Jerry Lewis


Actor
Jerry Lewis

About

Also Known As
Jerome Levitch, Joseph Levitch, Joe Levitch
Birth Place
Newark, New Jersey, USA
Born
March 16, 1926
Died
August 20, 2017

Biography

"Le Roi du Crazy," as his fans in France knew him, Jerry Lewis was one of the most iconic comic performers in Hollywood history. As one half of the legendary comedy team of Martin and Lewis with crooner Dean Martin, Lewis left audiences hysterical with his stage persona - a manic man-child whose rubber limbs and unquenchable curiosity brought utter chaos to every stage he graced. The tea...

Photos & Videos

Artists and Models (1955) - Publicity Stills
The Disorderly Orderly - Movie Poster
The King of Comedy - Movie Poster

Family & Companions

Patti Palmer
Wife
Singer. Married in 1944; divorced in October 1982; born c. 1920.
Susan Bay
Companion
Producer. Had long-term relationship; no longer together.
SanDee Lewis
Wife
Married in 1983.

Bibliography

"King of Comedy: The Life and Art of Jerry Lewis"
Shawn Levy, St. Martin's Press (1996)
"Jerry Lewis In Person"
Jerry Lewis, Atheneum (1982)
"The Total Film-Maker"
Jerry Lewis (1971)

Notes

He has made numerous other recordings.

While Lewis has always claimed that his birth name was Joseph, some sources contend that "official records" indicate he was actually named Jerome.

Biography

"Le Roi du Crazy," as his fans in France knew him, Jerry Lewis was one of the most iconic comic performers in Hollywood history. As one half of the legendary comedy team of Martin and Lewis with crooner Dean Martin, Lewis left audiences hysterical with his stage persona - a manic man-child whose rubber limbs and unquenchable curiosity brought utter chaos to every stage he graced. The team's popularity quickly ushered them to television and films, where they became a top box office draw until separating in 1956. Critics wondered if Lewis would translate as a solo act, but he not only surpassed their expectations as a performer, he also displayed a keen visual eye as director on a number of his features, most notably the nearly silent "Bell Boy" (1960) and his most popular picture, "The Nutty Professor" (1963). The 1970s saw an aging Lewis lose his grip on audiences, and his screen appearances were relegated to his annual Muscular Dystrophy Telethon. He would not rebound until the early 1980s, when a string of highly regarded dramatic turns on television and in features like Martin Scorsese's "The King of Comedy" (1983) would revive interest in his particular brand of humor. Though health issues frequently forced Lewis to curtail his boundless energy, he remained active on stage and screen well into his eighties, which did much to preserve his status as one of the movies' most unique and creative figures. His death on August 20, 2017 at the age of 91 was greeted with condolences and fond rememberances across the globe.

Jerry Lewis was born Jerome Levitch in Newark, NJ on March 16, 1926; until biographer Shawn Levy unearthed his official birth record while doing research for his 1996 biography King of Comedy: The Life and Art of Jerry Lewis, most sources, including Lewis' own earlier autobiography, had given his birth name as Joseph Levitch. His parents were both showbiz professionals; father Daniel, who performed as Danny Lewis, was a master of ceremonies and all-around entertainer, and mother Rachel, or Rae, played piano on New York radio station WOR while serving as her husband's musical director. Lewis spent much of his early years under the care of relatives while his parents played the Borscht Belt circuit, though he would join them for summers while they performed in the Catskills. It seems only logical that Lewis would follow in their footsteps, so by the age of five, he had made his stage debut singing the Tin Pan Alley standard "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" By 15, Lewis had his own full-fledged comedy routine, and quit high school to play nightclubs. Billed as Jerry Lewis to avoid confusion with then-popular comic Joe E. Lewis or boxer Joe Louis, his early act centered on exaggerated miming to lyrics of popular songs and opera numbers played on an off-stage phonograph. Known as the "Record Act," it was only a modest success, so Lewis held down a number of dead-end jobs, including theater usher and soda jerk to help make ends meet. Discouraged, he considered leaving the business, but the encouragement of veteran comic Max Coleman, who had worked with his father, buoyed Lewis' spirits and gave him the impetus to carry on. Shortly thereafter, he won over another comic, Irving Kaye, who helped him book more engagements and increase his exposure.

His fortunes would change forever in 1945, when he met singer and fellow comic Dean Martin at the Glass Hat Club in New York. The following year, their partnership began in earnest when Lewis was playing at the 500 Club in Atlantic City. Another entertainer on the bill with him dropped out, and Lewis suggested Martin as a replacement. They performed separately at first, but on July 25, 1946, they made their debut as a duo. Unfortunately, it was not an immediate success, and the newly minted pair faced dismissal from club owner Skinny D'Amato if they did not work up a better act for the second show of the evening. Conferring in an alleyway behind the club, Martin and Lewis agreed to dispose of the scripted gags from the first show and simply improvise their way through the act. The new routine - which started with Martin crooning a tune, only to be interrupted by Lewis, dressed as a busboy and dropping plates, whereupon the pair would launch into a barrage of off-the-cuff slapstick, old comedy bits, audience banter and songs - was a smash success. Their personas were largely established by this time - Martin was the dry-witted, paternal straight man, while Lewis was a squalling man-child, bursting with energy and seemingly unable to control his mouth or rubbery limbs. Within 18 weeks, the team was earning $5,000 a week and performing up and down the East Coast to the delight of audiences.

