Swampy’s #Florida says Happy 91st Birthday to Jerry Lewis!
Jerry Lewis steps into his 90th birthday today and we have him to thank for a outstanding pictorial tour of The Fontainebleau hotel in Miami Beach, circa 1960. The Fontainebleu is the backdrop of Lewis’ film ‘The Bellboy’. An unplanned film that Lewis wrote while on a plane to Miami Beach to perform at the hotel.
Paramount Pictures was wrangling with Lewis over his film ‘The Ladies Man’ about when it would be shown in the theaters. Lewis pushed hard for a December 1960 release. Paramount pushed back and said they’d do it only if Lewis would deliver one of his contracted films to be shown in theaters the Summer of 1960. Lewis finds this out as he is on his way to The Fontainebleu to perform his club act for a few weeks in February & March of 1960. Such club shows usually doubled as a Florida vacation for performers to Florida. Not for Lewis.
Lewis immediately started constructing a film with a setting that he would be immediately nearest to – The Fontainebleu. Thus ‘The Bellboy’ was born.
As Lewis arrived at the Fontainebleu, he reached out and grabbed every comic,entertainer and model in the Miami area to create his “cast”. As members of The Borscht Belt had become part of the Miami Beach entertainment scene, many can be found in various roles throughout the film. TV icon Milton Berle was in the area doing his live act and found himself in the film. While writing, acting, directing,performing 2 shows a night, Lewis sent the script to legendary comedian Stan Laurel to look over. During the film a Stan Laurel look-a-like (Bill Richmond, aho died last year at 94) appears a number of times. Even Lewis’ character’s name is Stanley.
Because Lewis was directing and starring in the film, out of necessity he invented while filming The Bellboy a filming process that involves an actor/director being able to see what they are filming as they perform.
When Lewis arrived at The Fontainebleu he got the general manger to take him throughout the entire hotel.He did not want to miss a spot that could become a backdrop for the gags he was writing for the film. This tour led to Lewis using a bulk majority of the property in one form or the other.
It’s important to note, that with the exception of the opening scene with actor Jack Kruschen, the entire film was made at The Fontainebleu.
The result is a tour de force of what fans love most about Jerry Lewis.
For us Florida buffs, Lewis has cemented forever a view of The Fontainbleu that no other has done. A hotel that has now had most of the interior entirely rebuilt from it’s famous interior look. Of course, Lewis never intended to create a piece for Florida historians to pour over,but we are so very grateful he did!