Actress Hope Holiday "Miss Anxious" from Jerry Lewis's comedy masterpiece THE LADIES' MAN (1961) talks with TV Store Online.
TV STORE ONLINE: How did the role of "Miss Anxious" come to you in THE LADIES' MAN (1961)?
HOLIDAY: Well, I did the film THE APARTMENT. It was directed by Billy Wilder and it featured Shirley MacLaine and Jack Lennon. I played the drunken barfly in it named "Margie MacDougall".
Jerry Lewis, had been a long-time friend of my parents. My dad used to produce stage shows at the Capital Theatre in New York City and Martin & Lewis had played there. So I met Jerry went I was a kid. After I did THE APARTMENT, my parents decided to move from New York to Los Angeles.
Jerry Lewis was preparing for something at Paramount and he spoke to my dad one day and asked him if he'd like to have lunch. He said, "Why don't you bring Hope along... I'd like to give her a screen test." It wasn't for THE LADIES' MAN though. He was doing a television pilot. It was called Permanent Waves. He wanted a girl for the lead; who could play a lady barber in the Navy Waves. He would say things like, "Well, we're not ready to start rolling yet, but why don't you tell me a little bit about yourself and what you've been up to." But I knew that the camera was rolling. He told me that so that I wouldn't be nervous.
At the end of that, he said that he'd like me to be in the pilot episode of Permanent Waves. It was myself, Kathy Freeman, Dee Arlen and Beverly Wills. Jerry tried to make a female Jerry Lewis out of me, and that's not what I am. So it was very difficult for me to do that type of schtick. I could only do what I knew worked for me. The pilot didn't sell. Once that happened he asked me if I'd like to be THE LADIES' MAN.
The shooting of THE LADIES' MAN was a lot of fun. It was almost like being in a boarding school. We had a lot of laughs.
TV STORE ONLINE: Could you talk a bit about the size and scope of the set for THE LADIES' MAN?
HOLIDAY: It was like a doll house. It was so big. The stairway and the hallway, the rooms--my bedroom set was unbelievable. It was like an actual real room. When I was in there I never felt like I was on a movie set. I felt like I was actually in my bedroom. All of the rooms were wired for sound and lights. When I did the scene where Jerry comes to my door and knocks--he was in a hallway. It wasn't like we were working on a set. When he knocked on the door, and I opened it--it didn't feel like a set. The dinning room, the living rooms felt the same way. It all felt totally real.
TV STORE ONLINE: That scene is such a wonderful and strange moment in the film...Was any aspect of that improvisation between the two of you?
HOLIDAY: That was scripted out I believe. But we did do a lot of improvisation during the shooting of the film. I remember, actress Peggy Cass stopped by the set one day for a visit and Jerry invited her to come back the following day to do a scene. He didn't have anything written for her. She showed up at 7 a.m the next day, and Jerry said, "Okay, here is what we're gonna do. Hope you go and stand over there behind the sofa..." The scene never made the picture.
TV STORE ONLINE: There was quite a bit that was cut out of the movie...
HOLIDAY: Right, because so much of it was just schtick. The scene with Jerry and Buddy Lester and the hat was improvised as was the scene with Jerry dancing with George Raft.
TV STORE ONLINE: Going back to that scene with you and Jerry at the door...How many takes did you do with Jerry on something like that?
HOLIDAY: A lot! I'm tell you why. Every time that I slapped him--I really gave it all my energy. I never meant to hurt him. But after it was over--his face was all red, and he went back to his dressing room to sulk. He was really upset with me. There's a photograph of Jerry and myself from the shooting of the scene in THE LADIES' MAN where he had a paddle that reads "The Not Listening Stick". He hit me on the fanny with that and he hit me hard. I think he did it to get back at me. He was annoyed with me. Afterward, he pulled me aside and said, "Do you not like me?" I said, "Jerry, of course I do. I'm acting. I'm not trying to hurt you." While we were shooting the scene--the second time we did it, I hit him so hard that when I slapped him I swung myself around.
When we shot the scene of the Ballet, which comes close to the end of the film...That was all improvised. It was myself, Pat Stanley and Lynn Ross. I had a tutu on and toe-shoes. I was put up on a pedestal to pose. The others were sitting. We were to pose and then get up and start to dance around. Before we started, Jerry came out and started to sprinkle Talcum Powder all over the floor. He wanted us to slip and fall on our butts. It was really something else.
I know you don't want to hear it, but Jerry was almost like a dictator on the set of THE LADIES' MAN. He did what he wanted to do. He had a lot of power at the studio. I had been invited by the studio to attend the premiere of EXODUS (1960) and they lent me a mink coat to wear. I went into the ladies' room at the end of the day of shooting to get cleaned up. I put on my regular make-up. A friend helped me get dressed up. I looked nice. I went back out to say goodbye to everyone because there was a car waiting for me. Jerry looked at me and said, "Okay, get Hope Holiday ready for the scene with George Raft." I said, "WHAT?" and in front of everyone: "Who do you have to #### to get off of this picture!?!" I stormed out and went to the premiere. I was tired and when I arrived there, not long after sitting down I fell asleep and missed EXODUS.
There was a whole section of the scene that Jerry and I shot that was cut out. As it is now, my character shuts the door after she has slapped him several times. We did shoot a whole other section which was to come right after--where he goes down the hallway and does something else, only to return, and knock on her door again. She opens the door and Jerry is wearing a deep-sea diver's helmet because he is afraid of her. He comes into her room, and she opens the little hatch in front and then pokes him in the eyes and pinches his nose.
Interview Conducted By: Justin Bozung