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JERRY LEWIS


Jerry Lewis聽聽(born聽Joseph Levitch; March 16, 1926) is an American actor, comedian, singer, film producer, film director, screenwriter and humanitarian. He is known for his聽slapstick聽humor in film, television, stage and radio.

Picture taken during the 60s of US comedian, direc

JERRY LEWIS

He and聽Dean Martin聽were partners as the hit popular comedy duo of聽Martin and Lewis. Following that success, he was a solo star in film,聽nightclubs, television, concerts and musicals. Lewis served as national chairman of the聽Muscular Dystrophy Association聽and hosted the live聽Labor Day聽broadcast of the聽Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon聽for 44 years.

Lewis has received several awards for lifetime achievements from the聽American Comedy Awards,聽Los Angeles Film Critics Association,聽Venice Film Festival,聽Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences聽and been honored with two stars on the聽Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Early life

Lewis was born聽on March 16, 1926 in聽Newark, New Jersey聽to聽Russian Jewish聽parents His father, Daniel Levitch (1902鈥80), was a聽master of ceremonies聽and聽vaudeville聽entertainerwho used the professional name Danny Lewis.

His mother, Rachel (“Rae”) Levitch (n茅e聽Brodsky),was a piano player for a radio station. Lewis started performing at age five and would often perform alongside his parents in the聽Catskill Mountains聽in聽New York State.

By 15, he had developed his “Record Act” in which he exaggeratedly mimed the lyrics to songs on a phonograph.

He used the professional name Joey Lewis but soon changed it to Jerry Lewis to avoid confusion with comedian聽Joe E. Lewis聽and heavyweight boxing champion聽Joe Louis. Lewis then dropped out of聽Irvington High School聽in the tenth grade. He was a “character” even in his teenage years pulling pranks in his neighborhood including sneaking into kitchens to steal fried chicken and pies. During聽World War II, he was rejected for military service because of a聽heart murmur.

Lewis initially gained attention as part of a double act with singer聽Dean Martin, who served as聽straight man聽to Lewis’ zany antics in the聽Martin and Lewis聽comedy team. The performers were different from most other comedy acts of the time because they relied on their interaction instead of planned skits. They quickly rose to national prominence, first with their popular nightclub act, next as stars of their own聽radio program.

The two men made many appearances on early聽live television, their first on the June 20, 1948, debut broadcast of聽Toast of the Town聽on CBS (later as聽The Ed Sullivan Show). This was followed on October 3, 1948, by an appearance on the NBC series聽Welcome Aboard, then a stint as the first of a series of hosts of聽The Colgate Comedy Hour聽in 1950.

The duo began their聽Paramount聽film careers as ensemble players in聽My Friend Irma聽(1949), based on the popular聽radio series of the same name. This was followed by a sequel聽My Friend Irma Goes West聽(1950).

Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon

Dean Martin / Franck Sinatra / Jerry Lewis

Starting with聽At War with the Army聽(1950), Martin and Lewis were the stars of their own vehicles in fourteen additional titles,聽That’s My Boy聽(1951),聽Sailor Beware聽(1952),聽Jumping Jacks聽(1952), (plus appearing in the聽Crosby聽and聽Hope聽film,聽Road to Bali聽(1952) as cameos)聽The Stooge聽(1952),聽Scared Stiff聽(1953),聽The Caddy聽(1953),聽Money from Home聽(1953),聽Living It Up聽(1954),聽3 Ring Circus聽(1954),聽You’re Never Too Young聽(1955),聽Artists and Models聽(1955) and聽Pardners聽(1956) at Paramount, ending with聽Hollywood or Bust聽(1956).

All sixteen movies were produced by聽Hal B. Wallis. Attesting the comedy team’s popularity,聽DC Comics聽published the best-selling聽The Adventures of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis聽comics from 1952 to 1957. As Martin’s roles in their films became less important over time the partnership came under strain. Martin’s participation became an embarrassment in 1954 when聽Look聽magazine used a publicity photo of the team for the magazine cover but cropped Martin out of the photo.The partnership ended on July 24, 1956.

While both Martin and Lewis went on to successful solo careers, neither would comment on the split nor consider a reunion. They did however make occasional public appearances together up until 1961, but were not seen together again until a surprise television appearance by Martin on a Muscular Dystrophy Telethon in 1976, arranged by聽Frank Sinatra.

