DVD Review: Rock-a-Bye Baby

Rock-a-Bye Baby DVDSTUDIO: Olive Films | DIRECTOR: Frank Tashlin | CAST: Jerry Lewis, Marilyn Maxwell, Reginald Gardiner, Salvatore Baccaloni, Connie Stevens, Hans Conreid
2/14/12 | PRICE: DVD $24.95, Blu-ray $29.95
NR | 103 min. | Comedy | 1.85:1 widescreen | stereo

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

The adjective “charming” is rarely thought of to describe Jerry Lewis, but Rock-a-Bye Baby, the candy-colored 1958 vehicle crafted for him by the eminently talented Frank Tashlin (The Girl Can’t Help It) does indeed showcase “le roi du crazy” as a friendly, even lovable presence. Tashlin does this by creating a wonderful cartoon universe in which the spotlight often veers away from Jerry — when it returns he’s depicted as an affable schnook the audience can’t help but like.

Rock-a-Bye Baby movie scene

Jerry Lewis fills the screen in Rock-a-Bye Baby.

The film is a remake of Preston Sturges’ The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (1944), in which a Hollywood star (Marilyn Maxwell, The Lively Set) gets pregnant and decides to leave her newborn with an adoring friend (Lewis) who still lives in the small town she grew up in. She winds up having triplets, and there the silliness begins.

Tashlin’s experience as a Looney Tunes animator came into play when he worked with Lewis (the duo made eight films together). It’s been noted by British and European critics that Lewis was a “living cartoon” in Tashlin’s pictures, and Jerry does wonders with the various set-pieces in Rock-a-Bye Baby, especially a long sequence with an out-of-control hose (paging Dr. Freud) and the scenes in which he devises ways to feed and care for the triplets.

There are no extras on this release, but the film has been restored beautifully and provides a perfect example of a “prestige” comedy vehicle from the last era when a comic like Lewis could indeed be “king” of a studio (he was Paramount’s leading star for several years). The initial group of Lewis movies put out on DVD by Paramount with Jerry’s input concentrated, naturally enough, on the films that he himself directed (with the exception of Cinderfella and The Disorderly Orderly). This new crop of Olive releases contains the four as-yet-unreleased Tashlin/Lewis titles.

Rock-a-Bye was released simultaneously with The Geisha Boy (1958) and Boeing Boeing (1965) — a non-Tashlin title that found Jerry floundering in the kind of international-playboy role that Dean Martin excelled at. Olive is set to release Tashlin’s wildly inventive Who’s Minding the Store? (1963) and the wonderful noir comedy It’s Only Money (1962) in March, 2012.


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About Ed

Ed Grant has written about film for a wide range of periodicals, books and websites. He edited the reference book The Motion Picture Guide Annual and, since 1993, has produced and hosted the weekly cable program Media Funhouse, which Time magazine called “the most eclectic and useful movie show on TV.”