Jerry Lewis Has Died At 91
search

Jerry Lewis Has Died At 91

The comedian and filmmaker, star of 'The Nutty Professor,' died Sunday morning at his home in Las Vegas.

  • Rosemary Clooney, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis from the radio and television program The Colgate Comedy Hour, circa 1952. In television's early days, programs were often broadcast on radio and television. Martin and Lewis were the hosts of the show at this time. Wikimedia Commons
    Rosemary Clooney, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis from the radio and television program The Colgate Comedy Hour, circa 1952. In television's early days, programs were often broadcast on radio and television. Martin and Lewis were the hosts of the show at this time. Wikimedia Commons
  • Comedian Jerry Lewis attends The Lincoln Awards: A Concert For Veterans & The Military Family presented by The Friars Foundation at John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on January 7, 2015 in Washington, DC.  JTA
    Comedian Jerry Lewis attends The Lincoln Awards: A Concert For Veterans & The Military Family presented by The Friars Foundation at John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on January 7, 2015 in Washington, DC. JTA
  • Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis who often performed together in c.1950. Flickr CC/Cassowary Colorizations
    Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis who often performed together in c.1950. Flickr CC/Cassowary Colorizations
  • A crowd gathers to see Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis in person and on a double bill with the movie 'Dear Brat,' starring Mona Freeman, Billy De Wolfe, and Edward Arnold, New York, New York, 1951. Getty Images
    A crowd gathers to see Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis in person and on a double bill with the movie 'Dear Brat,' starring Mona Freeman, Billy De Wolfe, and Edward Arnold, New York, New York, 1951. Getty Images
  • American singer and actor Dean Martin and a clowning Jerry Lewis stand with Mrs Val Parnell and Mrs Clodagh Haherty in 1953. Getty Images
    American singer and actor Dean Martin and a clowning Jerry Lewis stand with Mrs Val Parnell and Mrs Clodagh Haherty in 1953. Getty Images
  • Comedy duo Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis quenching their thirst with a bottle of coke in 1955. Getty Images
    Comedy duo Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis quenching their thirst with a bottle of coke in 1955. Getty Images
  • US comedian Jerry Lewis shows his hands at his Hand and Footprint ceremony at the TCL Theater in Hollywood, California on April 12, 2014. He is best known for his slapstick humor in film, television and stage. Getty Images
    US comedian Jerry Lewis shows his hands at his Hand and Footprint ceremony at the TCL Theater in Hollywood, California on April 12, 2014. He is best known for his slapstick humor in film, television and stage. Getty Images
  • Jerry Lewis' star at the Hollywood Walk Of Fame in Los Angeles, California, USA. Wikimedia Commons/Dietmar Rabich
    Jerry Lewis' star at the Hollywood Walk Of Fame in Los Angeles, California, USA. Wikimedia Commons/Dietmar Rabich

Comedian and filmmaker Jerry Lewis, known for his work with singer-actor Dean Martin and his four decades of hosting the Muscular Dystrophy telethon, has died.

Lewis, best known for his starring role in “The Nutty Professor,” died Sunday morning at his home in Las Vegas, The Las Vegas Review Journal columnist John Katsilometes first reported. He was 91.

Though he was largely out of the movie industry by the end of the 1960s, Lewis continued to perform a comedy routine in Las Vegas, where he got his start in 1949, according to Variety. He also had memorable serious roles in Martin Scorcese’s 1982 drama “The King of Comedy” and the 1980s TV drama “Wiseguy.”

Lewis, raised in Newark, NJ, was born Joseph Levitch to Borscht Belt entertainer parents Danny and Rae Levitch, who used the name Lewis when they appeared in small-time vaudeville and at Catskills resort hotels, according to the New York Times. Lewis, known as Joey when he was young, said the fact that his parents often left him in the care of his grandmother and aunts gave him a longstanding sense of insecurity and a need for attention.

Lewis began performing with Martin in 1946 after they performed on the same bill at a Manhattan nightclub and created an act which soared in popularity with Lewis using his physical slapstick comedy acting alongside Martin’s relaxed persona. The duo also starred in 13 films, but broke up after 10 years together, at which point they were barely speaking to each other.

Lewis and Martin reconciled in 1987, when Lewis attended the funeral of Dean Paul Martin Jr., Martin’s oldest son, a pilot in the California Air National Guard who had been killed in a crash. They continued to speak occasionally until Martin died in 1995, the Times reported.

Lewis began writing, producing and directing films in the late 1950s and 1960s. “Rock-a-Bye Baby” (1958), “The Geisha Boy” (1958) and “Cinderfella” (1960) were his first three films, and were directed by Lewis mentor Frank Tashlin. Lewis wrote, directed and starred in the 1960 film “The Bellboy,” his directorial debut.

The 1963 film “The Nutty Professor,” in which the actor in a variation on “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” played both the shy chemistry professor and a brash nightclub singer. At the end of his life, Lewis hoped to bring a musical adaptation of “The Nutty Professor” to Broadway.

Lewis’ unreleased and apparently unwatchable 1972 Holocaust drama “The Day the Clown Cried” intrigued film buffs for decades; a 30-minute cut of the film surfaced online in 2016.

Lewis began hosting the annual Labor Day weekend Muscular Dystrophy Association telethon in 1966, remaining as host of the telethon and his beloved “Jerry’s Kids” until 2010, raising more than $2 billion during those years.

He received the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences’ Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for his charitable activity in 2009. He has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame — one for his movie work, the other for television.

Lewis, whose comedy style remained popular in France, was inducted by the French government into the Légion d’Honneur in 2006.

In 2015, the Library of Congress announced that it had acquired Mr. Lewis’s personal archives. In a statement, he said, “Knowing that the Library of Congress was interested in acquiring my life’s work was one of the biggest thrills of my life,” according to the New York Times.

Lewis had two heart attacks, prostate cancer and pulmonary fibrosis. He also had suffered from a painkiller dependency in the 80s.

He had six sons with his first wife Patty Palmer, Gary, Ronnie, Scott, Anthony, Christopher and Joseph, who died in 2009.  He is survived by his second wife, SanDee Pitnick, and their daughter.

read more:
comments