Martin and Lewis began their takeover of the entertainment media in the late 1940s, when executives at NBC caught their stage act and began grooming them for television and radio appearances. After a string of promotional guest appearances on other popular radio programs, the duo launched their own series, "The Martin and Lewis Show" in 1949. At the same time, Paramount executive Hal Wallis had discovered them during a triumphant run at the Copacabana Club in New York and wasted no time signing them to a studio contract. Their first film, "My Friend Irma" (1949), cast them in supporting roles - Martin as the romantic interest for second female lead Diana Lynn, and Lewis as his manic roommate, Seymour. Interestingly, Lewis was almost dropped from the picture after his screen test for a largely straight role fell flat. He quickly devised the character of Seymour, based largely around his stage persona, and the pair helped make the film a hit.

The success of "Irma" and their nightclub acts helped to raise the volume on the buzz surrounding Martin and Lewis to considerable levels, and by 1950, they were nearly inescapable, with regular appearances on TV's "Colgate Comedy Hour" (NBC, 1950-55) and the radio series, which ran until 1953. But films appeared to be the new focus of the act, which was much to Lewis' preference. A lifelong claustrophobic, he loathed the skyscrapers of Manhattan, which required riding in an elevator, preferring the more modest-sized skyline of Los Angeles. The deal generated by their agent, Abby Greshler, also held appeal for the pair: they received a flat fee of $75,000 - to be split between them - for their Paramount features, yet were allowed to make one outside film per year, which they would produce for their own company, York Productions. They also retained complete control of their live and broadcast appearances, which made them both wealthy men in no time.

"Irma" was naturally followed by a sequel, "My Friend Irma Goes West" (1950), which expanded both Martin and Lewis' role to reflect their growing popularity. The picture was not released until later in the year, which allowed them to take advantage of their "outside picture" clause to make "At War with the Army" (1950), which cast them in their first starring roles. The film also established their essential screen personas - Martin as suave father figure, who fumed good-naturedly over the antics of his pal Lewis, who seemed trapped in a permanent case of arrested development. Critics were sharply divided on the films that followed, which numbered 17 in all by 1956; they were either won over completely by Lewis' comic timing and Martin's smooth patter, or they found them hopelessly crude. Audiences, however, were firmly in the former category, and made the pair one of the top box office draws of the 1950s.

Behind the scenes, however, the partnership was beginning to crumble. What began as a strong friendship was slowly unraveling due to Martin's dissatisfaction with his limited roles and the media's focus on Lewis' antics. Lewis was also bringing more emotional tones into his performances, while Martin was simply required to look handsome, perform a few songs and endure Lewis. As Lewis would also later admit, his own raging ego and insensitive behavior put Martin off on his friend. The breaking point came with a cover shoot for Look magazine that completely cropped Martin out of the picture. The pair feuded openly, and though Martin finished his commitment to Paramount, he was essentially done with the team and Lewis as a friend. They split on July 25, 1956 - 10 years to the date of their first performance as a team - with their final picture, "Hollywood or Bust" (1956), appearing in theaters some five months later. Their final days were rancorous ones; neither Martin nor Lewis spoke to each other once the cameras stopped rolling on "Hollywood," and the pair would not reunite for nearly two decades.

Lewis, however, remained with Paramount, where he teamed with director Frank Tashlin, formerly of Warner Bros.' Looney Tunes and the man behind the camera on "Hollywood," for a string of highly successful solo projects. The first, "The Delicate Delinquent," (1957) originally intended as a Martin-Lewis picture, starred Lewis as a hapless teen mistaken for a gang member who is taken under the wing of a kindly police officer (Darren McGavin, standing in for Martin). Though Lewis was typically unbridled in his comic moments, the pathos that seeped into later Martin-Lewis films was more pronounced here, and would be an element of all subsequent Lewis films. Made for just $500,000, it grossed $6 million at the box office and firmly established Lewis as a star in his own right.

The success of "Delinquent" was followed by a string of similar hits, including "The Sad Sack" (1957), a remake of Preston Sturges' "Miracle at Morgan's Creek" (1944) called "Rock-a-Bye Baby" (1958) and "The Geisha Boy" (1958), with Tashlin at the helm for all but one ("Sad Sack"). He also found himself with a successful recording career, starting with the single "Rock-a-bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody," which sold four million copies, and even starred in his own comic book, The Adventures of Jerry Lewis, which occasionally partnered him with superheroes like Batman or Superman from the stable of publisher DC Comics. But by far, the biggest event in Lewis' career during the period was the unprecedented contract he signed with Paramount Pictures. In 1959, the studio agreed to pay Jerry Lewis Productions $10 million and 60 percent of box office profits from his subsequent efforts. The move was not simply a reward for his stellar returns from moviegoers; the agreement allowed Lewis to write, produce and direct his own films. Lewis felt stagnant in the films he was making under his contract to Hal Wallis, and sought greater control over his own projects. After signing the new contract, he completed his commitment to Wallis with 1960's "Visit to a Small Planet," a broad adaptation of the television play of the same name by Gore Vidal (NBC, 1955), this time directed by Norman Taurog, who had helmed several of the better Martin-Lewis vehicles.

In 1960, Lewis starred and produced "Cinderfella," his skewed take on the well-loved fairy tale, with Tashlin behind the camera once again. The production showcased two of Lewis' most enduring - and notorious - personality traits: a perfectionist streak and a willingness to put his own physical well-being on the line for a joke. In the case of the latter, Lewis was hospitalized for four days after completing a single take in which he ran to the top of a grand ballroom staircase in just seven seconds, whereupon he collapsed and was confined to an oxygen tent. His box office clout also gave him the authority to officially hold up the film's release until the 1960 holiday season, despite Paramount's desire to send it out as a summer film. Eventually, the studio relented, but only if Lewis could turn out a replacement for a July release.

