You're Never Too Young

(Norman Taurog, USA, 1955)


Jerry Lewis remained so infantile for so long in films that, when he finally began to show visible signs of ageing on screen, it was like the end of a dream for his adoring fans – and also the start of a fascinating new phase for the star, marked by films including Arizona Dream (1993) and The King of Comedy (1982).

In his prime – both during his partnership with Dean Martin and in the brilliant first decade of his work as director of his own starring vehicles – Lewis embodied a particularly manic pop-culture fantasy: the irresponsible, irrepressible fool-child who could rule the world, and never grow up.

In this, Lewis was the forerunner of the sublime Pee-wee Herman (rather than the Peter Pan-driven Michael Jackson) – the first polymorphously perverse star, stranded somewhere between childhood and adulthood, able to insinuate strange intensities and suggestions into even the most saccharine and sentimental scenario.

You're Never Too Young – a remake of Billy Wilder's The Major and The Minor (1942) – is among the best of the Martin-Lewis films. With Lewis taking Ginger Rogers' part as an adult posing as an adolescent, it may displease purist admirers of the original. But it is brimming with outrageous possibilities and frantic physical gags – including an immortal follow-the-leader dance sequence which Rainer Werner Fassbinder ingeniously plundered for his bleak In a Year of 13 Moons (1978).

© Adrian Martin October 1990

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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