The Nutty Professor (1963 film)

The Nutty Professor is a 1963 American comic science fiction film directed, co-written (with Bill Richmond) by, and starring, Jerry Lewis. The score was composed by Walter Scharf. The film is a parody of Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

The Nutty Professor
Original theatrical poster
Directed byJerry Lewis
Produced byErnest D. Glucksman
Arthur P. Schmidt
Screenplay byJerry Lewis
Bill Richmond
StarringJerry Lewis
Stella Stevens
Del Moore
Kathleen Freeman
Music byWalter Scharf
CinematographyW. Wallace Kelley
Edited byJohn Woodcock
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • June 4, 1963 (1963-06-04)
Running time
107 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Box office$19,000,000[3]

The Nutty Professor has been described as perhaps the finest and most memorable film of Lewis's career.[4] 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".

A remake was released in 1996, starring Eddie Murphy and Jada Pinkett-Smith, directed by Tom Shadyac. a sequel, Nutty Professor II: The Klumps, followed in 2000, and an animated sequel to the 1963 film was released in 2008. Lewis directed a musical theatre version in 2012.


Professor Julius Kelp is a nerdy, scruffy, buck-toothed, accident-prone, socially awkward university professor whose experiments in the classroom laboratory are unsuccessful and highly destructive. When a football-playing bully embarrasses and attacks him, Kelp decides to "beef up" by joining a local gym. Kelp's lack of physical strength leads him to seek a solution in his specialty of chemistry. He invents a serum that turns him into Buddy Love: a handsome, suave, charming and brash girl-chasing hipster.

This new personality gives him the self-confidence to pursue one of his students, Stella Purdy. Although she resents Love, she finds herself strangely attracted to him. Buddy wows the crowd with his jazzy, breezy musical delivery and poised demeanor at the Purple Pit, a nightclub where the students hang out. He also mocks a bartender and waitress and punches a student. The formula wears off at inopportune times, often to Kelp's humiliation.

Although Kelp knows that his alternate persona is a bad 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. Kelp says that the one thing he learned from being someone else is that if you don't like yourself, you can't expect others to like you. Purdy meets Kelp backstage, and confesses that she prefers Kelp over Buddy Love.

Eventually, Kelp's formerly timid father chooses to market the formula (a copy of which Kelp had sent to his parents' home for safekeeping), endorsed by the deadpan president of the university 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.

During the short closing credits, each of the characters comes out and bows down to the camera, and when Jerry Lewis, still portraying Kelp, comes out and bows, he trips and goes into the camera, breaking it and causing the picture to go black.



The basic characterization of 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' show business partner Dean Martin;[5] the duo were highly successful from 1946 to 1956 before an acrimonious breakup when they did not speak for decades. Lewis, however, consistently denied this rumor. In his 1982 autobiography and again in a DVD featurette entitled The Nutty Professor: Making The Formula, Lewis stated that the character was based on every obnoxious, self-important, hateful hipster he ever knew. In the DVD commentary, Lewis speculates that he perhaps should have made Love more evil rather than simply obnoxious — since to his surprise more fan mail came for Love than for the professor. Film critic Danny Peary made the claim in his 1981 book Cult Movies that the character of Love is actually a representation of a dark side of Lewis's real personality. Lewis has stated that the two represented good and evil.[6]

The character of Professor Frink from the animated television series The Simpsons loosely borrows many of his mannerisms and technique from Lewis' 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 was voiced by Lewis.


The entire production was filmed from October 9 to December 17, 1962, mostly on the campus of Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona.

The cast's costumes were designed by Edith Head.

Les Brown and his Band of Renown play themselves in the extended senior prom scenes.

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).

Love instructs the bartender to make an Alaskan Polar Bear Heater, "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 on some cocktail websites.[7][8][9]


Awards and honors

In 2000, the American Film Institute placed the film on its 100 Years...100 Laughs list, where it was ranked #99.[10]

Home media

The Nutty Professor was released on DVD in October 2000. In October 2004, a "Special Edition" was released including an audio 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, known as video assist. He mentions that he recut the film for his own home viewing. He also identifies scenes that he would have liked to redo; for example, making the professor's watch sound tinny.

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, contrasts with the final edit in which she is portrayed as smart but fairly unassuming.

The Nutty Professor received a "50th anniversary" Blu-ray release in June 2014 as an "Ultimate Collector's Edition" set. This release included all the bonus features from the previous DVD release plus a new documentary short, Jerry Lewis: No Apologies. A disc-only release followed in September 2014.[11]


Lewis had for decades talked about doing a sequel and until then had to settle for the 1996 remake starring Eddie Murphy, for which Lewis was credited as a producer. The 1996 version did produce a sequel of its own: Nutty Professor II: The Klumps.

An animated direct-to-DVD sequel, also titled The Nutty Professor, featured the voices of Lewis and Drake Bell and was released on November 25, 2008. Directed by Paul Taylor, the film involves Julius Kelp's teenage grandson Harold discovering his grandfather's secret formula and unleashing his alter ego.

In other media

Musical adaptation

A musical theater version premiered at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center in Nashville from July 31 to August 19, 2012, with a book by Rupert Holmes and a score by Marvin Hamlisch. The production was directed by Lewis, with choreography by Joann M. Hunter. The cast featured Michael Andrew, Klea Blackhurst, Mark Jacoby and Marissa McGowan. The scenery was by David Gallo, with costume design by Ann Hould-Ward.[12][13]

See also


  1. "THE NUTTY PROFESSOR (U)". British Board of Film Classification. June 18, 1963. Retrieved November 16, 2014.
  4. In his review of the 1996 remake of The Nutty Professor, Roger Ebert wrote: "The movie [the 1996 remake] is inspired by a 1963 Jerry Lewis comedy, said by some to be Lewis' best, in which Jerry played a mild-mannered chemistry professor whose secret formula allowed him to transform himself into an obnoxious lounge lizard named Buddy Love."
  6. The Nutty Professor, Special Edition, commentary.
  7. "The Celluloid Pantry".
  8. "Cherry Capri's Cocktail Recipes". Archived from the original on October 30, 2007.
  9. "Alaskan Polar Bear Heater". Archived from the original on October 29, 2007.
  10. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs" (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved August 28, 2016.
  12. Jones, Kenneth. "Producers of Nutty Professor Hope to Earn Broadway Tenure for New Marvin Hamlisch-Rupert Holmes Show" Archived August 19, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, Playbill, August 17, 2012, accessed August 19, 2013
  13. Ng, David (August 2, 2012). "Jerry Lewis' 'Nutty Professor' musical opens in Nashville". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 18, 2013.
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