|Jerry Lewis, Stella Stevens, The Nutty Professor
When the Melbourne University Film Society committee decided to program Jerry’s The Nutty Professor (1963) who knew the bedlam it would cause. So much though that it lead to an attempted coup on the Committee by a full of himself student named John Helmer. The coup petered out at the MUFS AGM when a motion was accepted to allow all nominees for the committee to be elected by acclamation, thus conveniently allowing the office bearers to be decided by about fifty people and not the half dozen acolytes Helmer had rounded up to support him.
Helmer’s speech at the committee elections was all about the wrong directions MUFS was going down, Lewis being the prime example of bad taste, vulgarity and Hollywood crap. And he wasn’t funny anyway. Helmer also reserved some spleen for a director named Hank Lennon who had been the subject of a piece in Farrago, the uni newspaper, by Alan Finney the paper’s film critic and also then (and still) Lewis’s number one fan in the Southern hemisphere. Alan had written admiringly of Lennon’s two low budget masterpieces Clock Under the Stairs and Evolution of a Special Goop. The only problem for Helmer was that most people in the room knew that this article was one of those confidence tricks played on unsuspecting readers (and in this case, editors). There was no Hank Lennon. There was no Clock Under the Stairs. There was no Evolution of a Special Goop. Oh how the room chortled at this assertion of knowledge by someone who actually just wanted MUFS to go back to screening Eisenstein and Bergman.
Jerry was a controversialist from the moment he split with Dean Martin…especially in 1965 at MUFS…
Alan Finney writes:
As well as our MUFS screenings of Jerry’s films and our Reviews in ANNOTATIONS and MUFS publications, I contacted Jerry’s Agent and went to Sydney in 1971 when he appeared at the Chevron Hotel (See right) and he agreed for me to meet him which I did and spent almost three days accompanying him, including his appearance on the Thursday Night on the Bob Rogers Tonight Show.
(At right: Lewis at the Chevron in Sydney with show producer Ken Shadie. Photo from Ken Shadie's website)