|Neibaur (L)- Jerry Lewis (C) - Ted Okuda (R)|
TV STORE ONLINE: What do you dislike about CINDERFELLA?
NEIBAUR: Well, it really isn't about that. I just don't think that it ranks up there as one of his best films... I don't know if the film needs that many songs in it. It seems as if the song numbers are intermissions in the film and that they really took away from the action. They didn't blend with the action, and there didn't seem to be a lot of great scenes or ideas like we had seen in something later by Tashin and Lewis like WHO'S MINDING THE STORE? (1963) or THE DISORDERLY ORDERLY (1964).
TV STORE ONLINE: You just mentioned WHO'S MINDING THE STORE?....Do you have any other favorite scenes from that Jerry film?
The broken vacuum cleaner bit is very strong in WHO'S MINDING THE STORE? Tashlin came from cartoons and he really brought a lot of cartoon action and colors to the film. It's filled with some wild slapstick as well. There's Jerry trying to walk all of those dogs, and then when Jerry has to try to squeeze the shoe onto the foot of the lady and they end up wrestling around.
TV STORE ONLINE: When you were working with Jerry on the book did you get to ask him about working on that vacuum cleaner scene in detail?
TV STORE ONLINE: Often times you'll see critics write about the Jerry Lewis solo films and about how the directorial styles of Lewis and Tashlin are very much alike....
NEIBAUR: Yeah, but I think that what Jerry Lewis did as a director was different that what Frank Tashlin did. Tashlin, could be at times a little conventional, but what Lewis did as a director was to create an entire world in which we the audience could exist in. There is a complexity to the Lewis films and anything can happen in that world. Jerry's character has a surreal existence in that world. Tashlin could be offbeat too, but he always had elements of the real world and the mainstream in his films even though critics called his films cartoon-like. Jerry's films always maintained that level of the surreal or the outrageous throughout them the entire length of the film. That's something that Tashlin didn't do.
TV STORE ONLINE: You mentioned THE NUTTY PROFESSOR....That's my favorite Jerry Lewis film and I find it interesting because of how it isn't a sort of gag-after-gag film like those that came before it like THE BELLBOY (1960) and THE ERRAND BOY (1961).....
NEIBAUR: THE NUTTY PROFESSOR was something Jerry really wanted to do because he had this unique idea based on two characters. He was inspired after seeing the film DOCTOR JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (1941) with Spencer Tracy.
NEIBAUR: Well, I don't think that The Catcher in The Rye was filmmable. I don't think it would have translated to the screen and that's why I think that it hasn't been made yet all of these years later. I don't think that he was moving in any particular direction either. I think THE NUTTY PROFESSOR was just the film that he made at that time, and when he followed it up with THE PATSY I think he was investigating show business. In fact, he does that in THE ERRAND BOY (1961), but I think he does it better in THE PATSY. I think THE PATSY is every bit as good as THE NUTTY PROFESSOR and THE PATSY gets just as surreal and outrageous as any of his other films. It's filled with so many incredible ideas and it has dramatic elements in it as well. THE PATSY might be my favorite Jerry Lewis film.
TV STORE ONLINE: With THE NUTTY PROFESSOR...A rumor has been swirling around for decades that Jerry based "Buddy Love" in the film on his former partner Dean Martin...
Even though Jerry and Dean were no long partners at the time and they probably weren't in touch with each other, when Jerry shot THE NUTTY PROFESSOR, he still maintained a love of him as if he was his own brother. People have tried to suggest this over the years, but really it just falls flat. Buddy Love was really just Jerry's own demons.
TV STORE ONLINE: In your book you mention that Jerry wouldn't let you watch his take on The Jazz Singer which he did for NBC in 1959...With that on DVD now...What are your thoughts on it these years later?
NEIBAUR: Lewis told us that he thought that he was too young for the role, but I think his performance is quite good. I think he surrounded himself with really great actors and the fact that he preserved something so early from those beginning days of television, I think is really wonderful. Hopefully the new DVD will do well and he'll release more things from his archive that we'll all get to see.
TV STORE ONLINE: In your book you make a mention that critics have called THE LADIES' MAN (1961) "Felliniesque"... I was wondering if you could talk about that?
TV STORE ONLINE: If you could pick one moment or scene in any Jerry Lewis film that you thought defined him as a filmmaker what would it be?
NEIBAUR: I think probably that scene in THE NUTTY PROFESSOR were "Professor Julius Kelp" is at the dance and he's responding to the Les Brown music. It's because he's in that world, he's at that dance, and he's supposed to act one way but something is distracting him. Something has his attention, and he tries to ignore it, but he can't help but to respond to it. When he's caught, he stops. That's what defines Jerry Lewis the best. As a filmmaker he tries different things in the context of cinema. He tries things and he's distracted by different ideas but he keeps going on. He's created some of the most brilliant and surreal comedy films ever made.