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Lewis, Jerry

LEWIS, Jerry



Nationality: American. Born: Joseph Levitch in Newark, New Jersey, 16 March 1926. Education: Irvington High School, New Jersey, through tenth grade. Family: Married 1) singer Patti Palmer, 1944 (divorced 1982), five sons; 2) Sandra Pitnick, 1983, one adopted daughter. Career: Stage debut in 1931; developed comic routines and attracted Irving Kaye as manager, 1942; began working with Dean Martin at Atlantic City club, 1946; with Martin, signed by Hal Wallis for Paramount, 1948; acted in first feature, also founded production company to direct series of pastiches of Hollywood films (later Jerry Lewis Productions), 1949; chairman of Muscular Dystrophy Association of America, raising funds from annual telethons, from 1952; started solo career, 1956; signed seven-year contract with Paramount-York, 1959; after abandonment of The Day the Clown Cried, left films for eight years, 1972; appeared on Broadway as the devil in revival of Damn Yankees, 1995. Awards: Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters, and Commander of the Legion of Honour, France, 1984; Nobel Peace Prize nomination, 1978, for work for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Agent: Jeff Witjas, William Morris Agency, 151 El Camino Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90212, U.S.A. Address: Jerry Lewis Films Inc., 3160 W. Sahara Avenue #16-C, Las Vegas, NV 89102, U.S.A.


Films as Director:


(partial list)

1949

Fairfax Avenue (short pastiche of Sunset Boulevard); A Spotin the Shade (short pastiche of A Place in the Sun); Watchon the Lime (pastiche); Come Back, Little Shicksa (pastiche); Son of Lifeboat (pastiche); The Re-Inforcer (pastiche); Sonof Spellbound (pastiche); Melvin's Revenge (pastiche); IShould Have Stood in Bedlam (pastiche of From Here toEternity); The Whistler (pastiche)

1960

The Bellboy (+ sc, pr, role as Stanley)

1961

The Ladies' Man (+ sc, pr, roles as Herbert H. Heebert and his mother, Mrs. Heebert); The Errand Boy (+ sc, role as Morty S. Tachman)

1963

The Nutty Professor (+ sc, roles as Julius F. Kelp and Buddy Love)

1964

The Patsy (+ sc, role as Stanley Belt)

1965

The Family Jewels (+ pr, sc, roles as Willard Woodward, Uncle James Peyton, Uncle Eddie Peyton, Uncle Julius Peyton, Uncle Shylock Peyton, Uncle Bugs Peyton)

1966

Three on a Couch (+ pr, roles as Christopher Prise, Warren, Ringo Raintree, Rutherford, Heather)

1967

The Big Mouth (+ pr, sc, roles as Gerald Clamson, Sid Valentine)

1970

One More Time; Which Way to the Front? (+ pr, roles as Brendan Byers III, Kesselring)

1972

The Day the Clown Cried (+ principal role) (not released)

1980

Hardly Working (+ sc, principal role)

1982

Cracking Up (Smorgasbord) (+ sc, principal role)

1990

Good Grief (series for TV)

1993

Super Force (series for TV)



Other Films:

1949

My Friend Irma (Marshall) (role as Seymour)

1950

My Friend Irma Goes West (Walker) (role as Seymour)

1951

At War with the Army (Walker) (role as Soldier Korwin); That's My Boy (Walker) (role as "Junior" Jackson)

1952

Sailor Beware (Walker) (role as Melvin Jones); JumpingJacks (Taurog) (role as Hap Smith)

1953

The Stooge (Taurog) (role as Ted Rogers); Scared Stiff (Marshall) (role as Myron Myron Mertz); The Caddy (Taurog) (role as Harvey Miller)

1954

Money from Home (Marshall) (role as Virgil Yokum); LivingIt Up (Taurog) (role as Homer Flagg); Three Ring Circus (Pevney) (role as Jerry Hotchkiss)

1955

You're Never Too Young (Taurog) (role as Wilbur Hoolick); Artists and Models (Tashlin) (role as Eugene Fullstack)

1956

Pardners (Taurog) (role as Wade Kingsley Jr.); Hollywood orBust (Tashlin) (role as Malcolm Smith)

1957

The Delicate Delinquent (McGuire) (pr, role as Sidney Pythias); The Sad Sack (Marshall) (role as Meredith T. Bixby); TheGeisha Boy (Tashlin) (pr, role as Gilbert Wooley)

1958

Rock-a-Bye Baby (Tashlin) (pr, role as Clayton Poole)

1959

Don't Give up the Ship (Taurog) (role as John Paul Steckley VII)

1960

Visit to a Small Planet (Taurog) (role as Kreton); Cinderfella (Tashlin) (pr, role as Fella); Li'l Abner (Frank) (brief appearance)

1962

It's Only Money (Tashlin) (role as Lester March)

1963

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World (Kramer) (role as man who drives over Culpepper's hat); Who's Minding theStore? (Tashlin) (role as Raymond Phiffier)

1964

The Disorderly Orderly (Tashlin) (role as Jerome Littlefield)

1965

Boeing Boeing (Rich) (role as Robert Reed)

1966

Way Way Out (Douglas) (role as Peter Matamore)

1967

Don't Raise the Bridge, Lower the River (Paris), (role as George Lester)

1969

Hook, Line, and Sinker (Marshall) (pr, role as Peter Ingersoll, alias Dobbs)

1981

Rascal Dazzle (doc) (narration)

1982

The King of Comedy (Scorsese) (role as Jerry Langford); Slapstick (Paul) (role)

1984

Retenex-moi . . . ou je fais un malheur (To Catch a Cop) (Gerard) (role as Jerry Logan); Par ou t'est rentre? On t'apas vu sortir (Clair) (role); Slapstick of Another Kind (Paul) (role)



1989

Cookie (Seidelman) (role)

1992

American Dreamers (role); Mr. Saturday Night (role); Arizona Dream (role as Leo Sweetie)

1995

Funny Bones (Chelsom) (role as George Fawkes)

1996

The Nutty Professor (exec pr)

2000

Nutty Professor II: The Klumps (exec pr)

Publications


By LEWIS: books—

The Total Film-Maker, New York, 1971.

Jerry Lewis in Person, New York, 1982.


By LEWIS: articles—

"Mr. Lewis Is a Pussycat," interview with Peter Bogdanovich, in Esquire (New York), November 1962.

"America's Uncle: Interview with Jerry Lewis," with Axel Madsen, in Cahiers du Cinéma in English (New York), no. 4, 1966.

Interview in Directors at Work, edited by Bernard Kantor and others, New York, 1970.

"Five Happy Moments," in Esquire (New York), December 1970.

"Dialogue on Film: Jerry Lewis," in American Film (Washington, D.C.), September 1977.

Interview with D. Rabourdin, in Cinéma (Paris), April 1980.

Interview with Serge Daney, in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), May 1983.

"The King of Comedy," an interview with T. Jousse and V. Ostria, in Cahiers du Cinéma, July/August 1993.

"Thank You Jerry Much," an interview with Graham Fuller, in Interview, April 1995.

"Time and Jerry," an interview with Brian Case, in Time Out (London), 20 September 1995.

