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''The Nutty Professor'' might fall flat in France

The film’s predecessor, Jerry Lewis, has been forgotten overseas

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The Germans adore David Hasselhoff, the Japanese worship Alyssa Milano, and, in the most famous case of a foreign audience’s inexplicable love affair with a Hollywood star, the French can’t get enough of Jerry Lewis. So when The Nutty Professor, Eddie Murphy’s remake of the 1963 Lewis classic, opens in France Sept. 4, its success should be a foregone conclusion, right? Mais non. It seems the King of Comedy no longer has that certain je ne sais quoi Gallic audiences once found so enchanting. ”Jerry Lewis is no longer a star,” says Morad Koufane, a film-department attache at the French embassy in New York City. ”Everybody considers him…dead, I guess.” Knowing this, Universal has no plans to link Murphy’s Professor with its predecessor, released in France in 1963 under the title of Docteur Jerry et Mr. Love (the new film will be called Le Professeur Foldingue). ”This movie appeals to younger audiences who are not quite aware of the popularity of Jerry Lewis,” says Nadia Bronson, Universal’s executive vice president of international marketing. Is there any chance Professeur will be hurt by its origins? Not really, says Koufane. ”We’re not tired of [Lewis],” he points out. ”We forget him.”