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Jerry Lewis is Kreton, a childish alien who, against his teacher's will leaves his planet to visit the Earth, and lands in the backyard of a famous television journalist who doesn't believe in U.F.O's and aliens. Wanting to study humans but not able to fully understand them, Kreton makes a mess out of it, generating a lot of comic situations. Written by
Gore Vidal, who wrote the original play, was upset with the choice of Jerry Lewis as the lead in the movie version. On Broadway, Vidal's play ran for 388 performances between Feb 7, 1957 and Jan 11, 1958, and won Cyril Ritchard, originator of the Kreton character, a 1957 Tony Award nomination for Best Actor in Play. But Jerry Lewis was a star, twelve times named to the Top Ten list of Box Office Stars, six times with partner Dean Martin (with whom he was the top star of 1952), and six times solo (ranking as high as #3 in 1958). He got the part. See more »
Back in 1955 Gore Vidal wrote a television play that later went to Broadway for 388 performances and starred Cyril Ritchard and Eddie Mayehoff. It was meant to be a satire on McCarthyism with an alien miscalculating a visit to Earth's American Civil War and arriving in Virginia a century later. So what must he have thought when his Broadway play wound up a vehicle for Jerry Lewis. Not that it's a bad Jerry Lewis, not his best to be sure, but surely not what Vidal intended.
Jerry plays a most innocent alien with powers akin to what Ray Walston had in my favorite Martian. His people from way the other side of the galaxy have progressed to not only having powers beyond mortal men, but have dispensed with emotions. His people like his mentor John Williams are just below the Organians from Star Trek in that they still have corporeal bodies. Jerry wants to feel some earth like experiences so Williams gives him a chance.
He experiences emotions all right, but a little too much for one Visit To A Small Planet. How he copes with Earth and its Earthlings is for you watch the film for.
I can see that the characters that are played by the cynical Fred Clark and the excitable and paranoid Gale Gordon might have made great counterpoints for satire. But Jerry Lewis never has done satire and I doubt at his age he'll try it. Lee Patrick plays a role modeled on what she did as Leo G. Carroll's wife in the television version of Topper.
It's jealousy that does Jerry in, mainly the jealousy that Earl Holliman feels as his girl and Clark and Patrick's daughter Joan Blackman starts taking an interest in their outer space visitor. Truth be told I can't see what Blackman sees in Holliman's lunkhead character. Holliman must have felt ridiculous doing the part.
Best sequence in the film is Lewis and Blackman's visit to a beatnik joint and the impression he makes on all those cool cats. You'll get a chance to see ace drummer Buddy Rich in that scene and that should never be passed up.
Visit To A Small Planet is a decent enough Jerry Lewis film, but far from whatever Gore Vidal had in mind.
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