"Jerry Lewis on Writing, Directing, and Starring in the Original Version of The Nutty Professor," with S. Biodrowski, in Cinefantastique (Forest Park), no. 3, 1996.

"Not-so-nutty Professor of Laughs," an interview with Andrew Duncan, in Radio Times (London), 12 July 1997.


On LEWIS: books—

Gehman, Richard, That Kid—The Story of Jerry Lewis, New York, 1964.

Simsolo, Noel, Le Monde de Jerry Lewis, Paris, 1969.

Maltin, Leonard, Movie Comedy Teams, New York, 1970.

Recasens, Gerard, Jerry Lewis, Paris, 1970.

Marx, Arthur, Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime (EspeciallyHimself): The Story of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, New York, 1974.

Cremonini, Giogio, Jerry Lewis, Firenza, 1979.

Marchesini, Mauro, Jerry Lewis: Un comico a perdere, Verona, 1983.

Benayoun, Robert, Bonjour Monsieur Lewis: journal ouvert,1957–1980, Paris, 1989.

Lewis, Patti, I Laffed 'til I Cried: Thirty-six Years of Marriage toJerry Lewis, Waco, Texas, 1993.

Neibaur, James L., The Jerry Lewis Films: An Analytical Filmographyof the Innovative Comic, Jefferson, North Carolina, 1995.

Levy, Shawn, King of Comedy: The Life and Art of Jerry Lewis, New York, 1996.

Krutnik, Frank, Inventing Jerry Lewis, Washington, 2000.


On LEWIS: articles—

Farson, Daniel, "Funny Men: Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis," in Sight and Sound (London), July/September 1952.

Kass, Robert, "Jerry Lewis Analyzed," in Films in Review (New York), March 1953.

Hume, Rod, "Martin and Lewis—Are Their Critics Wrong?," in Films and Filming (London), March 1956.

Taylor, John, "Jerry Lewis," in Sight and Sound (London), Spring 1965.

Sarris, Andrew, "Editor's Eyrie," in Cahiers du Cinéma in English (New York), no. 4, 1966.

Schickel, Richard, "Jerry Lewis Retrieves a Lost Ideal," in Life (New York), 15 July 1966.

Camper, Fred, "Essays in Visual Style," in Cinéma (London), no. 8, 1971.

Vialle, G., and others, "Jerry Lewis," in Image et Son (Paris), no. 278, 1973.

Coursodon, J. P., "Jerry Lewis's Films: No Laughing Matter?," in Film Comment (New York), July/August 1975.

LeBour, F., and R. DeLaroche, "Which Way to Jerry Lewis?," in Ecran (Paris), July 1976.

Shearer, H., "Telethon," in Film Comment (New York), May/June 1979.

McGilligan, P., "Recycling Jerry Lewis," in American Film (Washington, D.C.), September 1979.

Jerry Lewis Section of Casablanca (Madrid), June 1983.

Polan, Dana, "Being and Nuttiness: Jerry Lewis and the French," in Journal of Popular Film and Television (Washington, D.C.), Spring 1984.

Liebman, R. L., "Rabbis or Rakes, Schlemiels or Supermen? Jewish Identity in Charles Chaplin, Jerry Lewis, and Woody Allen," in Literature/Film Quarterly (Salisbury, Maryland), vol. 12, no. 3, July 1984.

"Jerry Lewis," in Film Dope (London), September 1986.

Bukatman, S., "Paralysis in Motion: Jerry Lewis's Life as a Man," in Camera Obscura, May 1988.

Reynaud, B., "Qui a peur de Jerry Lewis? Pas nous, pas nous," in Cahiers du Cinéma, February 1989.

Kruger, Barbara, "Remote Control," in Artforum, November 1989.

Bukatman, S., "Session: Jerry Lewis," in Quarterly Review of FilmStudies, no. 4, 1989.

Selig, Michael, "The Nutty Professor: A 'Problem' in Film Scholarship," in Velvet Light Trap, Fall 1990.

Angeli, Michael, "God's Biggest Goof," in Esquire, February 1991.

Woodcock, J. M., "The Name Dropper Drops Jerry Lewis, Part I," in American Cinemeditor, no. 3, 1991.

Hoberman, J., "Before There Was 'Scarface' There Was . . . Rubberface," in Interview, February 1993.

Bolte, Bill, "Jerry's Got to Be Kidding," in Utne Reader, March 1993.

Wolff, C., "Highs, Lows, Joy, and Regret, All in a Single Day's Living," in New York Times, 5 August 1993.

Rapf, Joanna E., "Comic Theory from a Feminist Perspective: A Look at Jerry Lewis," in Journal of Popular Culture, Summer 1993.

Bennetts, Leslie, "Letter from Las Vegas: Jerry vs. the Kids" in Vanity Fair, September 1993.

Krutnik, Frank, "Jerry Lewis: The Deformation of the Comic," in Film Quarterly, Fall 1994.

Haller, Beth, "The Misfit and Muscular Dystrophy," in Journal ofPopular Film and Television, Winter 1994.

Krutnik, F., "The Handsome Man and His Monkey," in Journal ofPopular Film and Television (Washington, D.C.), no. 1, 1995.

Castro, Peter, "Hellza Poppin," in People Weekly, 27 March 1995.

Krutnik, Frank, "The Handsome Man and His Monkey: The Comic Bondage of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis," in Journal of PopularFilm and Television, Spring 1995.

Stars (Mariembourg), Autumn 1995.

Seesslen, Georg, "Cinderfella & Big Mouth. Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin," in EPD Film (Frankfurt), April 1996.

Mago (Max Goldstein), "Souvenirs d'un film qui n'est jamais sorti," in Positif (Paris), May 1998.


* * *

In France, Jerry Lewis is called "Le Roi de Crazy" and adulated as a genius by filmmakers as respectable as Alain Resnais, Jean-Luc Godard, and Claude Chabrol. In America, Jerry Lewis is still an embarrassing and unexplained paradox, often ridiculed, awaiting a persuasive critical champion. This incredible gulf can in part be explained by American access, on television talk shows and Lewis's annual muscular dystrophy telethon, to Lewis's contradictory public persona: egotistical yet insecure, insulting yet sentimental, juvenile yet adult, emotionally naked yet defensive. Were not the real Lewis apparently so hard to love, the celluloid Lewis might be loved all the more. And yet a Lewis cult thrives among American cinephiles; and certainly The Bellboy, The Errand Boy, The Nutty Professor, and Which Way to the Front? appear today to be among the most interesting and ambitious American films of the 1960s.

