Family Jewels, The (1965)

Family Jewels, The (1965)

“People can do funny things for 30 million dollars — even brothers!”

A wealthy orphan (Donna Butterworth) cared for by her kind chauffeur (Jerry Lewis) must choose which of her five uncles (all played by Jerry Lewis) she wants to live with.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Comedy
  • Heiresses
  • Inheritance
  • Jerry Lewis Films
  • Kidnapping
  • Orphans

The Family Jewels offered writer-director-producer Jerry Lewis the opportunity to not only star in his own vehicle (as usual), but to literally dominate the screen by playing almost every major character (thus following in the footsteps of such giants as Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers).

Unfortunately, apart from a few reasonably inspired comedic sequences, the bulk of the film is only mildly amusing, and Lewis’s impersonations truly come across more like caricatures than the real-life protagonists demanded by the plot (after all, thirty million dollars are at stake here!). The primary draw of the film is Donna Butterworth as Lewis’s young charge — she’s refreshingly natural, and holds her own admirably.

Note: If you’re curious to see a list of films featuring actors playing multiple roles, click here (though this Wikipedia entry is by no means complete, given that I had to add Family Jewels myself).

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Donna Butterworth as Donna
  • The amusingly inaccurate flashback sequence told by Donna’s seafaring uncle
  • The “reactive” onflight film (starring an uncredited Anne Baxter)

Must See?
No; this one — like most Jerry Lewis films — is only must-see for his diehard fans.


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