Saturday, July 11, 2009

Point for discussion

Why is Peter Sellers considered a genius, but Jerry Lewis is much more denigrated?

TCM is showing The Mouse That Roared tonight at 8:00 PM ET as part of The Essentials, which stars Sellers as the leader of a tiny country that takes on the US, in the hopes that it will lose a war and get development aid. Sellers' movies, and his physical comedy, bet a lot of praise; notably something like Dr. Strangelove.

Jerry Lewis, on the other hand, is treated as somehow dismissible, with the like being that "the French love Jerry Lewis", with the obvious implication that the French are just different and somehow weird. However, I don't see the difference between the manic gestures of Sellers at the end of Dr. Strangelove, or any of Lewis' physical comedy in, say, The Bellboy.

I suppose it can be said that some of Sellers' work is political satire and not just entertainment, and that this would explain why those movies get praised. But, at the same time, Sellers' Pink Panther movies are nothing more than light entertainment (they're good, but there's nothing deep about them), just as light as the movies Jerry Lewis made with Dean Martin.

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