Lewis's career can be divided into four periods: first, the partnership with singer Dean Martin, which resulted in a successful nightclub act and popular series of comedies, including My Friend Irma and At War with the Army, as well as several highly regarded films directed by former cartoonist and Lewis mentor Frank Tashlin; second (after professional and personal tensions fueled by Lewis's artistic ambitions irrevocably destroyed the partnership), an apprenticeship as a solo comedy star, beginning with The Delicate Delinquent and continuing through Tashlin's Cinderfella; third, the period as the self-professed "total filmmaker," inaugurated in 1960 with The Bellboy and followed by a decade of Lewis films directed by and starring Lewis, which attracted the attention of auteurist critics in France and overwhelming box-office response in America, culminating with a string of well-publicized financial failures, including Which Way to the Front? and the unreleased, near-mythical The Day the Clown Cried, in which clown Lewis leads Jewish children to Nazi ovens; and finally, the period as valorized, if martyred auteur, exemplified by Lewis's work as an actor in Martin Scorsese's The King of Comedy and Lewis's sporadic, unsuccessful attempts to reestablish his own directorial career. Lewis's appeal is significantly rooted in the American silent film tradition of the individual comedian: like Chaplin, Lewis is interested in pathos and sentiment; like Keaton, Lewis is fascinated by the comic gag which could only exist on celluloid; like Harry Langdon, Lewis exhibits, within an adult persona, childish behavior which is often disturbing and embarrassing; like Stan Laurel, whose first name Lewis adopts as an homage in several of his films, Lewis is the lovable innocent often endowed with almost magical qualities. What Lewis brings uniquely to this tradition, however, is his obsession with the concept of the schizophrenic self; his typical cinema character has so many anxieties and tensions that it must take on other personalities in order to survive. Often, the schizophrenia becomes overtly autobiographical, with the innocent, gawky kid escaping his stigmatized existence by literally becoming "Jerry Lewis," beloved and successful comedian (as in The Bellboy and The Errand Boy) or romantic leading man, perhaps representing the now absent Dean Martin (as in The Nutty Professor). Jerry Lewis's physical presence on screen in his idiot persona emphasizes movement disorders in a way which relates provocatively to his highly publicized work for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Schizophrenia is compounded in The Family Jewels: what Jean-Pierre Coursodon calls Lewis's "yearning for self-obliteration" is manifested in seven distinct personalities. Ultimately, Lewis escapes by turning himself into his cinema, as evidenced by the credits in his failed comeback film, which proudly announce: "Jerry Lewis is . . . Hardly Working." This element of cinematic escape and schizophrenia is especially valued by the French, who politicize it as a manifestation of the human condition as influenced by American capitalism.

Much must also be said about the strong avant-garde qualities to Lewis's work: his interest in surrealism; his experimentalism and fascination with self-conscious stylistic devices; his movement away from conventional gags toward structures apparently purposely deformed; his interest in plotlessness and ellipsis; the reflexivity of his narrative; his studied use of extended silence and gibberish in a sound cinema; the ambiguous sexual subtext of his work; and finally, his use of film as personal revelation.

The last decade has seen a slight diminution of Lewis's reputation as a director (Lewis having directed television situation comedies, but no features), but an augmentation of his reputation as an actor and icon. His King of Comedy appearance now seems definitely a major performance in the American cinema, as does the Scorsese film a major statement about the American lust for celebrity. Ever since that film, a variety of younger directors have used Lewis as icon and/or as reflexive comment on the Lewis career. Perhaps Lewis's most interesting showcase is his 1995 performance as a Las Vegas comedian in Funny Bones, directed by Peter Chelsom. It is hard not to see Funny Bones as a deadly look at the Las Vegas side of the Lewis persona, complete with the jazzy Sinatra score and the institutional insincerity: Lewis is the funny father who overshadows his psychologically wounded and relatively untalented son, his own celebrity having a dark, depressing underside and a deleterious effect on family life.

Lewis as George Fawkes admits that he was not true to his talent and confesses, "It kills me that I used writers, instead of using me." The film's philosophy—"I never saw anything funny that wasn't terrible, that didn't cause pain"—seems a natural segue to other recent events in the Lewis life: his autobiography, written in 1982, chronicled, among other things, his addiction to Percodan and his driven personality. His ex-wife, Patti Lewis, followed with her own autobiography—whose title tells it all: I Laffed 'til I Cried: Thirty-six Years of Marriage to Jerry Lewis. And although Lewis has dedicated his life to raising hundreds of millions of dollars for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, he has been virulently attacked by many adults with the disease—particularly in 1992 and 1993—who claim he publicly demonstrates a patronizing, demeaning attitude and exploits them with a pity which makes their lives in society harder, not easier. Lewis responded by attacking his accusers equally virulently, thus creating great pathos and bitterness all around: yet another fold in that seamless garment which is Lewis's life and art. Comic performances in films by younger French directors added little to Lewis's reputation, but a recurring role in the TV series Wiseguy in 1989 and a triumphant Broadway appearance as the devil in Damn Yankees in 1995, which reprised all his "Jerry Lewis" shtick, have been well received. Perhaps only Lewis's death will allow any definitive American evaluation of his substantial career.

—Charles Derry

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"Lewis, Jerry." International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Lewis, Jerry 1926–

LEWIS, Jerry 1926–

PERSONAL

Original name, Joseph Levitch (some sources say Jerome Levitch); born March 16, 1926, in Newark, NJ; son of Danny (a master of ceremonies) and Rae (an entertainer) Levitch; married Patti Palmer (a singer), October 3, 1944 (divorced, October 1982); married SanDee Pitnick, February 13, 1983; children: (first marriage) Gary (a musician), Ronald (adopted), Scott, Christopher, Anthony, Joseph; (second marriage) Danielle Sara (adopted).

Addresses:

Agent—APA 9200 Sunset Blvd., Suite 900, Los Angeles, CA 90069; William Morris Agency, 151 El Camino Dr., Beverly Hills, CA 90212. Office—Jerry Lewis Films Inc., 3160 W. Sahara Ave., Las Vegas, NV 89102.

Career:

Actor, comedian, producer, writer, and director. Comedian at Catskill Mountain resorts; toured in burlesque, 1942–44; partner with singer and straight–man Dean Martin in comedy team of Martin and Lewis, performing in nightclubs and films, 1946–56; appeared in television commercials for Selchow & Righter Games, c. early 1970s; signed 20–year contract with Orleans Hotel–Casino, Las Vegas, NV, 2000; invented the "video–assist," a video camera linked to motion picture lens, allowing directors to immediately view a take; University of Southern California, professor of cinema; president of production companies, including Jerry Lewis Productions, Jerry Lewis Films, Inc., P. J. Productions, Inc., and Patti Enterprises; National Muscular Dystrophy Association of America, chairman; also worked as a teacher, soda jerk, shipping clerk, theater usher, and busboy.

Member:

Screen Producers Guild, Screen Directors Guild, Screenwriters Guild.

