Thursday, April 9, 2009
The Delicate Delinquent (1957, Don McGuire)
Jerry's solo premiere without Dean Martin is mostly a straight melodrama Jerry has been insterted into, except for one important scene that asserts his producer credit. At the lowest emotional point in the story, Jerry's would-be delinquent is all alone in the studio soundstage back alley and he sings a sad song about being alone. This is the obligatory sad clown moment which would become a standard of his Paramount auteured productions. Minor, forgotten auteur Don McGuire seems to have written the screenplay before Jerry was ever involved. Despite that there are many mildly humorous situations and even a couple of broadly farcical set pieces involving a nutty professor and a sumo wrestler, the dynamic between Darren "Kolchack" McGavin's gruff-but-kindly cop and Lewis is so well scripted and McGuire is so sincere in his drama about youth reform that you often forget the film is a comedy and start actually paying attention. Teenage crime waves were a very real thing in 1957, or at least a very real hysteria.
What's even more distracting from Jerry's burgeoning leading man status (McGavin carries the real weight here, and fairly well) is that all the principal actors are like McGavin; convincing studio players usually cast in dramas. Surprisingly effective is Robert Ivers, who never broke out in the movies despite this potential breakout role, as the young hood with it out for Jerry. This is a far cry from Lewis' later troupes of comic actors for all parts. His producing here seems to have been limited to the showstopping self-pity number and the hilarity of a Japanese businessman and sumo. Fortunately for us, he continued to move in that direction with age and confidence.