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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Jerry Lewis & Filmmaking
by Betty Jo Tucker

Way back in the 1950s and 60s, I was an avid Jerry Lewis fan. I enjoyed watching his silly characters doing nonsensical things in movies like The Delicate Delinquent, The Nutty Professor and Cinderfella. It was great fun to see his slapstick comedy and to cheer him on. Ever since then, I’ve thought of Lewis as a comedy actor who became a big star.

Little did I know he was a total filmmaker behind the scenes. A “total” filmmaker does -- or knows about -- everything connected with the film he’s involved in. And thanks to Lewis’ wonderful book, The Total FilmMaker, now I know the breadth and depth of his commitment to every movie he made. He even invented a Video Assist which is attached to a camera in order for the director to see if everything looks right as the filming is being done.   

Thanks also to Lewis for sticking to comedies. Below is my favorite Lewis quote.

“Comedy, humor, call it what you may is often the difference between sanity and insanity, survival and disaster, even death. It’s man’s emotional safety valve.”  

Jerry Lewis loved filmmaking.

He taught a course without faking.

In every aspect you could name,

He gained respect and also fame.


His comedies made laughter roar.

Would Oscar folks open the door?

This book explains how he became

 TOTAL FilmMaker in the game.


While reading it, I thought I heard

Lewis himself in every word.

More than a star, he knew each part

of movie making and its art.    


With film lovers he shares all this

in a book you must not miss. 

The first edition of Lewis’ book was published in 1971. It included his lectures for a course at the University of Southern California Film School in 1966. This new edition adds remembrances from students, family members and movie folks like cinematographer Caleb Deschanel.  

Wannabe filmmakers will find expert tips and advice in all areas related to movie making. These areas are covered in three parts: Production, Post-Production and Comedy. People who love movies will discover fascinating information about Lewis’ ideas concerning actors, directing, writing, producing, editing, and much more. They should also enjoy the eleven pages showing Jerry Lewis as a total filmmaker!   

In his letter “To the Reader,” Jerry Lewis closes with the following paragraph.

“I think I love films and those that love them better than just about everything else in the world---and I hope when you read this book you will become a part of the already overwhelming number of film-loving people.”

As a confirmed movie addict, I highly recommend The Total FilmMaker for any Jerry Lewis fan, film buff, or film student.

(Foreword by Leonard Maltin, published by Michael Wiese Productions, and available on

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