Growing up in Allentown in the 1960s and '70s, Gregg Barson was a Jerry Lewis fanatic. It was the era before TIVO and DVDs, so the Lehighton native had to plan his life around TV screenings of the old Martin and Lewis movies as well as Lewis' annual Muscular Dystrophy telethons.
About four decades later, Barson got the opportunity to pay tribute to his childhood idol with Method To The Madness Of Jerry Lewis (2012, Anchor Bay, unrated, $20), a terrific two-hour documentary that originally aired on the Starz network and has just been released on DVD by Anchor Bay.
Barson's movie toggles seamlessly between vintage film clips and scores of interviews with both Lewis and Lewis devotees, including Quentin Tarantino, Billy Crystal, Jerry Seinfeld, Eddie Murphy and Steven Spielberg. While Method doesn't include any information about the comedian's private life, it delves deep into his directorial career, making a case for Lewis as a filmmaker who deserves a place in the comedy pantheon alongside Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton.
Some of Lewis' best friends were Hollywood heavy-hitters. It was the great Billy Wilder (Some Like It Hot) who convinced Lewis that he should forget about hiring a director and step behind the camera himself.
Another piece of invaluable advice came from the Wilkes-Barre-born filmmaker Joseph Mankiewicz, who advised Lewis that the key to success was running a fun film set.
As Lewis tells it, he took Mankiewicz's words to heart and installed bleachers on the soundstages where he worked so fans could come and laugh along.
Method is chock full of interesting tidbits like that. It's a must for Jerry fans.
Amy Longsdorf writes about DVD and Blu-Ray releases with local connections.