Cast & Crew
At the luxurious Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach, Florida, guests are pampered by a large, well-trained staff. The hotel's precision is occasionally marred, however, by Stanley, an earnest but clumsy bellboy. Stanley, who never speaks, is instructed one day to remove everything from a car trunk belonging to two newly arrived guests. Because the car is a Volkswagen Bug, the engine, not the luggage, is in the trunk, and Stanley lugs the greasy machinery up to the startled guests. Soon after, desperate dieter Mrs. Hartung arrives, and hotel manager Ben Novak urges her not to eat candy so that she can lose weight. At the end of two weeks, the miraculously slim Mrs. Hartung prepares to depart, but her diet is foiled when Stanley gives her a goodbye present of a box of chocolates. Upon consuming the entire box, Mrs. Hartung regains all the weight she had lost. Another day, bell captain Bob Clayton, hoping to keep Stanley out of trouble, orders him alone to set up folding chairs in the immense ballroom for movie night. Chuckling over Stanley's impossible task, Bob shares the joke with fellow bell captain Art Stanley, but when they check on Stanley's progress, they discover that he has arranged thousands of chairs in only a few minutes. Later, the staff eagerly anticipate the arrival of movie star Jerry Lewis, who will be entertaining in the hotel's nightclub. Everyone gawks as Jerry and his huge entourage emerge from a single limo, then crowd in as Jerry informs Novak that he needs some space. Soon the bell staff are amazed by the resemblance between Jerry and Stanley and wonder if Stanley is a "Lamont Cranston" who can change identities. Entertainer Milton Berle, who is also staying at the Fontainebleau, is baffled by the uncanny resemblance, but, unable to explain it to Jerry, staggers off. Jerry is himself flabbergasted when a bellboy who looks just like Milton then hands him a message. Later, Stanley attempts to walk a huge pack of dogs belonging to guests, but as soon as he goes outside, the animals bolt. Unable to get his pals, bellboys Eddie, Herkie, Sonny and Dave, to help, Stanley joins them for an afternoon at the local dog racing park. When the race is about to start, however, the four men wonder where their wayward friend has disappeared to and are disappointed that the first race is canceled. Unknown to them, Stanley has rounded up all of the greyhounds for a walk. Back at the hotel, Bob telephones frantically, looking for Stanley, and when one staff member asks which Stanley, Bob retorts, "the only Stanley in the world." Much to Bob's amazement, a Stan Laurel impersonator then saunters by and attempts to help. Later, when Bob has to leave the bell desk, he asks Stanley to cover for him, but upon his return, discovers that the constantly ringing phones have driven the bellboy into a frenzy. Stanley's struggles continue, as one day he is battered by a quarreling couple, then lunches with a group of gangsters deliberating their next "hit." Later, Novak reminds Bob that his men's behavior must be exemplary. Despite Bob's assurance that he will keep the bellboys out of "strip joints," he joins the fellows on a drunken night out, when they enjoy the performances of scantily clad dancers and a song by the comedy group The Novelites. One afternoon, as Stanley winds his way through the guests lazing by the pool, he covers a sleeping man's face with a cloth to prevent sunburn. Unfortunately, the cloth Stanley used had an open-weave pattern, and the man, television personality Mr. Sedley, winds up with bizarre marks burned into his face. Stanley has another encounter near this swimming pool later when he eats in the staff dining room. Unknown to Stanley, a window between the pool and dining room been installed so that swimming guests can observe the staff. Perturbed by the swimmers' jibes, Stanley is further unsettled when the Laurel impersonator, fully clothed, walks along the bottom of the pool. Stanley's ensuing misadventures include being baffled by a guest loudly eating an invisible apple, mutilating a clay bust in an art exhibition and overpressing another guest's trousers until they resemble a plank of wood. One afternoon, Stanley learns that famed golfer Cary Middlecoff is playing in a tournament nearby. Stanley goes to the course and stands in the audience to observe the final hole, which will decide who will qualify for the $25,000 playoff. Just as Middlecoff is about to putt, Stanley, who is adjusting his camera, sets off a flash bulb and the golfer misses his shot. Stanley gets into trouble again when Novak sends him to the airport to retrieve a briefcase forgotten by an airplane pilot. Upon entering the airliner's cockpit, Stanley plays with the controls and soon is flying the plane and "buzzing" the hotel. A host of emergency services race to the runway for the inevitable crash-landing, but Stanley lands safely and nonchalantly walks away, whistling. Later, bell captain Nixon informs Bob that the bellboys are holding a meeting and Bob, fearing a strike, summons Novak. At the meeting, Stanley, fed up with the bickering, slams his hands down on the table. Before he can say anything, however, Novak storms in and accuses the innocent Stanley of being the ringleader. After Novak rebukes Stanley for his ingratitude and finally asks if he can talk, Stanley calmly replies that he can. When the astonished Novak then questions Stanley why no one has ever heard speak him before, Stanley states, "Because no one ever asked me."
