The Disorderly Orderly (Tashlin, 1964)

Disorderly Orderliness: Jerry Lewis and the Performance of Chaos

lecture by Lesley Stern
Friday, October 30, 1998 - 12:00am
In The Disorderly Orderly, Jerry Lewis plays a hospital orderly who over-identifies with the body-in-pain, that is, with the patient or institutionalized victim. The other's (patient's) symptoms are involuntarily manifested in his body. This process of transferred somatization transforms Lewis from attendant or sympathetic witness to violent exhibitionist, from audience member to dismembered performer. A regime of institutional orderliness that seeks to contain bodily disorders is disrupted by the enactment of catastrophe. In drawing upon Henri Bergson and also upon scientific theories of chaos, this paper will pose the Lewis figure as a "strange attractor," a starting point for thinking about affect in the cinema. Lesley Stern, currently a scholar at the Getty Research Institute, teaches theater and film at the University of New South Wales, Australia. The author of The Scorsese Connection, she has written widely in the areas of film history and theory, theater, photography, and cultural studies.