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Hey laaaaady! Looking at Lewis’ legacy

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013 11:35 a.m. CDT

(Continued from Page 2)

Hey, laaaaady!

Just that single line uttered by one of the most iconic comedians in American film history is enough to put me in a good five-minute giggle fit.Maybe I’m just old fashioned — it certainly wouldn’t be a new charge against me — but the mental image of the very daffy Jerry Lewis will always put a smile on my face, no matter how “mad at the world” I might be.

At home, we have all of the available Jerry Lewis films added to our Netflix instant queue. Being the ol’ Navy guy, my particular favorite is “Don’t Give Up the Ship!” But I’ve gotten a lot of laughs out of his first independent film, “The Bellboy,” a perpetual source of happiness I’ve shared with my family.

Several of his films have been “rebooted” — the new-age Hollywood term when a studio is so fresh out of creative ideas, they decide to steal a good one (or not) from the past and repackage it — but no one, not even the likes of Eddie Murphy and Adam Sandler, can capture the comedy gold that Jerry Lewis just seemed to always exude.

He was a master filmmaker, as well, which is probably one of the least-known facts about him. He also developed the video-assist production process nearly every Hollywood director depends upon to finish projects on-time and on-budget.

Jerry also taught film classes in his heyday as the University of Southern California. Among his many students was one Steven Spielberg and George Lucas — another useless fact that perhaps very few people outside of the moviemaking industry knew about the man.

He also taught “Star Wars” originator George Lucas (who reportedly didn’t like him as a teacher very much), Robert Zemeckis and Randall Kleiser, director of “Grease.”

And so there’s a very serious side to Jerry Lewis that I don’t think a lot of people got to see outside of the once-a-year appearances on the Muscular Distrophy Association telethon. Those who have seen “Funny Bones” probably know what I’m talking about.

I know that can’t be a lot of you because the film grossed less than $600,000 in 1995. But the film is a highly under-rated gem that I would encourage any Jerry Lewis film to see.

That film also was the last time Jerry took a lead role in a film. He’s done a few bit parts here and there, mostly voice acting or a guest role on television. And, given the health concerns out there the last few years, I guess I thought that would be the end of it.

Until yesterday.

Late yesterday afternoon, it was announced that Jerry Lewis would begin filming today for his first film starring role since “Funny Bones.” The title of his new project is “Max Rose,” and it is directed by Daniel Noah, an independent writer-producer-director who has partnered with Cedar Rapids-born Elijah Wood and Josh C. Waller in The Woodshed, an indy production company.

According to the announcement, “Max Rose” is a drama about a jazz pianist who has recently lost his wife of over five decades. A discovery made days before her death causes Max to believe his marriage was a lie. 

“He embarks on an exploration of his own past that brings him face to face with a menagerie of characters from a bygone era,” the announcement states. “Lewis stars with Claire Bloom, Kevin Pollak, Kerry Bishe of ‘Argo’ and Mort Sahl.”

Shooting will be done in Los Angeles. No release date for the film has been announced, yet. 

But it’s definitely a film I’m putting on my must-see list once it’s out there.

New Team Assembled

When I came here nearly seven months ago, I had no plans to dramatically alter the makeup of the Daily News newsroom staff. But, when you employ a lot of young people who are in the early stages of their careers, you’re bound to have times when change comes one its own.

So, this week we welcomed not only new sports writer Dustin Turner but new staff writer Ty Rushing, who will soon be contributing to our opinion page alongside Matthew Shepard and Nicole Wiegand. If you have not yet met him, I’m sure you soon will.

And when you do, please offer him a warm welcome to Newton.

If you’re reading this, thank a teacher. If you’re reading this in English, thank a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine.

Bob Eschliman is editor of the Daily News. He may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 423, or at beschliman@newtondailynews.com via email.

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