Although his official debut as a filmmaker wouldn’t occur until The Bellboy in 1960, Jerry Lewis actually began directing movies soon after his arrival in Hollywood in 1949. Working with a group of close industry friends, Lewis wrote, photographed, and directed a series of 16mm films that pushed the definition of “home movies” to its limits, featuring synchronized sound, professional acting, and fully developed storylines.
Presented as “Gar-Ron Productions”—the name came from Jerry and Patti Lewis’s two oldest sons, Gary and Ron—these fledgling efforts featured the Lewis’s close friends Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis, Jerry’s screen partner Dean Martin, writers Harry Crane and Danny Arnold (later of Barney Miller fame), and a rotating cast of family members and Pacific Palisades neighbors. Made between 1951 and 1955, these neophyte works reveal an intuitive understanding of framing and cutting that would blossom with Lewis’s great feature films of the 1960s (a sampling of which are included here).
Newly preserved by the Library of Congress, these films are being shown here for the first time in their entirety.
Organized by Dave Kehr, Curator, Department of Film. Special thanks to Rob Stone, Moving Image Curator, The Library of Congress; Chris Lewis, American Wheelchair Mission; and Jamie Lee Curtis.