The Nutty Professor (1963)

Jerry Lewis’ fourth directing effort was the film that convinced many critics he deserved serious study as an auteur and an actor, prompting comparisons to Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. It also was his highest-grossing film up to that time. This reworking of the Jekyll/Hyde story—with Lewis’ nerdish Professor Julius Kelp turning himself into the ultimate lounge lizard, Buddy Love—was originally understood by some viewer to be a dig at his former comedy partner, Dean Martin. Lewis has always denied that, and with the distance of time, Buddy seems more an attack on everything that’s insincere and sleazy about show business—a world Lewis knows intimately. It’s also a commentary on the lure of fame, as Kelp continues to take the potion just to enjoy the adulation thrown at his alter ego. The cast includes some of the star’s most frequent collaborators, including Buddy Lester, Milton Frome, Kathleen Freeman, David Landfield and relative newcomer Stella Stevens. Decades after the film’s successful release, Eddie Murphy took on the role in a 1996 remake, with Lewis as executive producer.

Dir. Jerry Lewis

In attendance: Jerry Lewis