Visit to a Small Planet is a 1960 American black-and-white science fiction comedy film from Paramount Pictures, produced by Hal B. Wallis, directed by Norman Taurog, that stars Jerry Lewis and co-stars Joan Blackman, Earl Holliman, and Fred Clark.
Visit to a Small Planet first debuted as an original television production by Gore Vidal, then was reworked by Vidal as a Broadway play starring Cyril Ritchard and Eddie Mayehoff.
The film was released on February 4, 1960. It was re-released in 1966 on a double bill with another Jerry Lewis film, The Bellboy.
Kreton (Jerry Lewis) is an alien from outer space who is fascinated by human beings. Against the wishes of his teacher, he repeatedly visits Earth. During his latest visit, his teacher reluctantly agrees to allow him to stay and study the humans. Kreton becomes friends with a suburban family and stays with them after they agree to keep his alien status a secret. Along the way, he falls in love with their daughter (Joan Blackman). However, there is a force field around him that prevents any physical contact. His race has abolished any form of affection.
After repeatedly breaking his teacher's rule against never getting involved in humans' lives, all of Kreton's powers are stripped away. This so that he can discover for himself that being human comes with other, less desired, emotions like pain, sadness, and jealousy. Once his cover is blown on Earth, and he is reported to the police, Kreton decides that those emotions are not worth the trouble, so he returns to his own planet.
Visit to a Small Planet was filmed from April 28 through July 3, 1959.
Hal Pereira, Walter Tyler, Samuel M. Comer, and Arthur Krams were nominated for the 1960 Academy Award for Best Art Direction (Black and White), but lost to Alexander Trauner and Edward G. Boyle for The Apartment.
Gore Vidal wrote this as a television play in which form it debuted on May 8, 1955 on Goodyear Television Playhouse. Later he reworked it for the Broadway stage, where it debuted on February 7, 1957 and ran for 388 performances. Star Cyril Ritchard, who also directed, received a Tony Award nomination for his performance as Kreton. Eddie Mayehoff also received a nomination for Best Performance by a Featured Actor.
Before playing on Broadway the play was performed at the Shubert Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut January 16–19, 1957. Starring Cyril Ritchard and Eddie Mayehoff.
Vidal intended the play as a satire on the post-World War II fear of communism in the United States, McCarthyism, Cold War military paranoia and the rising importance of television in American life. A major critical success, it was subtitled A Comedy Akin to Vaudeville.
The play tells the story of Kreton, an alien from an unnamed planet who lands on Earth intending to view the American Civil War. He miscalculates and lands instead 100 years later. Having missed the opportunity to see conflict first hand, but delighted with all the new playthings the 20th century has invented for war-making, he decides to create a war for himself.
The film was released on DVD and Blu-Ray on August 22, 2017.