“We can’t lose with Jerry Lewis at the Oscars next Sunday,” Chicago Tribune critic Michael Phillips wrote today. “Like the clashing personalities showcased in Lewis’ greatest film, two scenarios present themselves.
“Scenario 1: The perpetually divisive screen icon takes a gracious pill and accepts the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award with his own brand of charm, plus a couple of inoffensive jokes, steering clear of any references to ‘broads’ or homosexuals or his ‘kids.’
“Scenario 2: Lewis forgoes the gracious pill. He seizes the moment. And he tells the Academy how he really feels about never having been nominated for a regular Oscar.
“The 82-year-old writer, producer, director and star will no doubt be greeted by one of those ‘waves of love’ moments Lewis once referred to, on his old talk show, describing how audiences flood him with adoration.
“But Lewis was never recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for any of his efforts in, well, motion picture arts or sciences. (Lewis patented the video-assist playback system, which he first used on The Bellboy in 1960.)
“Part of it relates to the age-old prejudice against comedy. Robert Downey Jr.’s supporting actor Oscar nod for Tropic Thunder is a gratifying exception to the rule. But I’m here to tell you: This is a matter of the wrong statuette for the right guy. Lewis should’ve won an Oscar a long time ago.
“1964, to be exact. That year, the Oscars recognized the screen achievements of 1963, and in 1963 Lewis released his masterwork, The Nutty Professor.”
I respect Lewis’s Professor but I’ve always been a bigger Bellboy fan.