Skip to main content

See also:

'The Jerk'

A poor southern black boy goes from rags to riches, and finds true love enroute.


By Julie D. Griffin

Every family gathering with his family of origin resides with singing and dancing to Pick A Bale Of Cotton on the front porch.
Universal Studios

A comic love story with an unmatching name, The Jerk, Steve Martin as a young boy whose parents left him on the porch of an African American Louisiana family, he grows up kind and sensitive and anything but a mean guy. He does not find out the true color of his skin until he leaves home, perhaps an analogy for same. Also, ironically enough, the film written by the actor Martin along with Carl Gottlieb and Michael Elias, Martin as Navin R. Johnson falls in love with Marie who saves him from a wild biker woman named Patty after he joins the circus on a road trip to St. Louis to discover fame and fortune not afforded him on the sharecropper farm he grew up on. Fortunately, he ever remembered his forte as a blues dancer and even after he comes up with an invention for making the wearing of eyeglasses more comfortable, which affords him to marry Marie, the love of his life, he takes his humble southern heritage with him all the way to the billionaire estate and mansion where he later resides.

Every family gathering with his family of origin resides with singing and dancing to Pick A Bale Of Cotton on the front porch. The love of the family for the boy they raised as one of their own brings a tear to each eye after papa gives him a birthday before his going away gift of his most small and yet treasured keepsakes. It is no wonder that the precious film elicited a sequel and the endemic theme of Martin throughout the film that he was born a poor black child, although he finds himself a homeless alcoholic at one point, the money he sent his to his family back home which they wisely invest they use to pull him out of the gutter more or less after his business faces a brief impasse.

That the story exists as a kind of romantic love story though, Navin exists as an independent until he meets the love of his life while working for the carnival after finding extreme success at the gas station where he accidentally invented the eyeglass patent while helping a customer out one day. The same customer he helps unbeknownst to Navin goes on to develop the product and establish a corporation. He looks everywhere for Martin (Navin) after the business a great success to enjoin him as partner, and Martin on the road believes his great success the carnival until certain circumstances predicate. Marie works hard behind the scenes after she marries Navin to convince him of his greater worth as a brilliant and productive human being whose intelligence she has obviously and well noticed. After a few brief starts, a mad snyper who once tried to execute Navin as a random victim, repents, revises and turns to undercover detective work to make his living. He comes for Navin now not with a rifle to end his life, but with a message from his prior customer to come and enjoin him as a private (or silent) partner. A hillarious intervention occurs after Navin goes to the bank to cash a check for what he at first believes $250 dollars of big ones, and passes out cold on the floor of the bank after her finds out his new partner has actually written him a check for his current share of the profits of the business as two-hundred and fifty millions of dollars.