March 16, 1926–8-20-2017
Jerry Lewis, one of Hollywood’s most famous comedians, died Sunday at the age of 91, TheWrap has learned.
Lewis was one-half of a legendary comedy duo with Dean Martin, entertaining the crowd with his slapstick antics while Martin reacted as the straight man of the pair. From 1948 to 1956, Lewis and Martin appeared together in 16 comedy films produced by Paramount, including “My Friend Irma,” “At War With The Army,” and “Scared Stiff.” The pair quietly split without explanation after making “Hollywood or Bust” in 1956, and would not be seen together on screen or TV for another 20 years.
Lewis’ death comes just two weeks before Labor Day, when he hosted his annual Muscular Dystrophy Association Telethon from 1966 to 2010. It was during that telethon that Lewis famously reunited with Martin in 1976 in a surprise encounter arranged by Frank Sinatra. The two reconciled after the death of Martin’s son and made their final appearance together in 1989 at what would be Martin’s final live show in Las Vegas, where Lewis brought out a giant birthday cake to celebrate Martin’s 72nd birthday.
In his solo career, Lewis made his directorial debut in 1960 with “The Bellboy,” a plot-less film that starred him as a hotel bellboy named Stanley who gets into a series of slapstick-filled mishaps. He went on to direct 12 more films from 1961 to 1983, the most famous being “The Nutty Professor” in 1963, a parody of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.”
In 2005, Lewis received the Primetime Emmys’ Governor’s Award for his work on the MDA Telethon, and has also received honors from the Cannes and Venice Film Festivals. In 2006, Lewis was inducted into France’s Legion d’Honneur on his 80th birthday and made the attendees laugh by pretending to fall asleep during the ceremony while Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres gave a 20 minute speech. Lewis’ work has earned a huge cult following in France, so much so that it became the subject of a 2001 book by Rae Beth Gordon titled “Why The French Love Jerry Lewis.”