The result was "The Bellboy" (1960), a nearly silent, stream-of-consciousness picture hinged around the simplest conceit: a hapless bellboy (Lewis) bumbles his way through a series of comic mishaps. Lewis conceived the project while performing at the Fountainbleu Hotel in Miami, FL, and shot the film there during daylight hours on a three-week schedule while honoring his contract to the hotel's club at night. It was originally pitched as a starring feature for comedy legend Stan Laurel, who politely declined the role, fearing that his advanced age would disappoint fans, so Lewis hewed his performance and appearance as close to Laurel as possible. The picture, which officially marked Lewis' debut as a director, was not a box office hit on par with his previous solo efforts, but was notable for two reasons: it served as the launching pad for Europe's love affair with Lewis due to its similarity to the works of director Jacques Tati and it introduced the movie industry to his unique development: the video assist, a bank of video cameras and closed circuit monitors, which allowed him to play back and view a take immediately after shooting it. The system later became an industry-wide standard.

The blend of inventive visual storytelling and broad physical humor of "The Bellboy" set the tone for Lewis's subsequent film efforts. Projects like "The Ladies Man" (1961) and "The Errand Boy" (1961) demonstrated his innate understanding of camera movement, color, set design - most notably in "The Ladies Man," which unfolded on a 60-room set, the largest ever built at Paramount - and montage. Though critics continued to be less than wowed by Lewis' films - they were, after all, still broad comedies built around his caffeinated burlesque - fans continued to flock to them. He did manage to earn some begrudging respect for his best feature from the 1960s, "The Nutty Professor" (1963), a comic take on "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" about a nerdy college teacher who unleashes a smooth if soulless inner personality. One of his most crowd-pleasing hits, it also featured a terrific performance by Lewis as both the teacher and his id-driven alter ego Buddy Love, and an emotional core that lacked the treacle of some of his early efforts. Lewis labored for years to make a sequel, which faded as his box office star dimmed; however, he served as executive producer of the smash hit Eddie Murphy remake (1996) and its 2000 sequel.

"Professor" would serve as one of Lewis' last big hits; by the mid-1960s, his particular brand of humor was losing its grip on moviegoers. This fact, combined with the backlash that continued unabated from stateside critics, may have contributed to "The Patsy" (1964), an uncharacteristically cynical take on the manufactured nature of stardom as viewed through the eyes of Lewis' "Bellboy" character, who is elevated to national fame by a team of showbiz types. Though several set pieces delivered the expected number of gags, and Lewis' direction was exceptional, the film gave the impression that Lewis' relationship with Hollywood was souring. There would be one final hit for him at Paramount - "The Disorderly Orderly" (1964), a throwback to his late 1950s efforts directed by Tashlin - before the curtain began to fall on his tenure there. "The Family Jewels" (1965), with Lewis in seven different roles, was his first box office failure, as was "Boeing Boeing" (1965), an adaptation of Marc Camoletti's sex farce about two playboys (Lewis and Tony Curtis) and their rotating list of stewardesses. The back-to-back flops made it impossible for Paramount to continue to award Lewis the degree of control he desired for his directorial efforts. He parted company with the studio in 1965.

He landed at Columbia in 1966 to begin a string of comedies intended to rebuild his career with movie audiences, but the pictures - including "Three on a Couch" (1966), "Way Way Out" (1966), which featured a title song by his son Gary Lewis' pop group the Playboys, and "Don't Raise the Bridge, Lower the River" (1967) - failed to generate much box office traction. Sensing the downward motion of his career, he focused his boundless energies on other endeavors, including a film directing class at the University of Southern California where he mentored, among others, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas.

Lewis also became deeply invested in his annual MDA Labor Day Telethon, which raised money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association since 1966. Lewis began hosting regional telethons for the organization as early as 1952, and was the obvious choice to host a national telethon in 1966. Though the idea of a major telethon on a holiday weekend was dismissed by some as an unquestionable failure, Lewis' sheer force of will, along with the help of numerous celebrity guests, helped to raise over $1 million for the charity. He repeated the success the following year, and topped it in 1973 by raising $10 million. Three years later, the telethon made headlines when guest Frank Sinatra brokered an on-air reunion between Lewis and Dean Martin. The telethon had as many detractors as supporters; critics found Lewis treacly and overbearing as a host, and disability rights activities took umbrage at how he described MD sufferers as incapable of taking care of themselves without the support of the telethon. However, few could deny Lewis' passion for the cause, which he displayed through 16-hour stretches on air and ceaseless campaigning in advertising. By 2009, his efforts had raised $1.46 billion for muscular dystrophy, which resulted in a Nobel Peace Prize nomination in 1977.

Though his humanitarian efforts received considerable praise, Lewis' film career was dead in the water by the 1970s. He remained exceptionally popular in Europe; most notably France, where the influential magazine Cahiers du Cinema heaped some of its most effusive words on his body of work. In America, however, he was regarded as hopelessly out of date, with the dotage by Continental critics and audiences a popular gag with comics and pundits at the expense of Lewis and the French alike. Lewis attempted to resuscitate his image with "The Day the Clown Cried" (1972), a European-produced melodrama about a circus clown forced by the Nazis to lead children into the death chambers. The project horrified just about anyone who heard about it, and the select few who viewed it reported the experience as both baffling and unsettling. Litigation over production fees forced Lewis to cease completion on the film, and in the decades following its production, he was alternately hopeful and dismissive of a final release. Lewis also suffered from a debilitating addiction to the painkiller Percodan during this period, which he eventually overcame in 1978.

