Scen.: Jerry Lewis, Bill Richmond. F.: W. Wallace Kelley. M.: John Woodcock. Scgf.: Hal Pereira, Cary Odell. Mus.: David Raksin. Int.: Jerry Lewis (Stanley Belt), Everett Sloane (Caryl Fergusson), Ina Balin (Ellen Betz), Keenan Wynn (Harry Silver), Peter Lorre (Morgan Heywood), John Carradine (Bruce Alden), Phil Harris (Chic Wymore), Hans Conried (Dr. Mule-rrr), Phil Foster (Mayo Sloan), Richard Deacon (Sy Devore). Prod.: Ernest D. Glucksman per Patti Enterprises. 35mm. D.: 101’. Col.
I do not know how to show life in black-and-white. From birth to death, nosebleed to being hit by a blue Mercedes-Benz and buried in a green casket, life is in color. In one sense, there has never been a black-and-white picture. It comes out in shades of gray. […]
I have an inexpensive way of attempting to determine how colors will work. I buy different-colored handkerchiefs and put them together to see what jars my eye. It could turn out differently on the screen but that’s the gamble. Often, the director’s guess is just as good as the guess of the art director or cinematographer. […] I have seen art directors design sets, select the colors, and finally, while they are being painted, yell, “Pour more white. It’s too blue”. You wind up with a dumb blue, a pastel. Fear! It’s the hangover from Hollywood black-and-white days, days when all the rugs were tan and all the walls light-green. There are other rules. Murder mysteries should have somber colors! I think they need more color than comedies. By continually pushing it down, you wind up with washed-out color, sepias or halftones. Color is another part of the magic, the majesty of making films, and should be used that exact way.
Jerry Lewis, The Total Film-Maker, Random House, 1971
More than any other clown of his generation, Jerry was aware that the rules governing gags were in constant evolution. He experimented endlessly and passionately with new ways of expressing himself. […] In The Patsy he dealt with the very nature of comedy and made an entire film about the failure of the comedy process. […]
A famous actor dies in a plane crash. His managers decide to find a substitute in order to keep making money. They (randomly) choose a bellboy at a hotel – a good kid named Stanley who is rather clumsy and ridiculous – and train him in the art of laughter. Alas! He messes up every trick of the trade: he just doesn’t have the magic, the gift of comedy. […]
The Patsy is visually sumptuous: the study of color, the work of the talented director of photography Wallace Kelley, is a delight for its subtle aggressive modernity. At the end, in the movie’s very last images, Jerry himself, true to his background, ‘distances’ himself. He undoes part of the scenery and then walks off the set to show us the world behind the scenes with the movie cameras and crew: “The show’s over with, it was just a movie”. This last twist does not cover up the film’s seriousness. On the contrary, it tends to reveal it. Perhaps out of fear of revealing too much of himself, Jerry felt the need to play down the self-analysis. We will not copy him, of course: hats off to him. It is all brilliant.
Robert Benayoun, Bonjour Monsieur Lewis, Eric Losfeld, Paris 1972