Duke Art Jr.
H. S. Gump
John G. Morgan
Larry K. Nixon
B. S. Pully
Joe E. Ross
Ernest D. Glucksman
John [a.] Anderson
Robert [r.] Benton
George L. Cobb
A. D. Cook
John P. Fulton
Ernest D. Glucksman
William W. Gray
Bernard P. Keever
Edward R. Morse
Arthur P. Schmidt
Arthur P. Schmidt
Lewis' path to becoming a writer/director/producer/star began when Paramount's chief of production, Barney Balaban, wanted a Jerry Lewis comedy to release in the summer of 1960 and tried to push up the production schedule on Cinderfella (1960) from Paramount's planned Christmas release. Lewis was counting on a bigger buildup for Cinderfella, so he promised Balaban that he would make another movie for summer release. However it was already January and he was about to leave for a series of live appearances at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami. How could he get a comedy written and produced in time?
The only answer was to do everything himself. He would have to write it, direct it, star in it as well as pay for the film out of his own pocket. While performing at the Fontainebleau he stayed up eight days and nights pounding out the script. Casting about for a location, he thought, why not set the movie at the Fontainebleau? He wouldn't have to build sets, many of Lewis' performer friends would pass through for cameos, plus he would be far away from any interfering Hollywood types.
As if that were not enough risk, Lewis also decided to abandon a linear narrative and make the entire movie a loose series of sight gags, with a lead character who didn't speak, as a tribute to silent movie comedy. Why not? No comedian had done anything like this since the days of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. On February 8, cameras rolled and twenty-six days later the shooting was done. To help him direct as well as act, Lewis bought a video camera and put it alongside the main camera, allowing him to immediately judge set-up and action. This groundbreaking idea would, in a few years, be adopted by all filmmakers and become a Hollywood standard.
But in 1960, Hollywood insiders were sure of one thing, Jerry Lewis was going to fall right on his face with this silly, slapdash comedy he'd shot off the cuff. Paramount even tried to sneak it out to theaters; they were so sure the critics would destroy it. A depressed Lewis ran into director Billy Wilder who told him why the town was against him. "The only reason that they're talking is that they can't do it. And the thing they hate more than anything is that you're doing it and you're showing them they can't."
The naysayers were right about the critics. They slammed The Bellboy, but it didn't matter to the public. In Los Angeles the movie made $200,000 in its first week and in New York 141,000 moviegoers saw it within forty-eight hours of its premiere. Lewis' experiment became one of Paramount's biggest hits of the year, made Lewis a fortune and launched him on his filmmaking career.
Writer/director/producer: Jerry Lewis
Cinematography: Haskell B. Boggs
Art directors: Henry Bumstead, Hal Pereira
Music: Walter Scharf
Editor: Stanley E. Johnson
Cast: Jerry Lewis (Stanley the bellboy, Jerry Lewis the star), Alex Gerry (Manager), Bob Clayton (Bell Captain), Bill Richmond (Stan Laurel), Milton Berle (himself/bellboy), Max "Slapsie Maxie" Rosenbloom (Gangster).
by Brian Cady
The Bellboy on DVD
If The Bellboy was a low-budget rush job, the results are doubly impressive. Like no other Lewis movie, this plotless picture was marketed as "a series of silly sequences," with Lewis playing near-mute, trouble-prone bellhop Stanley. But another description might be "a gag machine."
Willfully ignoring most of the conventions of a comedy vehicle, like a romantic subplot or a sentimental back story, The Bellboy just wants to pile on as many gags as it can. Sometimes, the gags can be quick hits, like Stanley's struggle to get a bra to stay on a coat hanger or his emptying out of an old VW Beetle's trunk which, of course, includes the engine. Other times, they can be elaborately set-up and strikingly surreal. Just watch the sequence in which an obese woman checks into the hotel, slims down (played by a svelter actress) during her two-week stay because, as she says, she "kept away from the candy," and then balloons back to her old weight (and the original actress) in a matter of minutes, because smitten Stanley unknowingly slips her a box of chocolates as she waits for her car after checking out of the hotel.