A frustrated Lewis returned to his first showcase - the stage - for a 1976 production of "Hellzapoppin'," but the frantic Jazz Era musical folded before it ever reached Broadway. He was forced to focus on the telethon, as well as comedy performances and lectures to maintain his career until 1981, when he returned to features with "Hardly Working." The comedy, about a hapless circus clown who fails miserably at every attempt to hold down a steady job, relied on relentless slapstick and the broadest of gags, but the film was a surprise hit in American theaters. Sensing a return to form, Lewis began crafting his next picture when disaster struck.

A massive heart attack nearly killed him in 1982; the experience, which he later described as near-death, served as the perverse inspiration for his next picture, "Smorgasbord" (1983), which told the story of a man (Lewis) whose failures extend even to suicide. The picture was released directly to cable under the title "Cracking Up." Its failure was soon overshadowed by a remarkable dramatic turn as a late night talk show host kidnapped by an obsessive fan (Robert De Niro) in Martin Scorsese's black comedy, "The King of Comedy" (1981). Critics were effusive in their praise for Lewis' performance, but he was unable to turn the triumph into subsequent work of the same caliber. Instead, he floundered in an adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut's "Slapstick of Another Kind" (1983), which saw him don makeup and a semi-moronic stance as one half of a pair of monstrous children who are revealed to have extraterrestrial origins. A year later, he returned to France to make a pair of comedies so grim that he retained the rights in order to keep them out of the United States.

In 1986, he enjoyed a resurgence of respect with a dramatic turn in the ABC TV movie "Fight for Life," about a doctor (Lewis) whose struggle to obtain a rare drug for his epileptic daughter highlighted problems within the Food and Drug Administration. He followed this with an impressive four-episode arc on the crime drama "Wiseguy" (CBS, 1987-1990) as a garment business owner who turns to Ken Wahl's undercover agent for protection against mobsters. The appearances sparked a sort of revival of Lewis' career, and he enjoyed a string of modest and well-praised appearances in features like "Mr. Saturday Night" (1992) and "Funny Bones" (1994), most of which traded on his long and storied showbiz career. In 1994, he enjoyed a triumphant run on Broadway as the Devil in a production of "Damn Yankees." Two years later, one of his longest gestating projects, a remake of "The Nutty Professor," finally made it to screen, with Eddie Murphy as both Julius Kelp and Buddy Love. A blockbuster with audiences, it generated a 2000 sequel and a tidy sum for Lewis, who served as producer on both films.

Unfortunately, Lewis' health issues and a string of controversial statements forced him to take a back seat throughout most of the new millennium. Prostate cancer, diabetes, pulmonary fibrosis, and a second heart attack nearly brought him to death's door a second time, and the treatment for the fibrosis through Prednisone resulted in his weight ballooning to dangerous levels. Lewis eventually battled an addiction to the medication, as well as pneumonia, viral meningitis and the insertion of two stents in a blocked artery. The press was sympathetic to Lewis's continuing health issues, but less so in regard to unfortunate statements like his 2000 dismissal of female comics in front of a festival crowd and homophobic jokes made during the 2007 and 2008 telethons. In 2008, he was cited for carrying a concealed weapon at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas.

Despite these incidents, Lewis remained both active and popular as he entered his eighth decade. In 2008, he announced that he was working on a musical stage adaptation of "The Nutty Professor" with composers Marvin Hamlisch and Rupert Holmes. The following year, he was cast as the lead in "Max Rose," his first lead in a feature film since "King of Comedy." Although the film was shot in 2009 and screened at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, it wasn't released until 2016. Lewis' long and fabled career received its share of tributes during this period as well, most notably the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the 81st Annual Academy Awards for his work for muscular dystrophy. The award was one of several major fetes between 2004-09, including a career achievement award from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, the Governors Award from the Emmys in 2005, a Satellite Award for an appearance on "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit" (NBC, 1999- ) and an induction into the New Jersey Hall of Fame in 2009. After 45 years of hosting the MDA Labor Day telethon, Lewis announced in May 2011 that he would be stepping down later that year as host, stating that it was time for "new telethon era." He made his final appearance on the September telecast, while continuing in his longtime role as the association's national chairman. That same year, Lewis starred in and produced the documentary "Method to the Madness of Jerry Lewis" (2011). He appeared onscreen in small roles in two more features, reprising his Bellboy character in the Brazilian comedy "Até que a Sorte nos Separe 2" (2013) and appearing opposite longtime fan Nicolas Cage in the crime thriller "The Trust" (2016), but his long-failing health kept him largely out of the spotlight in his final years. Jerry Lewis died of undisclosed natural causes at his Las Vegas home on August 20, 2017 at the age of 91.

