The French Love Jerry, He Loves Their Sandwich
You could even say he hams it up!
Friday was Jerry Lewis’ 86th birthday, and J. Hoberman has the go-to take on this ultimate tummler’s eternal battle, as Hoberman has it, between superego and id: “The specter of sexually errant Jewish womanhood was raised again when an elderly gent, evidently familiar with the Borscht Belt antics of Lewis’s parents, praised the musicianship of Jerry’s mother. ‘Yes—and she was a hooker at night!’ his dybbuk squawked without missing a beat. What would Dr. Menninger say about that?”
But no discussion of Lewis is truly complete without taking note of French cinephiles’ adoration for him. Several of New York City’s top French chefs, including Daniel Boulud and Joël Robuchon, got together to make Lewis his favorite sandwich, adorning it with French flags. Lewis’ favorite sandwich? A jambon-beurre: ham. (Bad Jerry!) Last night I decided to ask The New Yorker‘s cine- and Francophilic film critic Richard Brody: whence all the French love for this son of Newark named Joseph Levitch? “The French adore Jerry Lewis because he’s great,” Brody responded. “More specifically, because he’s great as a director and actor, and they’ve always been sensitive to cinematic artistry, especially in the fifties and sixties, via the Cahiers critics-turned-New-Wave and their younger acolytes; don’t forget, they also loved Alfred Hitchcock when he was considered a mere showman here, and Nicholas Ray and Samuel Fuller when they were treated like less than nobodies here; and they also didn’t have any extraneous associations with Jerry Lewis from other areas of pop culture (though it probably wouldn’t have mattered if they did).” Or, as Boulud put it, “The French just adore Jerry, almost as much as they love jambon-beurre.”
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