That surreal streak delivers many of the funniest gags. Jerry Lewis himself arrives at the hotel, and a single shot captures his impossibly huge entourage piling out of the same limousine. But Lewis the writer-director doesn't leave the surrealism there. Some of the bellboys and hotel guest Milton Berle notice the resemblance between Lewis and Stanley, and soon we see there's another bellboy who's a Berle double.
The gags keep coming. There's Stanley caught in the middle of a bickering husband and wife (who find a common enemy in the unlucky bellboy), and getting the best of a wet sculpture in the hotel's art gallery (his mortified facial expressions are priceless). One of the best sequences finds Stanley manning the phones at the bell captain's desk. There are four, and whenever one rings, Stanley starts picking up handsets. But it's always the last one he gets to that's ringing, and it always stops just before he can grab it.
The Bellboy's repeated emphasis on timing, body language and facial expression is Lewis's tribute to the comedy of Charlie Chaplin and Laurel & Hardy. He pays obvious homage to Stan Laurel by having frequent writing partner Bill Richmond play a Laurel lookalike who traipses through the hotel from time to time, blithely interrupting Stanley's day. But the pantomime in The Bellboy mingles with a lot of noise, from ringing phones and arguing spouses to the rowdy antics of nightclub act The Novelites.
Paramount Home Video's DVD of The Bellboy has many extras, albeit poorly arranged. In Lewis's audio commentary, he rarely gets into the nuts and bolts of gags, though he talks more about the script's genesis and his recruitment of every comic he could find in Florida's nightclubs. As always, you have to leave room for creative license in Lewis's anecdotes. He recalls bankrolling the movie himself after Paramount balked-a decision the studio would regret-saying he overcame his lack of upfront money by giving all 185 crew members 1% of the profits. Fortunately, Jerry's a comic, not a mathematician.
The Bellboy disc includes three amusing gags deleted in editing, unfortunately placed in the reverse order they would have appeared in the movie. Meanwhile, a bonus clip that's labeled a blooper is really just an alternate take of a scene between Lewis and Berle (they crack up after the scene cuts) and another labeled "Jerry Receives a Letter from Stan Laurel" should be "Jerry Replies to a Letter from Stan Laurel" - it's the filmed response Lewis sent Laurel after the comic icon gave a favorable response to the Bellboy script Lewis sent him. Gaffes aside, this is a generous disc for one of Lewis's best comedies.
For more information about The Bellboy, visit Paramount Home Entertainment. To order The Bellboy, go to TCM Shopping.
by Paul Sherman
The Bellboy on DVD
Writer-director 'Lewis, Jerry' shot the movie in four weeks at Miami Beach's Fountainblau Hotel while he also was performing there. He edited it during his subsequent engagement in Las Vegas.
Director 'Lewis, Jerry' is credited with having created the video-assist technique for this film. At the time it was called "Closed Circuit Television Applied to Motion Pictures," for which he was awarded a patent.
Cinderfella (1960) was ready to be released that summer, but 'Jerry Lewis' wanted it to wait until Christmas, being a family-oriented film. Regardless, Paramount demanded a summer film, so Lewis shot this film in four weeks, directing himself because nobody else could do it as quickly as needed.
The film begins with Jack Kruschen, as fictional Paramount movie producer "Jack Emulsion," directly addressing the camera to tell the audience that they are going to see a "different" type of motion picture. After describing various kinds of movies such as romances and horror films, Emulsion explains that The Bellboy is "a series of silly sequences" or "a visual diary of a few weeks in the life of a real nut." Emulsion then yells at the projectionist to roll the film, which commences with various shots of Miami Beach, FL.
Over the scenic tour, off-screen narrator Walter Winchell describes the popular tourist destination and the Hotel Fontainebleau. Winchell asserts that it is the large staff who are the "backbone" of the hotel, and that the bellboys are the Fontainebleau's "real, unsung heroes." When Winchell says that while he calls them "men," most people just yell for the bellboy, Jerry Lewis pops up into the line of assembled bellboys and the title appears. As "Stanley" begins his duties, he enters a room and washes the large windows. Using his finger, he writes the credit "Starring Jerry Lewis" in the cleaning solution, and the rest of the credits then appear as if handwritten on the window. Lewis' main credit reads: "Written, Produced and Directed by Jerry Lewis."