Filmography

 

Director (Feature Film)

Smorgasbord (1983)
Director
Hardly Working (1981)
Director
The Day the Clown Cried (1972)
Director
One More Time (1970)
Director
Which Way to the Front? (1970)
Director
The Big Mouth (1967)
Director
Three on a Couch (1966)
Director
The Family Jewels (1965)
Director
The Patsy (1964)
Director
The Nutty Professor (1963)
Director
The Ladies' Man (1961)
Director
The Errand Boy (1961)
Director
The Bellboy (1960)
Director
The Delicate Delinquent (1957)
Director
Money from Home (1954)
Special material in song numbers staged by
How to Smuggle a Hernia Across the Border (1949)
Director

Cast (Feature Film)

The Trust (2016)
Method to the Madness of Jerry Lewis (2011)
Himself
The Nutty Professor (2008)
Milk and Money (1996)
(Cameo)
Funny Bones (1995)
Larry King: JFK Remembered (1993)
Arizona Dream (1992)
Leo Sweetie
Mr. Saturday Night (1992)
Himself
Cookie (1989)
Fight for Life (1987)
Slapstick Of Another Kind (1984)
Par ou t'es rentre? On t'as vu Sortir (1984)
Smorgasbord (1983)
Dr Perks; Warren Nefron
Retenez moi... ou je fais un malheur (1983)
The King Of Comedy (1983)
Hardly Working (1981)
Bo Hooper
Medicine Ball Caravan (1971)
Which Way to the Front? (1970)
Brendan Byers III
Hook, Line and Sinker (1969)
Peter Ingersoll/Fred Dobbs
Don't Raise the Bridge, Lower the River (1968)
George Lester
The Big Mouth (1967)
Gerald Clamson
Three on a Couch (1966)
Christopher Pride/Warren/Ringo/Rutherford/Heather
Way ... Way Out (1966)
Peter
The Family Jewels (1965)
Willard Woodward/ Everett Peyton/ James Peyton/ Capt. Eddie Peyton/ Julius Peyton/ "Bugs" Peyton/ Skylock Peyton
Boeing Boeing (1965)
Robert Reed
The Disorderly Orderly (1964)
Jerome Littlefield
The Patsy (1964)
Stanley Belt
It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)
Mad driver
The Nutty Professor (1963)
Prof. Julius F. Kelp/Buddy Love
Who's Minding the Store? (1963)
Raymond Phiffier
It's Only Money (1962)
Lester March
The Errand Boy (1961)
Morty S. Tashman
The Ladies' Man (1961)
Herbert H. Heebert
Visit to a Small Planet (1960)
Kreton
CinderFella (1960)
CinderFella [Fella Kingston]
The Bellboy (1960)
Stanley
The Bellboy (1960)
Jerry Lewis
Li'l Abner (1959)
Itchy McGrathy
Don't Give Up the Ship (1959)
John Paul Steckler VII
Rock-a-Bye Baby (1958)
Clayton Poole
The Geisha Boy (1958)
Gilbert Wooley
The Sad Sack (1957)
Pvt. Meredith Bixby
The Delicate Delinquent (1957)
Sidney L. Pythias
Pardners (1956)
Wade Kingsley, Jr., also known as "Killer Jones"/Wade Kingsley, Sr.
Hollywood or Bust (1956)
Malcolm Smith
Artists and Models (1956)
Eugene Fullstack
3 Ring Circus (1955)
Jerome "Jerry" X. Hotchkiss
You're Never Too Young (1955)
Wilbur Hoolick
Money from Home (1954)
Virgil Yokum
Living It Up (1954)
Homer Flagg
Road to Bali (1953)
Himself
The Caddy (1953)
Harvey Miller, Jr.
Scared Stiff (1953)
Myron Mertz
The Stooge (1953)
Ted Rogers
Jumping Jacks (1952)
Hap Smith, also known as Dogface Dolan
Sailor Beware (1952)
Melvin Jones
At War with the Army (1951)
Pfc. [Alvin] Korwin
That's My Boy (1951)
"Junior" Jackson
My Friend Irma Goes West (1950)
Seymour
The Milkman (1950)
Milkman
My Friend Irma (1949)
Seymour

Writer (Feature Film)

Nutty Professor II: The Klumps (2000)
Characters As Source Material
The Nutty Professor (1996)
From Original Screenplay ("The Nutty Professor" (Usa/1963))
The Nutty Professor (1996)
Story By
Smorgasbord (1983)
Screenwriter
Hardly Working (1981)
Screenwriter
The Big Mouth (1967)
Screenwriter
The Family Jewels (1965)
Screenwriter
The Patsy (1964)
Screenwriter
The Nutty Professor (1963)
Screenwriter
The Errand Boy (1961)
Screenwriter
The Ladies' Man (1961)
Screenwriter
The Bellboy (1960)
Writer

Producer (Feature Film)

Nutty Professor II: The Klumps (2000)
Executive Producer
The Nutty Professor (1996)
Executive Producer
Which Way to the Front? (1970)
Producer
Hook, Line and Sinker (1969)
Producer
The Big Mouth (1967)
Producer
Three on a Couch (1966)
Producer
The Family Jewels (1965)
Producer
The Disorderly Orderly (1964)
Executive Producer
The Ladies' Man (1961)
Producer
The Bellboy (1960)
Producer
CinderFella (1960)
Producer
The Geisha Boy (1958)
Producer
Rock-a-Bye Baby (1958)
Producer
The Delicate Delinquent (1957)
Producer

Editing (Feature Film)

The Bellboy (1960)
Editing

Music (Feature Film)

Beverly Hills Cop III (1994)
Song Performer
The Errand Boy (1961)
Composer

Production Companies (Feature Film)

Hook, Line and Sinker (1969)
Company
The Big Mouth (1967)
Company
The Patsy (1964)
Company
The Nutty Professor (1963)
Company
The Errand Boy (1961)
Company

Special Thanks (Feature Film)

Four Rooms (1995)
Special Thanks To
North (1994)
Thanks

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

Earth Girls Are Easy (1988)
Other
Fight for Life (1987)
Consultant

Cast (Special)

