Knowing Jerry Lewis’ brand of humor, I’m not too sure what is supposed to be so funny about a gigantic Lewis about to vomit upon a group of young socialite girls like what that poster up there implies, but I’ll give the French and whoever else calls themselves a Jerry Lewis fan the benefit of the doubt… maybe. After The Nutty Professor showcased pretty much nothing other than Jerry Lewis acting as nerdy as he could be, I was hesitant about his other film on the list, and indeed, when The Ladies Man started, and featured Lewis without the “nerd” look but still with the grating voice and hyperactive mannerisms, I had to restrain myself from giving an audible groan. But, by the end, I had warmed to the film a little bit, even if it was only a little bit.
Lewis is Herbert H. Heebert (the H. stands for Herbert), a recent college grad who finds his girlfriend in the arms of another man, and thus swears off women forever. Unfortunately for him, he ends up in the wacky and hilarious situation (your experience may vary) of taking a job as a caretaker at an all-female boarding house, a situation that, once he finds out the truth, he repeatedly tries to excise himself from, only to be foiled by the tenants and the maid at every turn. Really, there’s no actual plot here, though there is a mighty small subplot involving one of the tenants growing fond of Herbert (naturally, who wouldn’t fall for a man who acts like that?). What The Ladies Man is is a set of gags spliced together in one location, or rather one set, as aside from the opening scenes, the entire boarding house is one gigantic constructed set, with one side missing so the camera can be mounted on a crane and look into virtually any room. It was one of the largest and most expensive sets ever built for a comedy up to then, and it is by far the film’s centerpiece more than anything. Thankfully, the film seems to know exactly what an asset it has in the set, as the cinematography (and even a few of the gags) make use of the multi-floor layout quite nicely. Unfortunately, the rest of the film has nothing but Lewis and his whiny-voiced wacky-man antics to lean on, and the comedy isn’t nearly as good as the direction in this one. That said, however, there were a few spots that I genuinely found funny, so that plus the mise en scene means the film isn’t a total waste.
I usually check out the consensus review sites to get a good overview of what others generally thought about a film after I’ve seen it. I don’t think I’ve seen a film with such a wide, mixed, and varied reception as The Ladies Man. For every 5-star rating, there is a 1 or 2-star to match it, with plenty of 3s and 4s in the middle; truly, the opinion one can have after seeing this film can, and will, be anything at all. So, with that, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that my opinion on this ended up being right where I suspected it would be before I started it; that Lewis’ style of comedy still wasn’t really my thing, for many of the same reasons I didn’t take to Lewis’ other list film. I did end up giving it a few points for what the film accomplishes with its set piece(s), and if you don’t take to Jerry Lewis like I don’t, that alone is still reason enough to watch this. But only barely.
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10