Filmhounds Magazine

All things film – In print and online

Inspiring, But Maybe Not For Brits — Shari and Lamb Chop – Raindance Film Festival (Film Review)

3 min read

Ventriloquists often have complicated relationships with their puppets. Infamously, Keith Harris had a bizarre resentful attitude to his incarnation Orville's stardom, which was seen in Louis Theroux's documentary on the pair. America's answer, Shari and Lamb Chop, were no different.

For British audiences the children's entertainer may not be immediately recognisable, but in the United States Shari Lewis was a superstar. However she wasn't just a TV presenter. She in fact revolutionised children's television. The now established broadcasting of not only entertaining children but also teaching them valuable life lessons was non-existent before her. She wrote, acted and sang for every episode, an impressive feat in any generation but especially for a woman in the 1950's. Entertainment was in her genes. Her father was in fact New York's resident magician. From a young age she was exposed to the industry, and she made the comment during the film that if her father had a son she would never have made it.

The documentary centres on Shari's incredible tenacity and drive to succeed in business that at the time was male dominated. Even after career setbacks, like getting cancelled by network PBS, she has the ability to keep going and reinvent herself. From jazz dancing to conducting orchestras, time and again Shari Lewis finds a way to stay in show business.

It may be a difficult watch for people who didn't grow up with her TV shows and have the emotional resonance of her watching it as a child. It will however interest audiences not aware of Shari previously. The documentaries feminist line is inspiring to women looking to breakthrough in the entertainment industry. Shari's mother tells her at a young age that traditional fairy tales are just another way of keeping women in their patriarchal place. Shari runs with this and uses it as an energy in her life.

The director, answering questions during the 2024 Raindance festival in London, described how Shari Lewis had few skeletons in her closet. She led a clean life, and although some people claimed otherwise, the director could not find evidence to support them. Due to this, the film follows an unusual narrative for a biopic. In her life there is no typical drug or alcohol downfall. She has the odd relationship difficulty, but there is no major personal setbacks that are witnessed in the celebrity world.

It was interesting to discover the costs of Shari Lewis determination to succeed in showbusiness. Her difficulties in bringing up her daughter highlight the sacrifices people make to reach the pinnacle of their craft. Her puppet Lamb chop almost becomes part of her personality, becoming integral to her stardom. It became her life and the driving force of her existence. It is inspiring to watch how passionate Shari Lewis is to entertainment and this is what is most enjoyable watching the documentary.

Shari Lewis was part of many childhoods in America and was icon in her country. British audiences may not feel the same emotional resonance as American audiences, it is still well worth seeing. Shari and Lamb Chop, is an inspiring watch, and may just inspire the audiences own dreams.

Shari and Lamb Chop screened at