Tony Curtis: Tony of the Movies (2001)
Shot Heard 'Round the World (2001)
Ed McMahon: America's Sidekick (2000)
Interviewee
The Rat Pack (1999)
Dean Martin: The E! True Hollywood Story (1999)
12th Annual American Comedy Awards (1998)
Performer
Sports on the Silver Screen (1997)
MDA Jerry Lewis Telethon (1997)
Jerry Lewis: The Last American Clown (1996)
Comic Relief's 10th Anniversary (1996)
The 49th Annual Tony Awards (1995)
Presenter
Dean Martin: Everybody Loves Somebody (1995)
Jerry Lewis, Total Filmmaker (1994)
Dean & Jerry at the Movies (1994)
Kings of Comedy (1992)
Birth of the Team (1992)
MDA Jerry Lewis Telethon (1992)
Jerry Alone at the Top (1992)
MDA Jerry Lewis Telethon (1991)
MDA Jerry Lewis Telethon (1990)
Sammy Davis Jr.'s 60th Anniversary Celebration (1990)
16th Annual Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame (1989)
Performer
America Picks the All-Time Favorite Movies (1988)
An Evening With Sammy Davis Jr. and Jerry Lewis (1988)
Las Vegas: An All Star 75th Anniversary (1987)
Comic Relief (1986)
Rickles on the Loose (1986)
Circus of the Stars (1979)
The First 50 Years (1976)
The Wonderful World of Burlesque I (1965)
Guest
The Jazz Singer (1959)
Joey Robbins
The Louis Jourdan Timex Special (1959)
Guest

Producer (Special)

Kings of Comedy (1992)
Executive Producer
Jerry Alone at the Top (1992)
Executive Producer
Birth of the Team (1992)
Executive Producer

Music (Special)

An Evening With Sammy Davis Jr. and Jerry Lewis (1988)
Song Performer
Las Vegas: An All Star 75th Anniversary (1987)
Song Performer

Life Events

1942

Received first professional booking at the Loew's Pitman Theatre in Brooklyn, NY

1944

Booked at the Glass Hat in NYC on the same bill as Dean Martin

1946

First performed with Dean Martin at the 500 Club in Atlantic City

1948

Signed a contract with Universal-International

1948

Made TV debut on the Ed Sullivan hosted CBS program "Toast of the Town" (later titled "The Ed Sullivan Show)

1949

Performed in the Martin and Lewis radio show

1949

Co-formed York Productions with Dean Martin

1949

First film with Martin, "My Friend Irma"

1950

Formed Gar-Ron Productions (named after sons Gary and Ronald)

1950

Martin and Lewis appeared as rotating hosts of "The Colgate Comedy Hour" (NBC)

1954

Debuted as host of the Muscular Dystrophy Association's Labor Day telethon

1955

Began a long collaboration with writer-director Frank Tashlin with the film "Artists and Models"

1956

Ended partnership with Dean Martin; later formed Jerry Lewis Productions

1956

Last film with Martin, "Hollywood or Bust"; also directed by Tashlin

1957

Produced first film without Martin, "The Delicate Delinquet"

1958

First solo TV special, "The Jerry Lewis Show" (ABC)

1959

Signed a long-term exclusive contract with Paramount

1960

Directed and starred in "The Bellboy"; also co-wrote with Bill Richmond

1961

Directed and starred in the comedy "The Ladies Man"

1963

Produced and starred in the comedy hit "The Nutty Professor"; also directed and co-wrote with Bill Richmond

1964

Last picture with Tashlin, "The Disorderly Orderly"

1965

Discontinued asociation with Paramount

1966

Appeared as master of ceremonies for first "Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon"; began ongoing association with MDA

1969

Directed Sammy Davis and Peter Lawford in "One More Time"; only time Lewis directed without also acting in the film

1970

Last released film for 11 years, "Which Way to the Front?"

1971

Produced and starred in the never-released "The Day the Clown Cried"

1976

Acted on stage in "Helzapoppin"; show closed before reaching Broadway

1976

Reunited with Dean Martin on stage at a muscular dystrophy telethon; reunion arranged by Frank Sinatra

1981

Returned to the screen with "Hardly Working"

1983

Played a late-night TV host plagued by obsessive fans in Martin Scorsese's "The King of Comedy"

1988

Guest starred on five episodes of the CBS series "Wise Guy"

1991

Starred in "Arizona Dream" with Johnny Depp and Faye Dunnaway

1994

Traveled to Blackpool, England to make "Funny Bones" for Hollywood Pictures

1995

Made Broadway debut as Applegate in a revival of "Damn Yankees"

1997

Reprised role of Applegate in the London production of "Damn Yankees"

2000

Signed 20-year contract with the Orleans Hotel-Casino in Las Vegas, marking his return to Vegas after a 12-year absence

2005

Wrote a book about his partnership with Dean Martin titled <i>Dean & Me (A Love Story)</i>

2006

Guest starred on an episode of "Law and Order: SVU" (NBC) as the homeless uncle of Detective Munch (Richard Belzer)

2013

Returned to the big screen in "Max Rose"

2013

Reprised Bellboy character in "Till Luck Do Us Part 2"

2016

Had final film role as Nicolas Cage's father in "The Trust"

Photo Collections

Artists and Models (1955) - Publicity Stills
Artists and Models (1955) - Publicity Stills
The Disorderly Orderly - Movie Poster
The Disorderly Orderly - Movie Poster
The King of Comedy - Movie Poster
Here is a half-sheet movie poster from The King of Comedy (1983), directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Robert De Niro and Jerry Lewis.

