July 23, 1960 [The Bellboy]

After all those fireworks--personal and professional--between Martin and Lewis, the latter strikes out on his own as writer, director, and everything in between--and almost strikes out: The Bellboy sometimes threatens to simply flutter to the ground like a kid's spent bottle rocket. But Lewis is so determined to make a silent film with a Borscht Belt heart--Miami style--that all lagging gags are forgiven. His pole-axed face, stumped by his own movie, is enough to keep things going, little blackout moments strung together, with the Real Lewis arriving, suave and self-contained, served by his own Clydesville goofup self. The auditorium that magically fills with chairs, the elusive telephones, the run-ins with Berle and some version of Stan Laurel (the happy ghost of this picture, Lewis-the-Schmuck's amiable alter-ego)--none of it adding up to much, but knockin' 'em dead nonetheless. This is Lewis "refined," drop by drop, a meshuga quintessence sought by comic alchemists for decades, from Fred Ott's sneeze to Sid Ceasar's YAWP--rock-a-bye-ing his baby in the hotel lobby, eyes crossed, lips pursed, hands curled in anticipation.


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