The Disorderly Orderly (1964)

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The legendary Jerry Lewis brings his antics to the medical field in this hilarious classic that does have bits of serious drama but ends with a chase scene that only Lewis could be capable of dishing out.

Jerome Littlefield is a former medical school student who due to a condition finds himself working at a sanitarium. He tries too hard and his constant troubles seem to incur the wrath of head nurse Miss Higgins. However, Dr. Howard, who is in charge of the place, will not fire Jerome and actually has a liking to him due to the fact that she was in love with her father many years ago. Jerome has a girlfriend, Julie, who also works at the sanitarium and despite Jerome’s setbacks, she still loves him.

One day, a young woman arrives at the sanitarium, the victim of an attempted suicide. When Jerome sees the patient, he instantly recognizes her. She is Susan Andrews, a young woman who Jerome had a major crush on in high school, but never had the guts to tell her how he felt. Jerome has learned that Susan was married but had learned her husband cheated on her and she wanted to end her life as she found no love. While Jerome does whatever he can to cheer up Susan, things don’t go as planned, and in the midst of everything, he loses Julie and jeopardizes his position when the director of the board plans to fire him. Will Jerome be able to make everything work out before it’s too late?

Jerry Lewis was a comic genius for his time, using slapstick humor to appease the fans. After the successful Nutty Professor in 1963, Lewis follows it up with this funny tale of an orderly who not only tries too hard but suffers from a condition that causes him to emphasize with the patients of the sanitarium he works in. This is evident in one of the funniest scenes of the film, in which a patient named Mrs. Fuzzyby, explains to others her ailments and Lewis reacts in his trademark comic style that perhaps no one in today’s age can pull it off.

Glenda Farrell brings a sense of warmth to Lewis’ Jerome as his boss, who out of respect for her love of his father, won’t fire Jerome but tries to motivate him consistently while Karen Sharpe plays Julie, Jerome’s girlfriend who despite her misgivings about his antics, still loves him. Kathleen Freeman provides the perfect counterpart to Lewis in the film as head nurse Miss Higgins. Freeman uses her overpowering voice as a means to show Jerome that he has incurred her wrath and brings a lot of comic expressions during a meeting between Jerome, Miss Higgins, and Dr. Howard.

Susan Oliver brings more of a dramatic effect to the film as Susan Andrews, Jerome’s crush who was betrayed by love and decided to kill herself only to end up at the sanitarium. Susan dislikes virtually everyone, including Jerome for his antics. Jerome tries to show he cares, yet as he puts it in the film, “he loves them, but they hate him back” and that couldn’t be more true when it comes to Susan. Everett Sloane’s Dr. Tuffington is the authoritative figure who puts Jerome’s job on the line due to his antics and it is their first encounter that leads to another classic Lewis scene where he mocks the guy and ends up on fire…in a literal sense.

The Disorderly Orderly is a fun Jerry Lewis vehicle that has beats of more drama but altogether, it shows how much Lewis is loved even if his character of Jerome says differently. The classic slapstick is there and its still fun to watch.

WFG RATING: A-

A Paramount Pictures Release. Director: Frank Tashlin. Producer: Paul Jones. Writers: Frank Tashlin; story by Norm Liebmann and Ed Haas. Cinematography: W. Wallace Kenney. Editing: John Woodcock.

Cast: Jerry Lewis, Glenda Farrell, Karen Sharpe, Susan Oliver, Kathleen Freeman, Everett Sloane, Del Moore.

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