Videos

Movie Clip

Three On A Couch (1966) - They All Have The Same Problem Producer-director Jerry Lewis is an L-A artist who has improbably won a year’s sponsored work in Paris, celebrating with his psychiatrist fianceè (Janet Leigh), who’s realized she can’t join him, because of patients like Susan (Mary Ann Mobley), early in Three On A Couch, 1966.
Three On A Couch (1966) - You're Just Too Shy Pretending to be spinster "Heather," director and star Jerry Lewis has to become her brother "Rutherford," as he attempts to cure Mary Lou (Leslie Parrish) of her neuroses, in Three On A Couch, 1966.
Three On A Couch (1966) - He Trusts Bugs Mary Lou (Leslie Parrish) with her shrink Liz (Janet Leigh), whose boyfriend Chris (director and star Jerry Lewis) is taking outrageous steps to cure her patients so they can get married, in Three On A Couch, 1966.
Hollywood Or Bust (1956) - Open, The American Movie Fan Elaborate schtick in taste acceptable at the time, Frank Tashlin directing the opening of the last Dean Martin/Jerry Lewis feature vehicle, Dean addressing the camera, Jerry doing gags, co-star Anita Ekberg in various costumes kind of relevant to the cross-country drive plot, in Paramount’s Hollywood Or Bust, 1956.
Hollywood Or Bust (1956) - Chloroform And Old Calico Heading to Hollywood, one fleeing gambling debts and the other hoping to meet Anita Ekberg, Steve and Malcolm (Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis) have been held up by a hitch-hiking granny (Kathryn Card) then are rescued by jalopy-driving “Red” (Pat Crowley), in the final Martin & Lewis film, Hollywood Or Bust, 1956.
Living It Up (1954) - I Mean A Female Girl New Mexico doctor Steve (Dean Martin) is sorry he can’t pretend patient Homer (Jerry Lewis) really has radiation poisoning, even though it’s costing him a trip to New York, until he meets reporter Wally (Janet Leigh) from the sponsoring newspaper, in the remake of Nothing Sacred, Living It Up, 1954.
Living It Up (1954) - Money Burns A Hole In My Pocket Reporter Wally (Janet Leigh) in New York doesn’t want romantic doctor Steve (Dean Martin) to know she’s having his buddy-patient (Jerry Lewis) seen by experts, guides him into a song from the Broadway musical (Hazel Flagg) based on the movie Nothing Sacred, 1937, of which this movie is a remake, in Living It Up, 1954.
Living It Up (1954) - First Time I Saw A Radioactive Early in Paramount's Dean Martin/Jerry Lewis re-boot of Nothing Sacred, 1937, Jerry as obscure New Mexico railroad employee Homer discovers he's slept in a radioactive car, then in New York reporter "Wally" (Janet Leigh) sees it as a pitch for her editor Oliver Stone (Fred Clark), in Living It Up, 1954.
Living It Up (1954) - You're Gonna Dance With Me Now the toast of Manhattan because he’s supposed to be dying of radiation poisoning (in the remake of Nothing Sacred, 1937, and based on the Broadway musical version Hazel Flagg), MC Sid Tomak introduces Jerry Lewis as doomed Homer for a song by Jule Styne and Bob Hilliard, with Sheree North dancing in her movie debut, Dean Martin and Janet Leigh watching, in Living It Up, 1954.
Bellboy, The (1960) - He Sure Is Funny! Writer, producer, director and star Jerry Lewis appearing for the first time as himself, arriving at Miami’s Fontainebleau Hotel, where he was also the headline act, emerging from the elevator as the title character Stanley, his colleagues noting the resemblance, in The Bellboy, 1960.
Bellboy, The (1960) - Everything Out Of The Trunk The first proper gag or two, with writer, first-time director, producer and star Jerry Lewis as silent bellboy Stanley, shooting at Miami’s Fontainebleau Hotel, where Lewis was also performing at the time, in The Bellboy, 1960.
Jerry Lewis (TCM Co-Host) Lady! Ben Mankiewicz asks Jerry Lewis about the first time he uttered his signature line "Lady!" in the 1952 comedy The Stooge.

Trailer

Scared Stiff (1953) -- (Original Trailer) Original trailer from Paramount, home studio for Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin, for the 1953 horror-spoof Scared Stiff, co-starring Lizabeth Scott, and featuring Carmen Miranda in her last movie appearance.
You're Never Too Young (1955) -- Original Trailer Original trailer for Paramount’s You’re Never Too Young, 1955, another hit vehicle for Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis (based on the same original story as Paramount’s The Major And The Minor, 1942, with Ginger Rogers and Ray Milland), featuring Diana Lynn, Nina Foch and Raymond Burr.
Artists And Models (1955) -- Original Trailer Original trailer for Paramount’s Martin & Lewis hit Artists And Models 1955, the third-to-last feature starring Jerry and Dean, featuring Shirley MacLaine, Dorothy Malone and Eva Gabor, directed by Frank Tashlin.
Caddy, The - (Original Trailer) Jerry Lewis hits the links while Dean Martin sings "That's Amore" in the comedy hit The Caddy (1953).
Boeing Boeing - (Original Trailer) A playboy (Tony Curtis) uses airline schedules to maintain "exclusive" relationships with three flight attendants at the same time in Boeing Boeing (1965) co-starring Jerry Lewis.
Sad Sack, The - (Original Trailer) A hopelessly innocent private (Jerry Lewis) gets himself kidnapped in Morocco in The Sad Sack (1957).
Don't Give Up The Ship - (Original Trailer) Jerry Lewis cannot remember what happened to the WWII battleship he commanded in Don't Give Up The Ship (1959).
Sailor Beware - (Original Trailer) For their fifth movie together, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis join the Navy in Sailor Beware (1951).
Li'L Abner - (Original Trailer) Al Capp's satirical comic strip becomes a Broadway musical becomes the movie Li'L Abner (1959) with Stubby Kaye and Julie Newmar.
King of Comedy, The - (Original Trailer) Robert De Niro plays a would-be comic who kidnaps a talk-show host (Jerry Lewis) to win a guest shot on his show in Martin Scorsese's The King of Comedy (1983).
Ladies Man, The - (Original Trailer) Jerry Lewis is a houseboy who creates chaos at a Hollywood hotel for aspiring actresses in The Ladies Man (1961).
Bellboy, The - (Original Trailer) Not only was he the star, writer, producer and director, Jerry Lewis also made this trailer promoting his first total filmmaker comedy, The Bellboy (1960).

