This article is about the comedian and telethon host; Jerry Lewis is also the name of a U.S. politician. There is also a musician named Jerry Lee Lewis.
Joseph Levitch (born March 16, 1926), better known as Jerry Lewis, is an American comedian, actor , producer, and director known for his slapstick humor and his charity fund-raising telethons for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
Jerry Lewis, son of a vaudeville performer named Danny Lewis, gained initial fame with the singer Dean Martin, who served as a straight man to Lewis' manic, zany antics as the The Martin and Lewis comedy team. They distinguished themselves for the majority of comedy acts of the 1940's by relying on the interaction of the two comics instead of pre-planned skits. In the late forties, they rose to national prominence, first with their popular nightclub act and then as film stars. Critics often found it difficult to describe their chaotic act beyond the austere "Martin sings and Lewis clowns". They continued to perform in film and on television until their split in 1956.
Lewis returned as a solo act with his debut film The Delicate Delinquent in 1957. Lewis went on to star in five more films before he produced, directed, wrote, and starred in his own movie entitled The Bellboy in 1960. Legend has it that he edited the film by day and performed in Las Vegas at night. During production Lewis decided to use a video camera to tape the scene while he was filming it, allowing him to review the footage instantly. Later, this technique would become an industry standard known as video assist .
Lewis directed several more of his own films including The Ladies Man, The Errand Boy , and the iconic film, The Nutty Professor. During this period he was consistently praised by many French critics for his comedy and was awarded the Légion d'honneur, the highest civilian honor in France. Lewis box office appeal waned by the mid sixties. In 1966 he began hosting an annual Labor Day Telethon For The Muscular Dystrophy Association, a charity he had already been publicly associated with for more than ten years
Later, Lewis starred in and directed the unreleased The Day The Clown Cried in 1972. The film was a comedy taking place in a Nazi concentration camp. Lewis has explained why the film hasn't been released by suggesting litigation over post-production financial difficulties. It has been seen by very few select individuals, but those who see it either praise it for comediec genius or the utmost in bad taste.
After an eight year absence from movies, Lewis returned in the early 1980s with Hardly Working , a film he both directed and starred in. He followed this up with a critically acclaimed performance in Martin Scorsese's 1983 film The King of Comedy in which Lewis plays a late night TV host plagued by an obsessive fan.
- Lewis has suffered years of back pain due to a failed slapstick stunt which almost left him paralyzed. The continuing pain from the accident almost drove him to commit suicide. An electronic device recently implanted in his back as helped reduce the discomfort.
- Lewis tried his hand at singing in the 1950s, having a chart hit with the song Rock-A-Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody, a song originally made famous by Al Jolson.
The Simpsons' voice actor Hank Azaria based the voice of Professor Frink on Lewis. Lewis was eventually invited to guest as the character's father.
- In 1984, he was nominated for Worst Actor for his role in Slapstick of Another Kind . (Golden Raspberry Awards)
- Official Jerry Lewis Website http://www.jerrylewiscomedy.com/
- Muscular Dystrophy Association http://www.mda.org/
- IMDb entry on Lewis http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001471/
- The Day The Clown Cried http://www.jerrylewiscomedy.com/film_clown_cried.htm
Last updated: 02-07-2005 17:42:01
Last updated: 04-25-2005 03:06:01