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  Ladies Man, The A Woman's Touch
Year: 1961
Director: Jerry Lewis
Stars: Jerry Lewis, Helen Traubel, Pat Stanley, Kathleen Freeman, George Raft, Harry James, Marty Ingels, Buddy Lester, Gloria Jean, Hope Holiday, Jack LaLanne, Westbrook Van Voorhis, Sylvia Lewis, Dee Arlen, Jack Kruschen, Doodles Weaver, Meri Welles
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: Herbert H. Heebert (Jerry Lewis) lives in a quiet, nervous smalltown and has just graduated from college there, giving the world's shortest speech and racing out of the packed hall with his fellow students to meet his "childhood sweetheart" in the grounds. However, what should have been the happiest day of his life is brought crashing down as the worst day of his life when he sees the girl embracing another man - she wasn't interested in him after all! Herbert goes to meet his parents, and vows to them he has given up the opposite sex as from now on he will be a bachelor; all he needs now is a job to lose himself in...

After The Bellboy came out to some acclaim, especially in Europe, comedian Jerry Lewis, for whom that film had been his directorial debut, decided not to mess with the formula and created a similarly gag-filled, virtually plotless comedy, and that was The Ladies Man. For some reason it never reached the popularity of certain films before, like The Bellboy, or after, like The Nutty Professor, which is a puzzle as it's easily one of his finest achievements. Yes, there are jokes that don't quite come off as well as they must have done on the page (Lewis and Bill Richmond are credited with the script), but otherwise the level of invention is a marvel to behold.

Once Herbert leaves his hometown behind, he ends up in the big city and after scanning the newspaper for somewhere to stay, and rejecting the advances of two nubile ladies who attempt to grab him (there's a weird fear of women theme going on), he spies a notice on a large house indicating that the owner is looking for help. Inside, he meets Kathleen Freeman's landlady (well, who else would be playing her?) who seems friendly enough, even carrying Herbert from the door when he's is delighted to see her and jumps into her arms (!). Yet as he settles down in his new room, hired as the general dogsbody, he doesn't know that the house is filled with young women.

He soon finds out when he goes down for breakfast and is greeted in the dining room with the sight of about thirty ladies who, led by the opera singer owner Mrs Wellenmellon (Helen Traubel), trill their good morning to him and send him charging from their presence in a panic (in one of many ingenious sight gags, he's so shocked he ends up dividing into about five fleeing Herberts). Allowed to calm down, he opts to stay if he can keep the females at arm's length, although there does of course have to be one girl, in this case Fay (theatre star Pat Stanley in her only film), who appeals to his heartstrings and in her miserabilist manner brings out the sentimentality that frequently lurked in the Lewis movies.

But don't worry, as her scenes add up to about five percent of the running time, and the rest is joke after joke after joke. Among them, there's the trouble with feeding Mrs Wellenmellon's pet, who has a mighty roar but might not be as fearsome as he sounds, then the cleaning sequences which see Herbert ruining so many precious objects that you wonder why they keep him on, and the odd, inspired moments of strangeness as where our hero is forced into a dance with what would be described as a Goth nowadays. He also tangos with George Raft. All this is staged on an incredible set that the camera swoops around, moving from floor to floor and room to room, a veritable palace for Lewis to run about in, filled with women who at times seem like an anonymous force of femininity, and on other occasions are individually picked out for almost alien idiosyncrasies. The Ladies Man sees the studio indulging its star, which paid dividends as it zips along with abundant creativity. Music by Walter Scharf.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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