Promo

Family

Sarah Rothberg
Grandmother
Mother's mother; helped to raise Lewis until her death in 1941.
Danny Lewis
Father
Vaudeville entertainer. Died c. 1982.
Rae Lewis
Mother
Entertainer, pianist, music arranger, musical director for husband.
Gary Lewis
Son
Musician. Born on July 31, 1945; married Sara Jane Suzara in 1967; was member of band Gary Lewis and the Playboys; had big hit, "This Diamond Ring".
Ronald Lewis
Son
Born in 1949; adopted by Lewis and his wife Patti in 1950; wife Gail Lewis.
Scott Lewis
Son
Publicist. Born in 1956.
Christopher Lewis
Son
Born in 1957; in August 1991 pleaded innocent to felony counts of grand theft and receiving stolen property in case involving limited edition artworks worth more than $200,000.
Anthony Lewis
Son
Born in 1959.
Joseph Lewis
Son
Born in 1964.
Danielle Sara Lewis
Daughter
Born in April 1992; adopted by Lewis and second wife SanDee in May 1992.

Companions

Patti Palmer
Wife
Singer. Married in 1944; divorced in October 1982; born c. 1920.
Susan Bay
Companion
Producer. Had long-term relationship; no longer together.
SanDee Lewis
Wife
Married in 1983.

Bibliography

"King of Comedy: The Life and Art of Jerry Lewis"
Shawn Levy, St. Martin's Press (1996)
"Jerry Lewis In Person"
Jerry Lewis, Atheneum (1982)
"The Total Film-Maker"
Jerry Lewis (1971)

Notes

He has made numerous other recordings.

While Lewis has always claimed that his birth name was Joseph, some sources contend that "official records" indicate he was actually named Jerome.

Lewis received the Most Promising Male Star Award from Motion Picture Daily in 1950.

He received the Herald-Fame Award as one of the Top Ten Money Making Stars, 1951, 1952 (as Number One), 1953, 1954, 1957.

Lewis and Dean Martin were voted Best Comedy Team in Motion Picture Daily Radio Poll in 1951, 1952, 1953 and 1956.

"The Nutty Professor" was named the Best Picture of 1964 by French critics.

Lewis has won the Best Director of the Year Award eight times in Europe: three in France and one each in Italy, Belgium, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands

"Jerry Lewis is a man for all seasons, all people, all times. His name has, in the hearts of millions, become synonymous with peace, love and brotherhood." --Congressman Les Aspin of Wisconsin, concluding his 1977 nomination of Lewis for the Nobel Peace Prize.

In 1971, he was presented with the Murray-Green Award for Community Services by the AFL-CIO. It is the highest honor the labor organization can bestow on an American citizen.

In September of 1976, the United States Senate unanimously adopted a resolution of appreciation "For his outstanding contribution in the fight against muscular dystrophy".

Other awards recognizing Lewis' combat against neuromuscular disease include: the National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE) Award of the Year (June 1978); the Jefferson Award for the "Greatest Public Service Benefiting the Disadvantaged" (June 1978); the Touchdown Club of Washington DC's Hubert H. Humphrey Humanitarian Award (January 1980); Boston University School of Law's Neal Pike Prize for Service to the Handicapped (November 1984); the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service (June 1985); and the Award of Professionalism and Achievement from the Eterna Watch Corporation (1988).

Named Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters and Commander of Legion of Honor by the French government, both in 1984.

In April 1991, Lewis was inducted into the Broadcast Hall of Fame by the National Association of Broadcasters.

He was inducted into International Comedy Hall of Fame in 1992.

On July 31, 1999, Lewis was hospitalized for nine days in Australia after contracting viral meningitis.

"... With Dean, I finally got my brother. I wasn't an only child anymore, I had someone in my life who was my hero. And he, never having had that kind of relationship, saw that coming from me and nurtured it and treated me with infinite respect while always making me understand that I WAS the kid ... Dean Martin made our act--though I worked very hard in the first six months to get him to be aware of his innate sense of timing. I didn't have time to work on the kid. The kid was just instinctively nuts, and we let him go. But Dean was the genius, and no one has ever noticed that." --Jerry Lewis, Interview, April 1995.

"I shall pass through this world but once. Any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way aqain!" --Jerry Lewis moto reflecting his ongoing love affair with humanity

"I don't need other people's pain to make comedy. I just call on my own. I need only to call upon my sorrow to create laughter. Sorrow and laughter are so close, hand-in-glove." --Jerry Lewis in Parade Magazine

There is an official website, The Jerry Lewis Comedy Museum and Store, located at www.jerrylewiscomedy.com.