The Bellboy

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The Bellboy
Directed by Jerry Lewis
Written byJerry Lewis
Produced byJerry Lewis
StarringJerry Lewis
Narrated by Walter Winchell
Cinematography Haskell Boggs
Edited byStanley Johnson
Music by Walter Scharf
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date
  • July 20, 1960 (1960-07-20)
Running time
72 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$10 million
836,783 admissions (France) [1]

The Bellboy is a 1960 American comedy film written, produced, directed by and starring Jerry Lewis. It was released on July 20, 1960 by Paramount Pictures and marked Lewis's directorial debut.



In a prologue sequence, fictitious executive producer of Paramount Pictures Jack E. Mulcher introduces the film, explaining that it has no story and no plot. The film simply shows a few weeks in the life of a person Mulcher calls "a real nut." Mulcher breaks into hysterical laughter as the story begins.

Stanley the hotel bellhop finds himself in one ridiculous situation after another (by a series of blackout gags) while working at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach, Florida. Stanley does not speak until the last scene of the film, as he is always interrupted or silenced by another character.

Vignettes and gags

A voiceover narration states that while the film had no plot, it did have a moral: "You'll never know the next guy's story...unless you ask."



Principal photography took place from February 8 to March 5, 1960 and marked Jerry Lewis's debut as a director. Filming took place on location at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach, Florida. Lewis would film during the day and perform in the hotel's nightclub at night. [2]

Before he began, Lewis consulted his friend Stan Laurel, who had worked in silent films and was a master of English pantomime, for suggestions, though it is unknown whether Lewis used any of Laurel's ideas in the production. [3] Lewis may have paid homage to the Laurel by naming his character Stanley after him. A Laurel lookalike character also appears throughout the story, portrayed by writer and impressionist Bill Richmond.

The film marked the pioneering use of a video assist system, providing Lewis a way to see the action while appearing in a scene. [4] Milton Berle was in town performing at another hotel while Lewis was shooting the picture and agreed to make an appearance as himself and in a dual role as another bellboy. Professional golfer Cary Middlecoff, the "Golf Doctor," appears as himself at a golf tournament. Lewis also appears as a fictional version of himself, credited in the opening credits as Joe Levitch, his birth name).

The Bellboy came about after Paramount wanted a Lewis film for summer release in North America. Paramount wanted to release Cinderfella , which had finished shooting in December 1959, but Lewis wanted to hold back the release of Cinderfella until Christmas 1960. Paramount agreed to his terms if he could deliver another film for the summer release cycle. While playing an engagement in Miami Beach, Lewis devised a concept for a film that could be shot at the hotel during winter and delivered to Paramount by the summer release deadline.


Box office

The film grossed about $10 million in the U.S. alone. [5]

Critical response

Eugene Archer of The New York Times wrote that some parts of the film were "surprisingly successful" and that it was to Lewis' credit that "he has kept his energetic demeanor in reasonable check," to the point that some of his fans "may find the comedian disappointingly restrained." [6]

Variety stated: "Several of the sequences are amusing, but too many are dependent upon climactic sight gags anticipated well ahead of the punch ... There are latent elements of Charlie Chaplin's little tramp, Jacques Tati's 'Hulot,' Danny Kaye's 'Mitty' and Harpo Marx's curiously tender child-man, but the execution falls far short of such inspiration." [7]

John L. Scott of the Los Angeles Times commented that there were "some very laughable situations" in the film, adding, "Some gags don't come off too well, but there are so many that the poorer ones quickly get lost in the fast shuffle." [8]

The Monthly Film Bulletin reviewer wrote: "Too many scenes are both pointless and witless; sometimes the gag doesn't work, sometimes the direction is to blame. And Lewis's habit of ending each joke with a display of cross-eyed, simian mugging is scarcely endearing. Nevertheless, there remain some half-dozen moments of genuine comic invention." [9]

The film has a rating of 70% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 10 reviews, with an average rating of 6.89/10. [10]

Home media

This film was released on DVD on October 12, 2004 [11] and again on July 15, 2014 in a four-film collection titled 4 Film Favorites: Jerry Lewis, with The Ladies Man , The Errand Boy and The Patsy .

See also

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  1. Box office information for film at Box Office Story
  2. Goyanes, Ily (August 26, 2010). "Celluloid City: Jerry Lewis Is The Bellboy at the Fontainebleau Hotel". Retrieved 2013-10-08.
  3. Jerry Lewis At Work (included in the Paramount DVD release of The Nutty Professor
  4. Franich, Darren (October 6, 2013). "The Bellboy (1960)". Movie Tech Breakthroughs: 10 That Broke the Mold. Entertainment Weekly . Retrieved 2013-10-06. Lewis wanted to be able to look at scenes even when he was on screen. So he used primordial video technology, putting a video camera next to the film camera. This system became known as video playback and was basically used by everyone in Hollywood, before everyone in Hollywood stopped shooting on film.
  5. Lewis, Jerry; Gluck, Herb (1982). Jerry Lewis In Person . New York: Atheneum. p.  226. ISBN   0-689-11290-4.
  6. Archer, Eugene (July 21, 1960). "Screen: Double Feature". The New York Times . 17.
  7. "Film Reviews: The Bellboy". Variety . July 13, 1960. 6.
  8. Scott, John L. (July 7, 1960). "Lewis Plays Zany but Silent Bellboy". Los Angeles Times . Part IV, p. 8.
  9. "The Bellboy". The Monthly Film Bulletin . 27 (320): 123. September 1960.
  10. "The Bellboy". Rotten Tomatoes . Retrieved April 17, 2019.
  11. "The Bellboy: Review of the DVD Video". Retrieved 2013-10-08.
  12. Sachs, Ben (May 23, 2012). "Now playing: Battleship, which isn't quite terrible". Chicago Reader . Retrieved 2013-10-08.
  13. "The Bellboy". The Quentin Tarantino Archives Community. June 21, 2002. Retrieved 2013-10-08.