PAUSE IT: What do you see? Legendary slapstick comedian Jerry Lewis hangs high above the New York City streets … or does he? In this still taken from Director Frank Tashlin’s Who’s Minding The Store? (1963), a bit of hijinks is afoot. As Lewis’s hands begin to slip, we gasp at the potential for danger and the tragic fate that might come to our hero. Yet, take a closer look. What may first seem a death defying maneuver is soon revealed to be a bit of Old Hollywood movie magic. While it may appear as though Lewis is precariously hanging several stories above the pavement, what we are actually witnessing is the in-camera photographic technique of rear projection. Rear projection is the process whereby live-action foreground shots are merged with pre-filmed, screen projected, background shots. When done correctly, the produced effect gives the appearance that the two separate planes of the image are occupying the same time and space dimension. Though Lewis gives an hilarious performance as he wiggles and squirms, in all likelihood this scene was film in the safety of a Hollywood studio. Lewis is probably no more than a couple harmless feet off the ground. Nevertheless, our eyes, in an effort to want to make sense of the events we are seeing, trick our brains into believing the illusion and prove that sometimes the best comedy can also be safe.
Who’s Minding The Store (1963)
Director: Frank Tashlin
Cast: Jerry Lewis, Jill St. John, Ray Walston, Agnes Moorehead, John McGiver, Nancy Kulp
Director of Photography: W. Wallace Kelley
Available From Olive Films on DVD and Blu-ray.
April 20, 2017