We gave it a B+
Martin & Lewis: Their Golden Age of Comedy, is essentially a collection of rarely seen kinescope clips from Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis’ earliest TV sketches and filmed excerpts from their nightclub act. Golden Age proves that Martin & Lewis really was the craziest, most spontaneous act of its day.
The chemistry was peculiar but perfect: No two men looked more dissimilar than Martin, the tall, handsome hipster-crooner, and Lewis, the scrawny, squeaky-voiced cutup. They sang, danced, and squabbled until their performances took on a surreal intensity. For example, I had long read about the way, in order to shut the chattering Lewis up, Martin used to reach over, stick four fingers into his partner’s mouth, grip Lewis’ lower jaw with his thumb, and literally yank the little fellow off his feet. Here you see that stunt, and it’s both hysterically funny and terrifying — how could Lewis’ mouth survive such blithe punishment?
The fabulous clips, however, are interspersed with new, awful interviews with Lewis at his most smug and condescending. ”Dean grew,” he says at one point, ”into a sharp, know-what-it’s-all-about guy very quickly”; gee, thanks, Jer. (Martin chose, wisely, not to participate in these bull sessions.) Why so much latter-day Lewis? He’s co-executive producer of the series. The first section of Golden Age aired last month, and the last, more maudlin chapter about the team’s break-up in 1956, entitled ”Jerry, Alone at the Top,” premieres July 19. B+