Comedy legend Jerry Lewis recently passed away at the age of 91.
Famous for his high voice, slapstick genius and incredible facial expressions Jerry took over the Hollywood scene in the 1950’s. The man of many talents had success in live comedy, movies, film making and theatre for 70 years.
He rose to fame after World War II with a nightclub act where the fast rising singer Dean Martin crooned while the hyper Mr. Lewis danced around the stage. Their antics earned the notice of Billboard magazine, whose reviewer wrote, “Martin and Lewis do an afterpiece that has all the makings of a sock act,” using showbiz slang for a successful show.
Jerry Lewis’s unique comic skills were soon on screen with such breakout hits such as The Bellboy and as the brilliant Nutty Professor – re made decades later with Eddie Murphy. Avoid that one – watch the original.
In 1971 the comic directed and starred in The Day the Clown Cried, about a children’s entertainer at Nazi concentration camps. The film was reportedly buried by horrified studio bosses and has since become a dark piece of Hollywood folklore. Lewis, who was rumoured to possess the lone copy of the film, refused to discuss it.
In 1982, his talent reached a brand new cinema audience when he appeared in The King of Comedy for Martin Scorsese. He starred opposite Robert De Niro in a memorable performance as a kidnapped talk show host. He was a revelation. Students of comedy can appreciate his comedy skills in The Nutty Professor and his untapped dramatic side in the King of Comedy.
His fame died down in America over the years but he was a sensation in France (the loved his earlier screwball comedies), where he received the Legion Of Honour in 1983.
Jerry Lewis, for his part, was bullish about his legacy. “I’m a multi-faceted, talented, wealthy, internationally famous genius,” he once remarked. “I have an IQ of 190 – that’s supposed to be a genius. People don’t like that. But my answer to my critics is simple: I like me. I like what I’ve become. I’m proud of what I achieved.”
May he rest in peace.