Awards, Honors:

Most Promising Male Star, Motion Picture Daily Award, 1950; Top Ten Money Making Stars, Herald–Fame Award, 1951, 1952 (number one), 1953, 1954, 1957; Best Comedy Team (with Dean Martin), Motion Picture Daily Radio Poll Award, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1956; Emmy Award nomination (with Martin), best comedian or comedienne, 1952; Special Award (with Martin), Photoplay Awards, 1952; Golden Apple Award (with Martin), most cooperative actor, 1964; Golden Laurel Award nominations, top male star, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964; Golden Laurel Award nomination, top male comedy performance, 1961, for Cinderfella; Best Picture, from French critics, for The Nutty Professor, 1964, and twice named best director by them; Golden Laurel Award, special award, 1965, for family comedy king; Golden Award 3rd place, comedy performance—male, Golden Globe Award nomination, best motion picture actor—musical/comedy, 1966, both for Boeing Boeing; Fotogramas de Plata Award, best foreign performer, 1966; Murray–Green Award for Community Services, AFL–CIO, 1971; award from the National Association of Television Program Executives, 1978, for combating muscular dystrophy; Jefferson Award, American Institute for Public Service, 1978; Nobel Peace Prize nomination, 1978; Special Award, Cannes Film Festival, 1979; Hubert H. Humphrey Award, Touchdown Club (Washington, DC), 1980; N. Neal Pike Prize, Boston University School of Law, 1984, for service to the handicapped; named Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters and Commander of Legion of Honor by French government, both 1984; Film Award nomination, best supporting actor, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, 1984, for The King of Comedy; gold medal for distinguished public service, Department of Defense, 1985; Doctor of Humane Letters, Mercy College, 1987; Award of Professionalism and Achievement, Eterna Watch Corporation, 1988, for humanitarian contributions and dedicated to the Muscular Dystrophy Association; Comic Life Achievement Award, National Academy of Cable Programming, 1991; Broadcast Hall of Fame, inductee, 1991; International Comedy Hall of Fame, inductee, 1992; Theatre World Special Award, 1995, for Damn Yankees; Lifetime Achievement Award in Comedy, American Comedy Awards, 1998; Career Golden Lion, Venice Film Festival, 1999; Lifetime Achievement Award, Los Angeles Film Critics' Association, 2004; Stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, for television and motion picture.

CREDITS

Film Appearances:

Seymour, My Friend Irma, Paramount, 1949.

How to Smuggle a Hernia across the Border, 1949.

Seymour, My Friend Irma Goes West, Paramount, 1950.

Soldier Korwin, At War with the Army, Paramount, 1950.

Junior Jackson, That's My Boy, Paramount, 1950.

(Uncredited) Milkman, The Milkman, 1950.

Himself, Screen Snapshots: Thirtieth Anniversary Special (short film), Columbia, 1950.

Melvin Jones, Sailor Beware, Paramount, 1951.

Ted Rogers, The Stooge, Paramount, 1952.

Hap Smith, Jumpin' Jacks, Paramount, 1952.

(Uncredited) Woman in Lala's dream, Road to Bali, 1952.

Harvey Miller, The Caddy, Paramount, 1953.

Myron Mertz, Scared Stiff, Paramount, 1953.

Virgil Yokum, Money from Home, Paramount, 1953.

Homer Flagg, Living It Up, Paramount, 1954.

Jerry Hotchkiss, Three Ring Circus (also known as Jerrico, the Wonder Clown), Paramount, 1954.

Wilbur Hoolick, You're Never Too Young, Paramount, 1955.

Eugene Fullstack, Artists and Models, Paramount, 1955.

Wade Kingsley, Jr., Pardners, Paramount, 1956.

Malcolm Smith, Hollywood or Bust, Paramount, 1956.

Himself, Screen Snapshots: Hollywood, City of Stars (documentary short film), Columbia, 1956.

Sydney Pythias, The Delicate Delinquent, Paramount, 1957.

Meredith T. Bixley, The Sad Sack, Paramount, 1957.

Clayton Poole, Rockabye Baby, Paramount, 1958.

Gilbert Wooley, The Geisha Boy, Paramount, 1958.

John Paul Steckley III, Don't Give Up the Ship, Paramount, 1959.

(Uncredited) Itchy McRabbit, Li'l Abner, Paramount, 1959.

Kreton, Visit to a Small Planet, Paramount, 1960.

Title role, The Bellboy, Paramount, 1960.

Fella, Cinderfella, Paramount, 1960.

Herbert H. Heebert and Mrs. Heebert, The Ladies' Man, Paramount, 1961.

Morty S. Tachman, The Errand Boy, Paramount, 1961.

Lester March, It's Only Money, Paramount, 1962.

Man who ran over Culpepper's hat, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (also known as It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World), United Artists, 1963.

Raymond Phiffier, Who's Minding the Store?, 1963.

Julius F. Kelp, Buddy Love, and other characters, The Nutty Professor (also known as Dr. Jerkyll and Mr. Hyde), Paramount, 1963.

Stanley Belt, The Patsy, Paramount, 1964.

Jerome Littlefield, Disorderly Orderly, Paramount, 1964.

Willard Woodward, Uncle James Peyton, Uncle Eddie Peyton, et al., The Family Jewels, Paramount, 1965.

Robert Reed, Boeing, Boeing, Paramount, 1965.

(Uncredited) Driver, Red Line 7000, Paramount, 1965.

Christopher Prise, Warren, et al., Three on a Couch, Columbia, 1966.

Peter Matamore, Way … Way Out, Twentieth Century–Fox, 1966.

Gerald Clamson and Sid Valentine, The Big Mouth, Columbia, 1967.

George Lester, Don't Raise the Bridge, Lower the River, Columbia, 1968.

Silent Treatment, 1968.

Peter Ingersoll/Fred Dobbs, Hook, Line and Sinker, Columbia, 1969.

Brendan Byers III and Kesselring, Which Way to the Front? (also known as Ja,ja mein General! But Which Way to the Front?), Warner Bros., 1970.

Helmut Doork, The Day the Clown Cried, 1972.

Narrator, Rascal Dazzle, 1980.

Unemployed circus clown, Hardly Working, Twentieth Century–Fox, 1981.

Wilbur Swain/Caleb Swain, Slapstick (Of Another Kind) (also known as Slapstick), 1982.

Jerry Langford, The King of Comedy, Twentieth Century–Fox, 1983.

Warren Nefron/Dr. Perks, Smorgasbord (also known as Cracking Up), 1983.

(In archive footage) Terror in the Aisles, 1984.

Himself, Jerry Lewis Live, 1984.

Jerry Logan, Retenez–moi … ou je fais un malheur! (also known as Hold Me Back or I'll Have an Accident and To Catch a Cop), Gaumont, 1984.

Clovis Blaireau, Par ou t'es rentre? On t'a pas vu sortir (also known as How Did You Get In? We Didn't See You Leave), Gaumont, 1984.

Classic Comedy Teams (documentary), GoodTimes Home Video, 1986.

Arnold Ross, Cookie, Warner Bros., 1989.

Guest, Mr. Saturday Night, Columbia, 1992.

Leo Sweetie, Arizona Dreams (also known as The Arrowtooth Waltz), Warner Bros., 1993.

(Uncredited) Actor in The Delicate Delinquent clip, Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey (documentary), Orion Classics, 1994.

George Fawkes, Funny Bones, Buena Vista, 1995.

(Uncredited; in archive footage) Himself, Off the Menu: The Last Days of Chasen's (documentary), 1997.

Miss Cast Away, Showcase Entertainment, 2004.

Film Work:

Director, How to a Smuggle a Hernia across the Border, 1949.

Stager of special material in song numbers, Money from Home, 1954.

Producer, The Delicate Delinquent, Paramount, 1957.

Producer, Rock–a–Bye Baby, 1958.

Producer, The Geisha Boy, 1958.

Producer and director, The Bellboy, Paramount, 1960.