At the end of the film, after Stanley has revealed why he never speaks, Winchell adds that the moral of the picture is a simple one: "You'll never know the next guy's story unless you ask." The film then ends with the following written statement: "This motion picture was filmed in the luxurious Fontainebleau Hotel, Miami Beach, Florida. We gratefully acknowledge the cooperation of the management. The Producer." The credit for "guest star" Joe Levitch [Jerry Lewis] is an inside joke, as Levitch is Lewis' real name. The picture features numerous gags in which characters speak to or look directly at the camera. In the sequence in which Stanley finds himself in a room filled with scantily clad models, he does a double take, then runs up to the camera and holds his hand over it to black out the scene. When the bellboys are enjoying a night out at a club, stripper "Rock Candy" comes onstage and the word "censored" appears superimposed over her until the scene fades to black.
The Bellboy marked the first film entirely directed by Lewis, who had directed some sequences in his earlier films. Although a February 1960 Daily Variety news item reported that the picture was based on "an original script penned" by Lewis in 1956, in various modern sources, including commentary on the film's 2004 DVD release, Lewis related that he conceived The Bellboy's story in 1960 during the drive from the Miami airport to the Fontainebleau, where he was to be performing. Contemporary articles add that production began just after Lewis had just finished the two-week stint at the Fontainebleau, and in modern sources, Lewis noted that he wrote most of the screenplay during his nightclub engagement and the rest was improvised during filming.
In a February 1960 New York Times article about the production, it was stated that the basis for the story was Lewis' youthful experiences while accompanying his father Danny, who was a popular vaudevillian. The article also indicated that Lewis had chosen to play Stanley as speechless "not necessarily from physical handicap," but because people often treated uniformed workers as "faceless and without identity." As described by Lewis in modern sources, The Bellboy was a tribute to his longtime hero, film comedian Stan Laurel. Not only was the lead character named after Laurel, but Laurel impersonator Bill Richmond periodically appears in the picture.
In modern sources, Lewis asserted that he wrote, directed, produced and supervised the editing and scoring of The Bellboy in record time because Paramount executive Barney Balaban desired to release his just-completed film CinderFella (see below) in the summer instead of at Christmas, as Lewis wanted. Lewis promised Balaban a "Jerry Lewis movie" for the summer and after supplying The Bellboy, was allowed to release CinderFella for the holidays. In reporting on The Bellboy's pre-production, a February 9, 1960 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that the film had been "greenlighted less than two weeks ago."
A February 1960 Hollywood Reporter news item stated that choreographer Nick Castle, who had gone to the Fontainebleau to stage Lewis' nightclub routine, stayed on to create the film's musical numbers. As reported by an April 1960 Hollywood Citizen-News article, Lewis drew the majority of his cast from a wide variety of entertainers, many of whom were appearing in Florida nightclubs at the time. According to contemporary reports, among Lewis' discoveries in Florida was Bob Clayton, a local television newscaster and weatherman who plays the main bell captain in the film. A February 24, 1960 Hollywood Reporter news item stated that Lewis was using nearly 1,400 people for one scene, and that he was utilizing "practically the entire staff of the hotel," including the maids, real bellboys, cooks and others.
According to studio records and contemporary news items, the number of the picture's "guest stars" was initially designed to be much larger, with appearances by Corinne Calvet, Henny Youngman, Ken Murray, Marie Wilson, Martha Raye, Myron Cohen, Louis Armstrong, Eartha Kitt, Diosa Costello, The Ink Spots, and Phyllis and Bennett Cerf. Joan Tabor was assigned the "leading femme role" according to a February 17, 1960 Hollywood Reporter news item, and while the Paramount Collection, located at the AMPAS Library, lists her role as that of a model, but she does not appear in the completed picture. Deleted scenes included in the film's DVD release show the sequences featuring Calvet as herself, being trailed by a long string of bellboys carrying her luggage. A February 24, 1960 item in Hollywood Reporter's "Rambling Reporter" column stated that Lewis was even attempting to get former president Harry S. Truman to make a cameo in the picture. The same column reported that Lewis had cast stripper Tee Tee Red, and it is possible that she appears as Rock Candy.
