It’s Only Money (1962) – Film Review
Director: Frank Tashlin
Cast: Jerry Lewis, Joan O’Brien, Zachary Scott
By Sarah Morgan
My Grandma always used to tell me, “if you can’t think of anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
Wise words perhaps, but they can can be difficult to adhere to when you’re a critic – especially when confronted with a film like It’s Only Money.
I’ve got to admit, the only Jerry Lewis film I’d ever seen prior to this is King of Comedy, Martin Scorsese’s brilliant satire in which he delivers a fine dramatic performance as the object of a disturbed fan’s obsession.
I knew, of course, about Lewis’s partnership with Dean Martin and his solo cinematic career, but hadn’t bothered to watch any of his movies, having been put off by various people who told me they were pretty terrible.
Nevertheless, I thought maybe it was time to make up my own mind. It turns out the naysayers were right – at least if It’s Only Money is anything to go by.
It’s a fairly humdrum tale with a well-worn premise involving Lester, a lowly TV repairman who, while supposedly helping his hero, a private eye, find the heir to a fortune, discovers that he, in fact, is the dead man’s long-lost son. Unfortunately, various folk have their own designs on the money, so set about trying to put a stop to his claim, via foul means rather than fair.
John Fenton Murray’s script is pretty mundane, but the main problem is Lewis himself. His constant mugging for the camera is just plain annoying. Lester also supposedly wins the heart of his ageing aunt’s nurse, but you have to wonder about the young woman’s sanity. Why would she fall for this ridiculous man-child? Clearly she doesn’t mind the idea of spending the rest of her life with a man who’s constantly clumsy, rolls his eyes a lot and gurns for no good reason.
“Few high points”
The rest of the cast are only there to provide Lewis with something to do, which is a shame because Jack Weston, who plays a dastardly butler, was a seasoned veteran by this point who certainly deserved better – his brief moments in the film are its few high points.
It perhaps comes as no surprise to find that the movie was directed by Frank Tashlin. He worked with Lewis a number of times, both before and after this, but is perhaps best remembered as an animator for his work on the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series. It’s Only Money plays like a live action cartoon – but in an irritating rather than a good way. Actually, it would be interesting to see it as an animated feature – perhaps it would be better.
It’s unlikely the film will turn any newcomers into Lewis fans, but it might appeal to any undemanding five-year-olds out there. And that’s about the nicest thing I can think to say about it.