsis:
When a famous comedian dies in a plane crash, his creative entourage (Everett Sloan, Ina Balin, John Carradine, Keenan Wynn, Phil Harris, and Peter Lorre) decides to turn a bumbling bellboy named Stanley (Jerry Lewis) into their next big star.

Genres:

Review:
The intention of Jerry Lewis’s self-directed variation on Frank Tashlin’s The Girl Can’t Help It (1956) is somewhat murky: while he seems to be making a clear case that a talent like his is NOT random (that is, you can’t simply pluck any old Joe off the street and turn him into a star of “Jerry Lewis caliber”), the film’s head-scratching denouement — an extension to the similarly self-congratulatory finale of The Errand Boy (1961) — effectively neutralizes this sentiment. With that said, The Patsy remains of interest given how close it comes (at times) to the tone of Scorsese’s King of Comedy (1982): Stanley’s failed nightclub debut is seriously discomfiting, bringing the film’s invisible laughtrack to a dead halt. The rest of the movie remains a mixed bag of random chuckles (Lewis is in classic klutzy form when visiting Hans Conried’s antiques-riddled home for a music lesson); occasional pathos (as during the oddly charming high school dance flashback sequence); and rehashed cliches from earlier films — including obligatory romantic tension between nerdy Stanley and an impossibly sympathetic goddess (in this case, Ina Balin), who seems merely pleasantly bemused by his actions at all times. Be forewarned about the irritatingly dated “final” comment made by Stanley, which is similar to Lewis’s own stated view of female comedians — the latter in particular an example of truly stunning anti-feminism at play.

Note: This shouldn’t technically be considered a “Peter Lorre film” given that his role here (his last) is not only incredibly tiny, but Lorre seems utterly disinterested and bored the entire time. “We got the wrong guy”, his character mutters in one of his very few lines, and one can’t help sensing he’s referring to himself.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Stanley’s disastrous visit with Hans Conried’s antiques-collecting music teacher
  • The cringingly honest nightclub scene

Must See?
No — though it’s one of the more intriguing Lewis entries included in Peary’s book, and worth a look.

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