Retro-Review: THE NUTTY PROFESSOR (1963)

I was going through some random list of movies I had the other day. The Nutty Professor (1963) popped up and I hadn’t seen it in years. I decided I wanted to see it again. My old man loved Jerry Lewis and had shown it to me as a kid. I remember laughing with him at the slap-stick comedy.

The original Nutty Professor was made in 1963 and starred Jerry Lewis, Stella Stevens, Del Moore, Kathleen Freeman, Buddy Lester, and Henry Gibson. Lewis directed and co-wrote with Bill Richmond. You know the plot:

A timid chemistry teacher discovers a magical potion that can transform him into a suave and handsome womanizer.

There’s no point in going into detail about the story. If you don’t know this version, I’m sure you know all about the Eddie Murphy remake from 1996.

Comic Genius?

The main focus of The Nutty Professor is Jerry Lewis. A big movie star from the 1960s, he was known for his slap-stick, zany comedy. I also know he’s not to everyone’s taste, some find him hilarious, and some just find him annoying.


As a kid, I never paid much attention to who directed a movie, so putting on The Nutty Professor, I didn’t realise it was Lewis who directed it as well as starring in it. He directed over 20 movies, in most of which he played the lead.

I don’t like to call myself a critic, but I do watch movies now with a more critical eye than I used to. One thing I noticed on my revisit to The Nutty Professor was just how well it was directed. Lewis had a very good eye for shots and could get creative without going overboard. It was also nice to see long takes, with no quick cuts and pointless back and forth from the camera. Some of the scenes were very long, and very complex. They are handled very well. I was very impressed.

Jerry Lewis is a very accomplished actor. He’s known for the slapstick, but the moments where Kelp would start to try and escape from Buddy Love were really well done. He could switch from one character to another in a heartbeat.

Far From Perfect

The Nutty Professor is far from perfect though. There are some truly great comic moments, but there is also some bad acting and cheesy jokes that don’t land and are morally questionable.

Kelp likes one of his students, Stella Purdy, played by Stevens, and pursues her as Buddy Love. I say this is morally questionable, thankfully Ms Purdy looked about 30. In fact, she was 25 when the movie was made. It turns out Lewis and Stevens started an affair while filming that lasted 2 years.


The rest of the “students” at the high school where Kep teaches aren’t exactly spring chickens. Do you remember in Grease and how the teenagers are all in their 30s? It was the same thing in The Nutty Professor, the combined age of a class of 20 students must have been totaling over 500 years.

This is one of those things that you don’t mind, though, as the focus is on Lewis and his performances as Kep and Love. Kep is the lovable idiot and Love is the obnoxious alter ego. It is widely believed that Love was a satirical swipe and Lewis’ long-time comedy partner, Dean Martin.


I was a little dubious going in to The Nutty Professor again, remembering what fond memories I had of it. However, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I laughed at it and what a stupid, but fun movie it is. Lewis is a very funny man and an accomplished director.

I had forgotten the scene where Kelp changes into Love for the first time. It’s pretty scary the first time you see it and, as a 7-year-old, I recall it gave me nightmares for a while after seeing it. Something I had blocked out until this revisit.


The Nutty Professor is a silly movie, but thoroughly entertaining. I’m glad I saw it again.


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