The Nutty Professor

The Nutty Professor
The Nutty Professor

Original theatrical poster
Directed by Jerry Lewis
Produced by Ernest D. Glucksman
Arthur P. Schmidt
Jerry Lewis
Screenplay by Jerry Lewis
Bill Richmond
Story by Robert Louis Stevenson
Starring Jerry Lewis
Stella Stevens
Del Moore
Kathleen Freeman
Music by Walter Scharf
Les Brown and His Band of Renown
Cinematography W. Wallace Kelley
Editing by John Woodcock
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date(s) June 4, 1963 (1963-06-04)
Running time 107 minutes
Country United States
Language English

The Nutty Professor is a 1963 Paramount Pictures science fiction comedy feature film produced, directed, co-written (with Bill Richmond) and starring Jerry Lewis. The score was composed by Walter Scharf.

In 2004, The Nutty Professor was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".



Professor Julius Kelp (Jerry Lewis), is a nerdy, unkempt, buck-toothed, introverted, accident prone, socially inept university professor whose experiments in the classroom laboratory are less than successful...and hilariously destructive. When a football-playing bully humiliates and assaults him, Kelp decides to "beef up" by joining a local gym. Kemp's failure to succeed in the gym prompts him to invent a serum that turns him into the handsome, extremely smooth, cool, and obnoxious girl-chasing hipster, Buddy Love. (Lewis said that the two represented good and evil.[1])

This new found persona gives him the confidence to pursue one of his students, Stella Purdy (Stella Stevens). Although she despises Love, she finds herself strangely attracted to him. Buddy wows the crowd with his jazzy, breezy musical delivery and cool demeanor at the Purple Pit, a nightclub where the students hang out. The formula wears off at inopportune times, often to Kelp's embarrassment.

Although Kelp knows that his alternate persona is an arrogant person, he cannot prevent himself from continually taking the formula as he enjoys the attention that Love receives. As Buddy performs at the annual student dance the formula starts to wear off. His real identity now revealed, Kelp gives an impassioned speech, admitting his mistakes and seeking forgiveness. Purdy meets Kelp backstage, and confesses that she prefers Kelp over Buddy Love.

The film ends with Kelp's formerly henpecked father choosing to market the formula (a copy of which Kelp had sent to his parent's home for safekeeping), endorsed by the strait-laced Dean of the college who proclaims, "It's a gasser!" Kelp's father makes a pitch to the chemistry class, and the students all rush forward to buy the new tonic. In the confusion Kelp and Purdy slip out of the class. Armed with a marriage license and two bottles of the formula, they elope.


Production notes

The Nutty Professor was filmed from October 9-December 17, 1962 and is a parody of Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

  • The basic characterisation of Professor Julius Kelp was a Lewis staple, having appeared earlier in 1958's Rock-A-Bye Baby, and basically identical characters would appear in 1965's The Family Jewels, and 1967's The Big Mouth.
  • Buddy Love is often interpreted as a lampoon of Lewis' former show business partner Dean Martin; however, Lewis has consistently denied this, including in his 1982 autobiography, and in a special documentary produced for the DVD release of the film, entitled The Nutty Professor, Making The Formula. On the DVD commentary Lewis speculates that he perhaps should have made Love more evil — since to his surprise more fan mail came for Love than the professor. Film critic Danny Peary has made the claim in his 1981 book Cult Movies that the character of Love is actually the real counterpart of Jerry Lewis.
  • The DVD of the film contains a long deleted scene in which Kelp's love interest is portrayed as a sultry siren whose choreographed, jaw-dropping entrance to the Purple Pit, accompanied by jazz music, is quite a contrast to the final edit in which she is portrayed as a smart but fairly unassuming college girl.
  • Another deleted scene on the DVD release features Lewis' son Gary.
  • Les Brown and his Band of Renown play themselves in the extended senior prom scenes.
  • Stella Stevens' colorful, often form-fitting, costumes (and the rest of the casts costumes as well) were designed by Edith Head.
  • Kelp has the initials "JFK" on his attache case and Howard Morris makes a remark about the ransom paid to Cuba for the Bay of Pigs Invasion survivors.
  • The Professor Johnathan I. Q. Frink, Jr. character from the animated television series The Simpsons loosely borrows much of his mannerisms and technique from Lewis's delivery of the Julius Kelp character, as well as the transition to a "Buddy Love" version of Frink in several episodes. In one episode, the character of Frink's father appears, and was voiced by guest star Lewis.
  • Lewis was credited as a producer of the 1996 remake with Eddie Murphy playing the role of Sherman Klump.
  • Walter Scharf's score makes extensive use of the Victor Young jazz standard Stella by Starlight including an upbeat version over the film's main titles. Paramount was the copyright holder of the theme from its original appearance in The Uninvited (1944).

Alaskan Polar Bear Heater

The Alaskan Polar Bear Heater is a cocktail featured in the film. Buddy Love instructs the bartender (Buddy Lester) on how to make it: two shots of vodka, a little rum, some bitters, a smidgen of vinegar, a shot of vermouth, a shot of gin, a little brandy, a lemon peel, orange peel, cherry, some more scotch. At one point during the instructions, the bartender quips "You going to drink this here, or are you going to take it home and rub it on your chest?"[2]

Love instructs the bartender to "mix it nice" and pour it into a tall glass. The bartender asks if he can take a sip; after doing so, he freezes like a statue. While the drink started as fictional, it is now listed among real drinks.[3][4][5]

Filming locations

The Nutty Professor was filmed mostly on the campus of Arizona State University (Tempe, AZ) in 1962.

Awards and honors

American Film Institute recognition

Home release

The Nutty Professor was released on DVD in October 2000. In October 2004 a "Special Edition" was released including a commentary by Lewis and Steve Lawrence, a documentary and a short feature. In the commentary Lewis discusses aspects of production, including his creating a real-time, on-camera monitor, which subsequently became standard in the film industry. He mentions that he recut the film for his own home viewing. He notes places where he would like to redo the scene, for example making the professor's watch sound tinny.


An animated direct-to-video sequel, The Nutty Professor starring Jerry Lewis and Drake Bell was released November 25, 2008. Directed by Paul Taylor, the film involves Julius Kelp's teenage grandson Harold Kelp discovering his grandfather's secret formula and unleashing his alter-ego. Lewis has for decades talked about doing a sequel and until now had to settle for the remake starring Eddie Murphy. Murphy did a sequel called Nutty Professor II: The Klumps.

Broadway musical

On June 29, 2009, the New York Times reported that a Broadway musical version of the movie is planned. Jerry Lewis is set to direct, with music by Marvin Hamlisch and lyrics and book by Rupert Holmes.[6]


Further reading

External links

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