Producer, Cinderfella, 1960.

Producer and director, The Ladies' Man, Paramount, 1961.

Director, The Errand Boy, Paramount, 1961.

Director, The Nutty Professor (also known as Dr. Jerkyll and Mr. Hyde), Paramount, 1963.

Director, The Patsy, Paramount, 1964.

Executive producer, The Disorderly Orderly, 1964.

Producer and director, The Family Jewels, Paramount, 1965.

Producer and director, Three on a Couch, Paramount, 1966.

Producer and director, The Big Mouth, Columbia, 1967.

Producer, Hook, Line & Sinker, 1969.

Director, One More Time, United Artists, 1970.

Producer and director, Which Way to the Front? (also known as Ja, Ja, mein General! But Which Way to the Front?), Warner Bros., 1970.

Director, The Day the Clown Cried, 1972.

Director, Hardly Working, Twentieth Century–Fox, 1981.

Director, Smorgasbord (also known as Cracking Up), Warner Bros., 1983.

Executive producer, The Nutty Professor, Universal, 1996.

Executive producer, Nutty Professor II: The Klumps (also known as The Klumps), Universal, 2000.

Also directed comedy shorts: Fairfax Avenue; A Spot in the Shade; Watch on the Lime; Come Back Little Shicksa; Son of Lifeboat; The Re–Inforcer; Son of Spellbound; Melvin's Revenge; I Should Have Stood in Bedlam; The Whistler.

Television Appearances; Series:

Guest cohost, The Colgate Comedy Hour (also known as Colgate Variety Hour and Michael Todd Revue), NBC, 1950–55.

Host, The Jerry Lewis Show, ABC, 1963.

Host, The Jerry Lewis Show, ABC, 1967.

Eli Steinberg, Wiseguy, CBS, 1988–89.

Television Appearances; Movies:

Bernie Abrams, Fight for Life, ABC, 1987.

Television Appearances; Specials:

Host, The 28th Annual Academy Awards, NBC, 1956.

Host, The 29th Annual Academy Awards, NBC, 1957.

Cohost, The 31st Annual Academy Awards, NBC, 1959.

Master of ceremonies, annual Labor Day Muscular Dystrophy Telethon (also known as MDA Jerry Lewis Telethon), 1966—.

Himself, The Klowns, ABC, 1970.

Himself, Grand ecran: Jerry Lewis (documentary), 1974.

Himself, NBC: The First Fifty Years—A Closer Look (documentary; also known as The First 50 Years), NBC, 1976.

Ringmaster, Circus of the Stars #3, CBS, 1979.

(In archive footage) Himself, The Great Standups, 1984.

(In archive footage) Himself, TV's Funniest Gameshow Moments, 1984.

Rickles on the Loose, Showtime, 1986.

Comic Relief, HBO, 1986.

Las Vegas: An All Star 75th Anniversary, ABC, 1987.

Himself, An Evening with Sammy Davis, Jr. & Jerry Lewis, HBO, 1988.

Host, America Picks the All–Time Favorite Movies, ABC, 1988.

The 16th Annual Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame, syndicated, 1989.

Sammy Davis, Jr.'s 60th Anniversary Celebration, ABC, 1990.

Larry King TNT Extra, TNT, 1991.

Himself, Something a Little Less Serious: A Tribute to "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World" (documentary), 1991.

Himself, Martin & Lewis: Their Golden Age of Comedy (documentary), 1992.

Kings of Comedy (documentary), The Disney Channel, 1992.

Jerry Alone at the Top (documentary), The Disney Channel, 1992.

Birth of the Team (documentary), The Disney Channel, 1992.

November 22, 1993: Where Were You? A Larry King Live Special Live from Washington, TNT, 1993.

Jerry Lewis, Total Filmmaker (documentary), The Disney Channel, 1994.

Dean & Jerry at the Movies (documentary), The Disney Channel, 1994.

Dean Martin: Everybody Loves Somebody (documentary), Arts and Entertainment, 1995.

Presenter, The 49th Annual Tony Awards, CBS, 1995.

Jerry Lewis: The Last American Clown (documentary), Arts and Entertainment, 1996.

Comic Relief's 10th Anniversary, HBO, 1996.

Himself, Secret Daughter (documentary), 1996.

(Uncredited) Himself, Sports on the Silver Screen (documentary), HBO, 1997.

Himself, Dean Martin: The E! True Hollywood Story (documentary), E! Entertainment Television, 1998.

The 12th Annual American Comedy Awards, Fox, 1998.

Himself, The Rat Pack (documentary), 1999.

Ed McMahon: America's Sidekick (documentary), Arts and Entertainment, 2000.

Tony Curtis: Tony of the Movies (documentary), Arts and Entertainment, 2001.

Himself, Shot Heard 'Round the World (documentary), HBO, 2001.

Shot Heard 'Round the World (documentary), HBO, 2001.

Himself, Jerry Lewis: The E! True Hollywood Story (documentary), E! Entertainment Television, 2003.

Himself, A&E Biography: Janet Leigh (documentary), Arts and Entertainment, 2003.

(In archive footage) Himself, Cher: The Farewell Tour, NBC, 2003.

Himself, Hollywood Legenden (documentary), 2004.

Television Appearances; Episodic:

Himself, Toast of the Town, CBS, 1948.

Welcome Aboard, NBC, 1948.

Mystery guest, What's My Line?, CBS, 1954, 1960, 1962, 1966.

Himself, "The Road to Nairobi," The Jack Benny Program, CBS, 1954.

Himself, "Milton Berle," This Is Your Life, NBC, 1956.

Himself, "Ernest Borgnine," This Is Your Life, NBC, 1956.

Guest panelist, What's My Line?, CBS, 1956, 1961.

Joey Rainowitz/Joey Robbins, "The Jazz Singer," Star-time (also known as Ford Startime), NBC, 1959.

Himself, The Ed Sullivan Show, CBS, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1966.

Dr. Dennis Green, "A Little Fun to Match the Sorrow," Ben Casey, ABC, 1965.

The Andy Williams Show, NBC, 1965.

Guest host, Hullabaloo!, NBC, 1965.

(Uncredited) Himself, "The Bookworm Turns," Batman, ABC, 1966.

Himself, Rowan & Martin's Laugh–In, NBC, 1968.

Himself, Playboy after Dark, 1968.

Guest host, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, NBC, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1975.

Magician's assistant, "The Magic Act," The Red Skelton Show, 1970.

Celebrity guest, I've Got a Secret, CBS, 1971.

Himself, The Carol Burnett Show, 1971.

Kraft Music Hall, 1971.

Himself, V.I.P.—Schaukel, 1972.

Himself, The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour, CBS, 1972, 1973.

Himself, "David Hartman," This Is Your Life, syndicated, 1972.

Himself, Klimbim, 1973, 1974.

Himself, "Jerry Lewis," Grand ecran, 1974.

Himself, Cher, CBS, 1975.

Himself, The Sonny and Cher Show, CBS, 1976.

Himself, Pink Lady, NBC, 1980.

Guest, Late Night with David Letterman, 1982.

Host, Saturday Night Live, NBC, 1983.

Guest, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, 1984.

