Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1982: Jerry Lewis in The King of Comedy

Jerry Lewis did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a BAFTA, for portraying Jerry Langford in The King of Comedy.

Jerry Lewis is perhaps best known for his wacky comedies like the Nutty Professor, but there's nothing wacky about his performance here. Lewis has said that he is essentially playing himself here and the parallels are quite obvious right down to the same first name. Langford though is a successful comic just as Lewis is, and Lewis even hosted a variety show in his career not unlike the show hosted by Langford. Langford has a dual contradictory nature in the film. The first side is that of the fantasies of the fame obsessed celebrity wannabe Rupert Pupkin (Robert De Niro) and the more sexually charged fame obsessed Masha (Sandra Bernhard). In this regard Langford is seen as he is seen on stage. We get the scenes of Langford doing his show where of course Lewis is particularly believable. This is not merely a given though and Lewis deserves credit for creating the scenes as the charismatic, somewhat sardonic talk show host, even if he has done the same thing in real life. A funny example but a good one for why this does deserve credit is if one watches Siskel & Ebert on I believe Sesame Street. They are both technically just doing their show with a slight twist but if you watch it Gene Siskel replicates that in a fictional setting in a natural way whereas Roger Ebert's performance is actually a little labored.

Lewis of course deserves credit anyway because technically he does his talk show manner more like Johnny Carson, where is his normal hosting method still was bit closer to his wacky onscreen persona. In addition though we get some more scenes of the fantasy where Pupkin dreams himself to be Langford's superior confidant. Lewis is good in fulfilling the false fantasy as he portrays this Langford as somewhat needy in the way that Pupkin is as he in reality. Outside of the fantasy though Lewis shows Langford in a far different light particularly in regards to his interactions with Pupkin. There is one particularly strong scene in the film where it shows Jerry walking around in downtown Manhattan where he is frequently spotted. Lewis is terrific in this scene, which included even real calls out to Lewis himself, as he shows the manner in which Langford must go about the normal routine of walking down the street while being so well known. Lewis is good in his body language as he portrays a slight hurry in his step in order to never quite be caught though while still having an ease in his manner. In his interactions Lewis is great in portraying a detachment as he always seems to stare somewhere else while still smiling, and trying to be friendly enough. Lewis presents the manner in which Langford tries to be as courteous as he should be well still maintaining a healthy distance, which unfortunately does get him into trouble. 

The worst person for Langford is Pupkin who refuses to leave him alone. It begins in a ride home where Pupkin keeps selling his right to be on Jerry's show. Lewis keeps that same general calm as he tries to get rid of Pupkin as calmly as he possibly can. This leads to problems though when Pupkin keeps hounding the staff of Jerry's show and eventually even goes to Jerry's home. The scene at Jerry's house is a great moment for Lewis as he shows rather bluntly that Langford now is fed up with Pupkin. Lewis actually manages to be a bit funny, in a purposefully painfully awkward scene, as he basically portrays such an intense rage in Jerry as he sees that a man's celebrity obsession has now even invaded his home. Lewis seems to suggest that Langford is about a step away from really hurting Pupkin but will keep it all pent inside as he struggles to calmly tell Pupkin to get out and never return. This naturally gets Langford kidnapped by Pupkin, so Pupkin and Masha can get what they want from him. Lewis again does well as he shows Langford just trying to calmly talk himself out of the situation. He effectively express the quiet fear in Langford as he attempts to keep Pupkin or Masha from hurting him. Lewis might actually be the cause of the funniest scene in the film which is when Pupkin forces Langford to deliver a message by cue cards. Lewis is hilariously deadpan, while staying true to his realistic depiction, in portraying Langford subdued exasperation as he tries to delicately explain Pupkin's mistakes with the cards. Lewis then is restricted to being taped to chair while Masha has a bizarre dinner with him and Pupkin gets to finally do his act on the show. Lewis does a great job of reflecting my own pained reaction at watching Sandra Bernhard's performance which properly culminates with him punching her out with a chance. Lewis only gets a single final reaction for Langford as he watches Pupkin's act. That's enough as the hate in his eyes sums up Langford's disgust at seeing Pupkin cheat his way to the top. Lewis does some very strong work in the film as he simply realistically portrays the reaction of a man in Langford's position and situation while managing to be naturally entertaining.

11 comments:

John Smith said...

Ratings and toughts on Pierce Brosnan in The Matador.

Kevin said...

1. Hauer
2. Rourke
3. Montolban
4. Lewis
5. Keaton

GM said...

Louis: Ratings and thoughts on Sandra Bernhard?

Anonymous said...

He would give her a 1, you can find his thoughts on her performance in the comments under Robert De Niro's performance's review in the same movie.

GM said...

Oh, thank you, I was missing it.

John Smith said...

Im sorry for bothering you all but i just wanted to anounce that for a couple of months ago i started a blog in which i review male performances in hindi cinema. Since i truly respect everyone on this blog i was wondering if any of you could take some time to read one of my reviews and give me some constructie criticism wich i could use if i decide to take the plunge and update the blog regualary.

Thank's in advance

John Smith said...

Link:

http://bestactorfilmfare.blogspot.se/

luke higham said...

John Smith: I'm not Louis, since I truly believe, he knows best out of anyone on the blog, but I would include an image of the actor's performance in the film, plus a rating in image form, as I feel more gratified seeing the Jack/Brennan on this blog than a rating shown in numerical form. I would suggest using an image of your favourite Hindi actor as your rating.

luke higham said...

John Smith: Or you could go a bit more simple and use a star rating.

John Smith said...

Those are good tips

Louis Morgan said...

John Smith:

Brosnan - 4(Technically might be a slight variation on his James Bond as he basically goes less suave but still has the same type of cool as the hired killer. In addition though he is rather funny in just portraying the nonchalance his character has in terms of job. Also when the film calls for his more emotional moments Brosnan delivers as well. A re-watch could possibly move him up for this actually)