The DVD outtakes also contain footage of Lewis performing an extensive nightclub routine, which a June 1960 studio synopsis indicates was to have been included in the film as a performance by "Levitch." A routine by ventriloquist Rickie Layne, who often performed on The Ed Sullivan Show, as well as a "chimp routine" and performances by Harvey Stone, Joey Adams, The Dunhills and George Key were to be included, according to Hollywood Reporter news items and studio files. The April 1960 Hollywood Citizen-News article adds that Layne was to appear in a nightclub sequence in which he would use Stanley as his ventriloquist's dummy instead of his usual dummy, "Velvel."
Jack Keller, who appears in The Bellboy as the opponent of real-life golf pro Cary Middlecoff, played golf professionally for many years, and at the time of production, was Lewis' press agent. According to Lewis' DVD commentary, the gag with Stanley interrupting Middlecoff's putt with a flashbulb was based on a real incident that happened to Keller during his golf career. Although the golf announcer in the film was played by Bartley Shank, his voice was supplied by actor and voice-over artist Del Moore, who frequently appeared in Lewis' films.
Studio records reveal that Louis Y. Brown was originally signed to compose the film's musical score, but was replaced by Walter Scharf. Although a February 24, 1960 Hollywood Reporter news item announced that Milton Berle was "teaming" with Henry Tobias for a title tune called "Stanley the Bellboy," no such song appears in the picture, nor was used for exploitation purposes. As noted in the onscreen credits, the picture was almost entirely shot on location in Miami Beach, FL, at the Fontainebleau Hotel. According to the Paramount Collection, only the sequence featuring Jack Emulsion was shot at Paramount Studios. According to studio records, the picture was shot in twenty-six days, except for the prologue, and other Miami locations included the Flagler Race Track, the Bayshore Golf Club, the Miami Airport and the Miami Civic Auditorium.
The Paramount files report that technician Bruce Denny would be "handling the TV viewing device," described as "a rehearsal gimmick," during location shooting. The "gimmick" was the television assist, or video assist device, which was invented and patented by Lewis. In one modern interview, Lewis stated that he invented the apparatus in 1956 because he knew that eventually he would be directing himself and need monitors to critique his performance. The invention, which allows directors to see immediately on video and closed-circuit television monitors what is being captured by the film cameras, was used extensively for the first time on The Bellboy and has since become standard equipment throughout the motion picture and television industries.
Hollywood Reporter news items noted that after filming on The Bellboy was completed, Lewis left Miami for Las Vegas, where he was appearing at the Sands Hotel. Following a similar schedule to that in Miami, Lewis performed at night, then spent the days editing the film with equipment and assistants recruited from Hollywood. According to reports of Lewis' progress in Hollywood Reporter, it took the director less one month to assemble a rough cut of the picture.
Before the film's release, several Hollywood Reporter news items noted that it was being sold on a "blind bidding" basis, which meant that theater owners could not see the picture before bidding on it for exhibition. Paramount claimed a special exemption to the usual practices required by the U.S. Supreme Court's 1948 abolishment of block booking because The Bellboy's release date was set before post-production was completely finished. Although a number of exhibitors complained, according to a May 24, 1960 Hollywood Reporter news item, the U.S. Justice Department could not interfere as long as the studio applied the policy to every exhibitor who wished to acquire the picture.
Although The Bellboy was not well-received critically at the time of its release, with several reviewers unfavorably comparing Lewis to Charlie Chaplin, it was very successful at the box office. Contemporary sources credited Lewis' extensive promotion of the film with spurring its high grosses. According to Hollywood Reporter and Harrrison's Reports news items, Lewis promoted the picture in the New York City area by making personal appearances in twenty-one theaters in two days. The Bellboy has come to be regarded by modern critics as one of the highlights in Lewis' career as an actor and director.
In April 2003, Daily Variety reported that Lewis would be an executive producer on a remake of the picture, to be written by Kevin Bisch and produced by Gary Foster and Mark Steven Johnson for distribution through M-G-M. The article also noted that M-G-M had been developing the remake since 1997, with Jackie Chan set to star at one point, although he was no longer attached to the project. An earlier, 1998 Daily Variety item stated that Lewis would make an appearance in the remake. As of summer 2005, however, no remake of The Bellboy has been produced.
Released in United States Summer July 1960
Released in United States Summer July 1960