Himself, "The Bear," Good Grief, Fox, 1991.

Freddy Statler, "The Billionaire," Mad about You, NBC, 1993.

Himself, Late Show with David Letterman, CBS, 1993, 1995.

Crime Master, "Mayor Mask," The Mask, 1995.

Crime Master, "Enquiring Masks Want to Know," The Mask, 1996.

Himself, The Panel, Ten Network, 1999.

Himself, The Martin Short Show, syndicated, 2000.

Himself, Russell Gilbert Live, 2000.

Voice of Professor John Frank Senior, "Treehouse of Horror XIV," The Simpsons (animated), Fox, 2003.

Himself, The View, ABC, 2003, 2004.

Himself, Richard and Judy, Channel 4, 2004.

Himself, Breakfast, BBC, 2004.

Himself, Tout le monde en parle, 2004.

(In archive footage) Himself, Good Morning Australia, Network Ten, 2004.

Also appeared in Startime, DuMont; "Jerry Lewis," Celebrity Golf; Inside the Actor's Studio, Bravo; Alan King: Inside the Comedy Mind, Comedy Central; Reflections on the Silver Screen with Professor Richard Brown, AMC.

Television Work; Series:

Character, prop designer, executive producer, creator, executive consultant, and story editor, Will the Real Jerry Lewis Please Sit Down?, ABC, 1970.

Television Executive Producer; Specials:

Birth of the Team (documentary), The Disney Channel, 1992.

Jerry Alone at the Top (documentary), The Disney Channel, 1992.

Kings of Comedy (documentary), The Disney Channel, 1992.

Television Director; Episodic:

"A Little Fun to Match the Sorrow," Ben Casey, 1965.

"In Dreams They Run," The Bold Ones: The New Doctors (also known as The New Doctors), NBC, 1970.

Also directed episodes of Good Grief, Fox; Super Force, syndicated.

Radio Appearances:

The Martin and Lewis Show, NBC, 1949–53.

Stage Appearances:

Jerry Lewis at the Palace, Palace Theatre, New York City, 1953.

Applegate (the devil), Damn Yankees, Marquis Theatre, New York City, 1994–95, then London, 1997.

Major Tours:

Applegate (the devil), Damn Yankees, U.S. cities, 1995.

RECORDINGS

Singles:

"Rock–a–Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody," 1956.

WRITINGS

Screenplays:

The Bellboy, Paramount, 1960.

(With Bill Richmond) The Ladies' Man, Paramount, 1961.

(With Richmond) The Errand Boy, Paramount, 1961.

(With Richmond) The Nutty Professor (also known as Dr. Jerkyll and Mr. Hyde), Paramount, 1963.

(With Richmond) The Patsy, Paramount, 1964.

(With Richmond) The Family Jewels, Paramount, 1965.

(With Richmond) The Big Mouth, Columbia, 1967.

The Day the Clown Cried, 1972.

(Michael Janover) Hardly Working, Twentieth Century–Fox, 1981.

(With Richmond) Cracking Up (also known as Smorgasbord), 1983.

Film Scores:

The Errand Boy, 1981.

Television Episodes:

The Jerry Lewis Show, ABC, 1963, 1967.

Will the Real Jerry Lewis Please Sit Down?, ABC, 1970.

Books:

The Total Film–Maker, Random House, 1971.

(With Herb Gluck) Jerry Lewis in Person (autobiography), Atheneum, 1982.

OTHER SOURCES

Books:

The International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, Volume 2: Directors, St. James Press, 2000.

The Jerry Lewis Films, MacFarland, 1996.

Levy, Shawn, King of Comedy: The Life and Art of Jerry Lewis, St. Martin's Press, 1996.

Neibaur, James, and Ted Okuda, The Jerry Lewis Films: An Analytical Filmography of the Innovative Comic, McFarland & Company, 1994.

Electronic:

Jerry Lewis Official Site, http://www.jerrylewiscomedy.com/, October 4, 2004.

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Lewis, Jerry

LEWIS, Jerry


Nationality: American. Born: Joseph Levitch in Newark, New Jersey, 16 March 1926. Education: Attended Irvington High School, Irvington, New Jersey. Family: Married 1) the singer Patti Palmer, 1944 (divorced), six children: Gary, Ron, Scott, Chris, Anthony, Joseph; 2) the actress/dancer Sandra Pitnick, 1983, one daughter. Career: 1931—made stage debut; 1942—developed comic routines, attracting Irving Kaye as manager; 1946—formed comedy team with Dean Martin; 1948—with Martin, signed by Hal Wallis for Paramount; 1949—feature film debut in My Friend Irma; 1952—became chairman of Muscular Dystrophy Association of America, raising funds from annual telethons; 1956—started solo career; formed Jerry Lewis Productions, Inc.; 1957—film debut as single, The Delicate Delinquent; 1959—signed seven-year contract with Paramount-York; 1963—lead in variety TV series The Jerry Lewis Show; 1967–69—lead in comedy-variety TV series The Jerry Lewis Show; 1972—after abandonment of The Day the Clown Cried, left films for eight years; 1988–89—in TV series Wiseguy; 1995—Broadway debut playing the devil in Damn Yankees. Awards: Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters, and Commander of the Legion of Honor, France, 1984; DHL (hon.), Mercy College, 1987; Prof. cinema, University of Southern California. Agent: William Morris Agency, Inc., 151 El Camino Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90212, U.S.A.

Films as Actor:

1949

My Friend Irma (George Marshall) (as Seymour)

1950

At War with the Army (Walker) (as Pfc. Alvin Korwin); My Friend Irma Goes West (Walker) (as Seymour); The Milkman (Barton) (as milkman)

1951

That's My Boy (Walker) (as Junior Jackson); Sailor Beware (Walker) (as Melvin Jones)

1952

Road to Bali (Walker) (cameo); Jumping Jacks (Taurog) (as Hap Smith)

1953

The Stooge (Taurog—produced in 1951) (title role); The Caddy (Taurog) (title role); Money from Home (George Marshall) (as Virgil Yokum); Scared Stiff (George Marshall) (as Myron Myron Mertz)

1954

Living It Up (Taurog) (as Homer Flagg); Three Ring Circus (Jerrico, the Wonder Clown) (Pevney) (as Jerry Hotchkiss)

1955

You're Never Too Young (Taurog) (as Wilbur Hoolick); Artists and Models (Tashlin) (as Eugene Fullstack)

1956

Pardners (Taurog) (as Wade Kingsley Jr./Wade Kingsley Sr.); Hollywood or Bust (Tashlin) (as Malcolm Smith)

1957

The Delicate Delinquent (McGuire) (as Sidney Pythias, + pr); The Sad Sack (George Marshall) (as Bixby)

1958

Rock-a-Bye-Baby (Tashlin) (as Clayton Poole, + pr); The Geisha Boy (Tashlin) (title role, + pr)

1959

L'il Abner (Frank) (cameo); Don't Give Up the Ship (Taurog) (as John Paul Steckler)

1960

Visit to a Small Planet (Taurog) (as Kreton); Cinderfella (Tashlin) (title role, + pr)

1962

It'$ Only Money (Tashlin) (as Lester March)