The pair eventually reconciled in the late 1980s after the death of Martin’s son,聽Dean Paul Martin, in 1987.

The two men were seen together on stage for the last time when Martin was making what would be his final live performance at Bally’s Hotel and Casino in聽Las Vegas. Lewis pushed out a birthday cake for Martin’s 72nd birthday in 1989 and sang “Happy Birthday” to him, and joking, “why we broke up, I’ll never know.”

Solo

After the split from Martin, Lewis remained at Paramount and became a comedy star in his own right with his first film as a solo comic,聽The Delicate Delinquent聽(1957). Meanwhile, DC Comics published a new comic book series聽The Adventures of Jerry Lewis聽from 1957 to 1971. Teaming with director聽Frank Tashlin, whose background as a聽Warner Bros.Looney Tunes聽cartoon director suited Lewis’s brand of humor, he starred in five more films,聽The Sad Sack聽(1957),聽Rock-A-Bye Baby聽(1958),聽The Geisha Boy聽(1958),聽Don’t Give Up The Ship聽(1959) and even appeared uncredited as Itchy McRabbitt in聽Li’l Abner聽(1959).

Lewis tried his hand at releasing music during the 1950s, having a chart hit with the song “Rock-a-Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody” (a song largely associated with聽Al Jolson聽and later re-popularized by聽Judy Garland) as well as the song, “It All Depends on You” in 1958. He eventually released his own album titled,聽Jerry Lewis Just Sings.

By the end of his contract with producer聽Hal B. Wallis, Lewis had several productions of his own under his belt. In 1959, a contract between Paramount Pictures and Jerry Lewis Productions was signed specifying a payment of $10聽million plus 60% of the profits for 14 films over a seven-year period.

 

In 1960, Lewis finished his contract with Wallis with聽Visit to a Small Planet聽(1960), and wrapped up work on his own production,聽Cinderfella, which was postponed for a Christmas 1960 release, and Paramount, needing a quickie feature film for its summer 1960 schedule, held Lewis to his contract to produce one. Lewis came up with聽The Bellboy聽(1960). Using the聽Fontainebleau Hotel聽in Miami as his setting鈥攁nd on a small budget, with a very tight shooting schedule, and no script鈥擫ewis shot the film by day and performed at the hotel in the evenings.聽Bill Richmond聽collaborated with him on the many sight gags. Lewis later revealed that Paramount was not happy financing a ‘silent movie’ and withdrew backing. Lewis used his own funds to cover the $950,000 budget.

During production Lewis developed the technique of using video cameras and multiple closed circuit monitors, which allowed him to review his performance instantly.

His techniques and methods, documented in his book and his USC class, enabled him to complete most of his films on time and under budget.

Lewis followed聽The Bellboy聽by directing several more films that he co-wrote with Richmond while some were directed by Tashlin, including聽The Ladies Man聽(1961),聽The Errand Boy聽(1961),聽It’s Only Money聽(1962) and聽The Nutty Professor聽(1963). Lewis did a cameo in聽It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World聽(1963).

Further Lewis films were聽Who’s Minding the Store?聽(1963),聽The Patsy聽(1964) and聽The Disorderly Orderly聽(1964).

Lewis directed and co-wrote聽The Family Jewels聽(1965) about a young heiress who must choose among six uncles, one of whom is up to no good and out to harm the girl’s beloved bodyguard who practically raised her. Lewis played all six uncles and the bodyguard. On television, Lewis hosted two different programs called聽The Jerry Lewis Show. The first was a two-hour Saturday night variety show on聽ABC聽in the fall of 1963. The lavish, big-budget production failed to find an audience and was canceled after 13 weeks. His second program was a one-hour variety show on聽NBC聽from 1967 to 1969.

By 1966, Lewis, then 40, was no longer an angular juvenile, his routines seemed more labored and his box office appeal waned to the point where Paramount Pictures new executives felt no further need for the Lewis comedies and did not wish to renew his 1959 profit sharing contract. Undaunted, Lewis packed up and went to聽Columbia Pictures, where he made聽Three On A Couch聽(1966), then appeared in聽Way…Way Out聽(1966) for聽20th Century Fox聽followed by聽The Big Mouth聽(1967),聽Don’t Raise the Bridge, Lower the River聽(1968) and聽Hook, Line & Sinker聽(1969).

