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Movie Poster of the Week: The Posters of Jerry Lewis

On the eve of his 90th birthday, our favorite international posters for our favorite goofball auteur.
Above: Danish poster for Geisha Boy (Frank Tashlin, USA, 1958).
On March 16 Jerry Lewis turns 90 years old, making him one of the oldest living great filmmakers along with Jonas Mekas (93), Seijun Suzuki (92), Stanley Donen (91), D.A. Pennebaker (90), Claude Lanzmann (90) and Andrzej Wajda (90). And if you have any doubt about his status as one of the great auteurs go and see any of the films he directed at Museum of Modern Art's’s current retrospective: Happy Birthday, Mr. Lewis: The Kid Turns 90.
To flip through the films of Jerry Lewis in poster form is to encounter an awful lot of crossed eyes, toothy grins and outsized heads on small bodies (a familiar trope for comedians in movie posters whether it's Fernandel or Cantinflas or Buster Keaton.) That said, Lewis also seems to have inspired illustrators around the world. The French love Jerry Lewis, as the cliché goes, but so, it seemed, did the Germans, the Italians, the Scandinavians and the Japanese, and I have found a number of rather beautiful and inventive posters from all those parts of the world. (I have not, however, found a single Jerry Lewis poster from Poland or Czechoslovakia; perhaps the anarchy perpetrated by Lewis was deemed too subversive for Eastern Bloc audiences.)
Below I’ve collected 25 of my favorite international posters for Lewis’s films. Though he has acted in films for over 65 years, from 1949 until the present day, his best posters all fall into a fifteen year stretch from 1953 to 1968. The earlier Martin and Lewis posters don't tend to highlight Jerry (though some of the international Martin and Lewis posters go in the opposite direction and omit Dean entirely) and the posters past 1968, after the golden age of movie poster illustration, tend to be much less interesting.
In one instance, in 1960, Lewis became personally involved in movie poster design. As the producer of Cinderfella (which Frank Tashlin directed), Lewis insisted on hiring the great illustrator Norman Rockwell, who had illustrated very few movie posters during his career. In an interview with Heritage Auctions, which is currently selling the original artwork from Lewis’s collection, he recounts how he told studio executives that “'This is going to be a tribute to Rockwell, my respect for the man, and I’m to take his work and make it the entire ad campaign.’ . . . It was very successful. We figured the picture would gross about $7 million domestic. The minute we put Rockwell’s name to it, the figure became $16 million.... My whole idea was to get an icon in the world of art and have that icon sell the movie for me. . . . And Rockwell brought that. That's what he brought.” You can see the whole interview here and place a bid on the artwork (estimated at $300,000 to $500,000).
Above: 1964 German re-release poster for The Caddy (Norman Taurog, USA, 1953).
Above: Japanese poster for The Caddy (Norman Taurog, USA, 1953).
Above: French poster for Scared Stiff (George Marshall, USA, 1953). Artist: Boris Grinsson.
Above: US half-sheet for Living It Up (Norman Taurog, USA, 1954).
Above: 1970s re-release French grande for Artists and Models (Frank Tashlin, USA, 1955). Artist: Clément Hurel.
Above: German poster for Hollywood or Bust (Frank Tashlin, USA, 1956).
Above: 1975 German re-release poster for The Sad Sack (George Marshall, USA, 1957).
Above: US poster for The Bellboy (Jerry Lewis, USA, 1960).
Above: US poster for Cinderfella (Frank Tashlin, USA, 1960). Artist: Norman Rockwell.
Above: German poster for The Ladies Man (Jerry Lewis, USA, 1961).
Above: German poster for It’s Only Money (Frank Tashlin, USA, 1962).
Above: Italian poster for It’s Only Money (Frank Tashlin, USA, 1962). Artist: C. Tim.
Above: French poster for The Nutty Professor (Jerry Lewis, USA, 1963).
Above: German poster for The Nutty Professor (Jerry Lewis, USA, 1963). Artist: Lutz Peltzer.
Above: Italian poster for The Nutty Professor (Jerry Lewis, USA, 1963). Artist: C. Tim.
Above: French poster for The Disorderly Orderly (Frank Tashlin, USA, 1964). Artist: Boris Grinsson.
Above: German poster for The Disorderly Orderly (Frank Tashlin, USA, 1964). Artist: Lutz Peltzer.
Above: Japanese poster for The Disorderly Orderly (Frank Tashlin, USA, 1964).
Above: Danish poster for The Patsy (Jerry Lewis, USA, 1964).
Above: Spanish poster for The Patsy (Jerry Lewis, USA, 1964). Artist: Wila.
Above: US one sheet for The Family Jewels (Jerry Lewis, USA, 1965).
Above: Japanese poster for Way...Way Out (Gordon Douglas, USA, 1966).
Above: US one sheet for The Big Mouth (Jerry Lewis, USA, 1967).
Above: US one sheet for Don’t Raise the Bridge, Lower the River (Jerry Paris, USA, 1965).
Posters courtesy of Heritage Auctions and Kino Art.

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