1963

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (Kramer) (cameo as mad driver); Who's Minding the Store? (Tashlin) (as Raymond Phiffier)

1964

The Disorderly Orderly (Tashlin) (title role)

1965

Boeing, Boeing (Rich) (as Robert Reed)

1966

Way . . . Way Out (Gordon Douglas) (as Peter Mattemore)

1968

Don't Raise the Bridge, Lower the River (Paris) (as George Lester)

1969

Hook, Line and Sinker (George Marshall) (as Peter Ingersoll, + pr)

1983

The King of Comedy (Scorsese) (as Jerry Langford)

1984

Slapstick of Another Kind (Steven Paul); Par out'es Rentre? On t'a pas vue sortir (Philippe Clair); Retenez moi . . . ou je Fais un Malheur! (To Catch a Cop) (Michel Gerard) (as Jerry Logan); Jerry Lewis Live (Forrest)

1987

Fight for Life (Silverstein—for TV)

1989

Cookie (Susan Seidelman) (as Arnold Ross)

1992

Mr. Saturday Night (Crystal) (as himself)

1993

Arizona Dream (Kusturica) (as Leo Sweetie)

1995

Funny Bones (Chelsom) (as George Fawkes)



Films as Director and Actor:

1960

The Bellboy (title role, + pr, sc)

1961

The Ladies' Man (as Herbert Herbert Heebert/Heebert's mother, + pr, co-sc); The Errand Boy (title role, + co-sc)

1963

The Nutty Professor (as Professor Julius Kelp/Buddy Love, + co-pr, co-sc)

1964

The Patsy (as Stanley Belt, + co-sc)

1965

The Family Jewels (as Willard Woodward/the Peyton Brothers, + pr, co-sc)

1966

Three on a Couch (as Christopher Pride/Warren/Ringo/Rutherford/Heather, + pr)

1967

The Big Mouth (title role, + pr, co-sc)

1970

Which Way to the Front? (as Brendan Byers III, + pr); One More Time (d only)

1972

The Day the Clown Cried (not completed) (title role, + sc)

1981

Hardly Working (as Bo Hooper, + co-sc)

1983

Cracking Up (Smorgasbord) (as Warren Nefron/Dr. Perks, + co-sc)



Publications


By LEWIS: books—

The Total Filmmaker, New York, 1971.

Jerry Lewis, in Person, New York, 1982.


By LEWIS: articles—

"Mr. Lewis Is a Pussycat," interview with Peter Bodganovich, in Esquire (New York), November 1962.

"America's Uncle," interview with Axel Madsen, in Cahiers du Cinéma in English (New York), no. 4, 1966.

"Five Happy Moments," in Esquire (New York), December 1970.

"Dialogue on Film: Jerry Lewis," in American Film (Washington, D.C.), September 1977.

Interview with D. Rabourdin, in Cinéma (Paris), April 1980.

Interview with Serge Daney, in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), May 1983.

"Thank You Jerry Much," interview with Graham Fuller, in Interview (New York), April 1995.

"Time and Jerry," interview with Brian Case, in Time Out (London), 20 September 1995.

"Not-so-nutty Professor of Laughs," interview with Andrew Duncan, in Radio Times (London), 12 July 1997.

On LEWIS: books—

Gehman, Richard, That Kid: The Story of Jerry Lewis, New York, 1964.

Maltin, Leonard, Movie Comedy Teams, New York, 1970.

Marx, Arthur, Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime (Especially Himself): The Story of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, New York, 1974.

Etaix, Pierre, Croquis: Jerry Lewis, Paris, 1983.

Marchesini, Mauro, Jerry Lewis: Un comico a perdere, Verona, Italy, 1983.

Benayoun, Robert, Bonjour Monsieur Lewis: Journal ouvert, 1957–1980, Paris, 1989.

Lewis, Patti, and Sarah Anne Coleman, I Laffed Till I Cried: Thirty-Six Years of Marriage to Jerry Lewis, Waco, Texas, 1993.

Neibaur, James L., and Ted Okuda, The Jerry Lewis Films: An Analytical Filmography of the Innovative Comic, Jefferson, North Carolina, 1994.

Levy, Shawn, The King of Comedy: The Life and Art of Jerry Lewis, New York, 1996.

Saphire, Rick, Jerry Lewis in a Nutshell, Cherry Hill, 1997.


On LEWIS: articles—

Farson, Daniel, "Funny Men: Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis," in Sight and Sound (London), July/September 1952.

Kass, Robert, "Jerry Lewis Analyzed," in Films in Review (New York), March 1953.

Hume, Rod, "Martin and Lewis: Are Their Critics Wrong?," in Films and Filming (London), March 1956.

Current Biography 1962, New York, 1962.

Taylor, John, "Jerry Lewis," in Sight and Sound (London), Spring 1965.

Sarris, Andrew, "Editor's Eyrie," in Cahiers du Cinéma in English (New York), no. 4, 1966.

Schickel, Richard, "Jerry Lewis Retrieves a Lost Ideal," in Life (New York), 15 July 1966.

Vialle, G., and others, "Jerry Lewis," in Image et Son (Paris), no. 278, 1973.

Coursodon, J.-P., "Jerry Lewis's Films: No Laughing Matter?," in Film Comment (New York), July/August 1975.

LeBour, F., and R. DeLaroche, "Which Way to Jerry Lewis?," in Ecran (Paris), July 1976.

Shearer, H., "Telethon," in Film Comment (New York), May/June 1979.

McGilligan, P., "Recycling Jerry Lewis," in American Film (Washington, D.C.), September 1979.

Jerry Lewis Section of Casablanca (Madrid), June 1983.

Polan, Dana, "Being and Nuttiness: Jerry Lewis and the French," in Journal of Popular Film and Television (Washington, D.C.), Spring 1984.

Liebman, R. L., "Rabbis or Rakes, Schlemiels or Supermen? Jewish Identity in Charles Chaplin, Jerry Lewis, and Woody Allen," in Literature Film Quarterly (Salisbury, Maryland), vol. 12, no. 3, July 1984.

"Jerry Lewis," in Film Dope (London), September 1986.

Beynaud, B., "Qui a peur de Jerry Lewis? Pas nous, pas nous," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), February 1989.

Angeli, Michael, "God's Biggest Goof," in Esquire (New York), February 1991.

Hoberman, J., "Before There Was Scarface, There Was Rubberface," in Interview (New York), February 1993.

Rapf, Joanna E., "Comic Theory from Feminist Perspective: A Look at Jerry Lewis," in Journal of Popular Culture (Bowling Green, Ohio), Summer 1993.

Krutnik, Frank, "Jerry Lewis: The Deformation of the Comic," in Film Quarterly (Berkeley, California), Fall 1994.

Krutnik, Frank, "The Handsome Man and His Monkey: The Comic Bondage of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, in Journal of Popular Film and Television (Bowling Green, Ohio), Spring 1995.

Stars (Mariembourg), Autumn 1995.

Seesslen, Georg, "Cinderfella & Big Mouth: Jerry Lewis & Dean Martin," in EPD Film (Frankfurt), April 1996.

Greene, R., "King of Comedy: the Life and Art of Jerry Lewis," in Boxoffice (Chicago), November 1996.


