Enfant Terrible!

Jerry Lewis in American Film

274 pages

17 illustrations

November, 2002

ISBN: 9780814767061



Also available in


Cultural Studies


Murray Pomerance is Chair of the Department of Sociology at Ryerson University, whose edited volumes include Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls: Gender in Film at the End of the Twentieth Century, and Sugar, Spice and Everything Nice: Cinemas of Girlhood.

All books by Murray Pomerance

The one thing everybody knows about Jerry Lewis is that he is beloved by the French, those incomprehensible hedonistic strangers across the sea. The French understand him, while in the U.S. he is at best a riddle, not one of us. Lewis is someone we take profound pleasure in excluding, if not ridiculing.

Enfant Terrible! Jerry Lewis in American Film is the first comprehensive collection devoted to one of the most controversial and accomplished figures in twentieth-century American cinema. A veteran of virtually every form of show business, Lewis's performances onscreen and the motion pictures he has directed reveal significant filmmaking talents, and show him to be what he has called himself, a "total filmmaker." Yet his work has been frequently derided by American critics.

This book challenges that easy reading by taking a more careful look at Lewis's considerable body of work onscreen in 16 diverse and penetrating essays. Turning to such films asThe Nutty Professor, The Ladies Man, The King of Comedy, The Delicate Delinquent, Living It Up, The Errand Boy, The Disorderly Orderly, Arizona Dream, and The Geisha Boy, the contributors address topics ranging from Lewis's on- and offscreen performances, the representations of disability in his films, and the European obsession with Lewis, to his relationship with Dean Martin and Lewis's masculinity. Far from an out of control hysteric, Enfant Terrible! instead reveals Jerry Lewis to be a meticulous master of performance with a keen sense of American culture and the contemporary world.

Contributors include: Mikita Brottman, Scott Bukatman, David Desser, Leslie A. Fiedler, Craig Fischer, Lucy Fischer, Krin Gabbard, Barry Keith Grant, Andrew Horton, Susan Hunt, Frank Krutnik, Marcia Landy, Peter Lehman, Shawn Levy, Dana Polan, Murray Pomerance, and J. P. Telotte.


  • "A witty, provocative, and necessary re-evaluation of the phenomenon known as Jerry Lewis. I myself have loved and despised Jerry, often both at the same time; I needed this book to tell me why."

    —David Cronenberg

  • "These original, varied approaches are the heftiest appreciation of Lewis in English... Recommended."