Created by John Fenton Murray
“Nay, hence, and get outta there.”
— Lester speaks
Somebody make it stop!
While there have been any number of miscast or just surprising actors slotted to play private eyes, their performances careening wildly from inspired to simply head-scratching, surely one of the most painful to watch is uber-dweeb Jerry Lewis in It’s Only Money (1962), playing LESTER MARCH, a 25-year-old electronics whiz and TV repairman whose big passion in life is detective novels, and who fantasizes (of course) about becoming a hard-boiled private dick himself. And then he gets his chance.
It’s a scenario (with a nod to Don Quixote) that’s been played out in the Shamus Game numerous times, from Bob Hope’s My Favorite Brunette to Mark Schorr’s Red Diamond series,
It’s doesn’t help that the naive, socially awkward schmuck’s best friend (and idol) is schlubby, middle-aged Pete Flint, a real private eye.
Then these two yahoos catch a TV show about a wealthy dingbat, Cecilia Albright, who is offering a $100,000 reward to anyone who can locate her long-lost nephew, who’s due to inherit a truckload of money. Visions of a big score begin to dance in their noggins.
But wouldn’t you know it? People begin to notice that Lester is, coincidentally, a perfect match for the missing doofus!
Filmed in black and white, presumably to suggest noir (and maybe to save money), there are several spot-on spoofs of the P.I. genre early on that fans should get a kick out of, like the books Jerry mentions (Kiss the Blood Off My Neck, The Case of the Homicidal Homing Pigeon and The Bullet-Proof Bikini), or the fact that the butler is president of the local chapter of the Peter Lorre fan club. The actual plot, though, is a bit of a letdown, a generic romp featuring a gimmick-loaded mansion to bump around in, a crooked lawyer, a butler who may have done it, greedy relatives, plenty of slap schtick and pratfalls, automated lawnmowers and the family’s attractive private nurse for Lester to go gaga over.
Hilarity allegedly ensues, but you’d have to be a bigger Jerry Lewis fan than me to spot it.
- IT’S ONLY MONEY | Buy the DVD | Buy the Blu-Ray | Watch it now!
Black & white
Premiere: November 21, 1962
Written by John Fenton Murray
Directed by Frank Tashlin
Produced by Paul Jones
Cinematography W. Wallace Kelley
Music by Walter Scharf
Starring Jerry Lewis as LESTER MARCH
Jesse White as Pete Flint
Joan O’Brien as Wanda
and Zachary Scott as Gregory DeWitt
Also starring Jack Weston, Mae Questel, Francine York, Barbara Pepper
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.