* * *

Lionized by the French critics as a comic auteur equal to Chaplin and Keaton, Jerry Lewis has seldom found much favor with critics in his own country. While other comedians such as Abbott & Costello (even The Three Stooges) who were similarly dismissed by contemporary reviewers but have since achieved a degree of artistic respectability—in some quarters, more than that—with the passage of time, Lewis has yet to experience such reappraisal. He remains more honored in Europe—especially France, although Germany and Spain have showered him with honors, too—than at home despite a career as prolific in its output as those of his more esteemed comic colleagues.

The reason for this may be that Lewis's style of comedy—which, in its post-Dean Martin period, focused almost exclusively on Lewis himself, almost never the characters or events surrounding him—strikes people as self-indulgent, self-centered, even egotistical; this is a major turnoff, particularly to critics. Also, the screen character he created and lavished so much attention on—the child who never grew up, a mugging simpleton Lewis dubbed "the Kid"—is very much an acquired taste. Children, especially young tots, find the character amusingly simpatico. But many older viewers, from age 20 on, find it forced, grating, shallow, stupid, and excruciatingly witless.

Lewis began his career as a borscht belt comedian and impersonator of well-known singers of the day whose voices and mannerisms he mimicked to the accompaniment of recordings. His career was going nowhere until a chance meeting with a crooner named Dean Martin, whose career was likewise stalled, led to their teaming up. Their mostly improvised act involved Lewis's manic attempts to destroy Martin's numbers by breaking him up on-stage. It was audiences who broke up; within months, Martin & Lewis was the hottest comedy team in show business. Word spread, Hollywood called, and Martin & Lewis made their screen debut low down in the cast list of My Friend Irma, a comedy based on a hit radio show of the time. The team essentially reprised its stage act in the film. Audiences felt they stole the picture, a hit, which was followed by a sequel, My Friend Irma Goes West, in which the duo was top-billed with stars John Lund and Marie Wilson. Signed to a long-term contract by Paramount, Martin & Lewis starred in more than a dozen wildly popular comedies for the studio until their celebrated split in 1956 following the appropriately titled Hollywood or Bust. Many believed their Hollywood careers would go bust without each other, but Martin & Lewis proved them wrong. Martin went on to achieve a successful solo career as a singer, actor, and television star. After The Delicate Delinquent, his first film without Martin (in which Darren McGavin stepped into the Martin straight man role), Lewis decided he no longer needed a straight man for his antics, and went solo himself.

Lewis's disenchantment with the nature of the team's screen persona was among the stated reasons for the break-up. Critic David Thomson has described the persona as that of ". . . two men at odds: Lewis seems hurt by Martin's callousness, just as Martin seems offended by the proximity of a slob." As the team's films progressed, Martin's suave and sophisticated character seemed to become increasingly scornful and unscrupulously manipulative of Lewis's nitwit character, whose antics escalated into an insufferably annoying plague on both their houses. But some critics have voiced another possible reason for the split: Lewis's ambivalent desire to be like Martin and simultaneous hostility toward him. These critics have pointed to Lewis's The Nutty Professor (1963) as a not-so-subtle expression of this inner war. In the film—a comic take on Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde that Lewis starred in, co-wrote and directed—he plays a nerdy, lovesick chemistry professor in the "Kid" mold and the alter-ego he unleashes with his magic formula: suave singer and lounge lizard Buddy Love, a character viewed as a vicious takeoff on Martin. Later, in Boeing, Boeing, a romantic farce co-starring Tony Curtis, Lewis ironically played the more subdued, straight man role, a role Dean Martin could easily have stepped in himself, so there may be some validity to the critics' assessment.

Lewis's most important collaboration after the break-up with Martin was with Frank Tashlin, a former Warner Brothers cartoon director turned feature filmmaker, whose satiric style and eye for the cartoonlike, belly-laugh sight gag strongly influenced Lewis's subsequent career and own directorial approach. Lewis made two films for Tashlin with Martin (Artists and Models, Hollywood or Bust) and six without, arguably the best of which is Rock-a-Bye-Baby (1958), a remake of the Preston Sturges classic The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1944).

Lewis turned to directing with The Bellboy (1960), hailed by French critics as Lewis's breakthrough film and funniest movie to date. It was quickly followed by The Ladies' Man and The Errand Boy (both 1961), then The Nutty Professor, which the French named the best picture of the year and Lewis's masterpiece—his intervening films with Tashlin notwithstanding. By 1965, Lewis was being deified by the French as the greatest comic artist since Buster Keaton, an inapt comparison on a number of levels. For one thing, Lewis's increasing penchant for inserting pathos and the occasional "message" into his work was less like Keaton than Chaplin, whose career Lewis seemed bent most in emulating. Unlike Chaplin, however, Lewis's scenes of pathos tend to be more mawkish than tear-jerkingly sentimental.

Lewis's The Day the Clown Cried (1972), a seriocomic look at the Holocaust from the perspective of a Jewish comic imprisoned in a Nazi death camp, remains his most ambitious attempt to emulate Chaplin. Whether he succeeded or not we still do not know as the film has yet to be released due to legal entanglements with its backers. The debacle apparently crushed Lewis's spirits for a time; he did not make another film until 1979's aptly titled Hardly Working, a critically scorned (in America) but commercial hit.

Since then, Lewis has chosen to remain in the public mind primarily as host of the Labor Day Muscular Dystrophy Telethon, an annual charitable rite with which he has been associated for years. His film performances have mostly been for other directors, the most notable being Martin Scorsese, in whose 1983 The King of Comedy Lewis undertook his first dramatic role as a late night television talk show entertainer in the vein of Johnny Carson stalked by an ambitious fan. Lewis's performance garnered well-deserved accolades not just in France, but, at last, in the United States as well. In 1995 he made his Broadway debut as the devil in a revival of the musical comedy Damn Yankees and was similarly acclaimed. Perhaps these two atypical roles, and the impressive kudos he received for his performances in them, auger better things to come for the indominatable "Kid" in his native land.

—John McCarty

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Lewis, Jerry

Jerry Lewis, 1926–, American comedian, b. Newark, N.J. as Joseph Levitch. The son of vaudevillians, he entered show business early and entertained in the "borscht belt" as a teenager. Known for his slapstick portrayals replete with facial mugging and sight gags, Lewis teamed (1946–56) with singer Dean Martin for a series of nightclub appearances and films. Among the movies Lewis starred in and directed are The Bellboy (1960), The Ladies' Man (1961), and The Nutty Professor (1963). Enormously popular in France where he has been viewed as a major auteur, he left film work in 1970 and concentrated his energies on his activities as national chairman (1950–2011) of the Muscular Dystrophy Association. He made an unsuccessful comeback as director in the early 1980s, but won acclaim for his dramatic performance in Scorsese's The King of Comedy (1983).

See his memoir Dean and Me (with J. Kaplan, 2005); biography by S. Levy (1996); studies by F. Krutnik (2000), R. B. Gordon (2001), and M. Pomerance, ed. (2002); filmography by J. L. Neibaur and T. Okuda (1995).

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"Lewis, Jerry." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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