Lewis taught a film directing class at the聽University of Southern California聽in Los Angeles for a number of years; his students included聽Steven Spielberg聽and聽George Lucas.]

In 1968, he screened Spielberg’s early film,聽Amblin’聽and told his students, “That’s what filmmaking is all about.”

Lewis directed and made his first offscreen voice performance as a bandleader in聽One More Time聽(1970), which starred聽Sammy Davis Jr.聽(a friend of Lewis). He then produced, directed and starred in聽Which Way to the Front?聽(1970).

He would then make and star in the unreleased聽The Day the Clown Cried聽(1972), a drama set in a Nazi concentration camp.

Lewis rarely discusses the film, but once suggested that litigation over post-production finances prevented the film’s completion and release. However, he admitted during his book tour for聽Dean and Me聽that a major factor for the film’s burial is that he is not proud of the effort. In 1976, Lewis appeared in a revival of聽Hellzapoppin’聽with聽Lynn Redgrave, but it closed on the road before reaching聽Broadway.

After an absence of 11 years, Lewis returned to film in聽Hardly Working聽(1981), a movie in which he both directed and starred.

Despite being panned by critics, the movie eventually earned $50聽million. Lewis next appeared in聽Martin Scorsese‘s film聽The King of Comedy聽(1983), in which he portrayed a late-night television host plagued by two obsessive fans, played by聽Robert De Niro聽and聽Sandra Bernhard. Lewis also appeared in聽Cracking Up聽(1983) and聽Slapstick (Of Another Kind)聽(1984).

In聽France, Lewis starred in both聽To Catch a Cop聽a.k.a. “The Defective Detective” (1984) and聽How Did You Get In?, We Didn’t See You Leave聽(1984). Lewis has stated that as long as he has control over distribution of those movies, they will never have an American release. Meanwhile, a syndicated talk show Lewis hosted for Metromedia in 1984 was not continued beyond the scheduled five shows. Lewis starred in the ABC televised drama movie聽Fight For Life聽(1987) with聽Patty Duke, then appeared in聽Cookie聽(1989).

Lewis had a cameo in聽Mr. Saturday Night聽(1992) while guest appearing in an episode of聽Mad About You聽as an eccentric billionaire. Lewis made his Broadway debut, as a replacement cast member playing the devil in a revival of聽Damn Yankees, choreographed by future movie director聽Rob Marshall聽(Chicago)聽while also starring in the film聽Arizona Dream聽(1994), as a car salesman uncle. Lewis then starred as a father of a young comic in聽Funny Bones聽(1995).

In March 2006, the聽French Minister of Culture聽awarded Lewis the聽L茅gion d’honneur, calling him the “French people’s favorite clown”聽Lewis has remained popular in the country, evidenced by consistent praise by French critics in the influential magazine聽Cahiers du Cin茅ma聽for his absurd comedy, in part because he had gained respect as an聽auteur聽who had total control over all aspects of his films, comparable to聽Howard Hawks聽and聽Alfred Hitchcock.

Liking Lewis has long been a common stereotype about the French in the minds of many English-speakers, and is often the object of jokes in聽English-speaking world聽pop culture.

“That Americans can’t see Jerry Lewis’s genius is bewildering,” says N. T. Binh, a French film magazine critic. Such bewilderment was the basis of the book聽Why the French Love Jerry Lewis, by Rae Beth Gordon

In 2012, Lewis directed a musical theatre version of聽The Nutty Professor聽(with score by聽Marvin Hamlisch) at the聽Tennessee Performing Arts Center聽in聽Nashville聽from July 31 to August 19 over the summer. Lewis appeared in the Brazilian film聽Till Luck Do Us Part 2聽(2013), then next in a small role in the crime drama聽The Trust聽(2016). Lewis made a comeback in a lead role in聽Max Rose聽(2016).

In an October 6, 2016 interview with聽Inside Edition, Lewis acknowledged that he may not star in any more films given his advanced age, while admitting, through tears, that he was afraid of dying as it would leave his wife and daughter alone.]聽In December of that year, he expressed interest in making another film.

Lewis has been married twice:

  • Patti Palmer (n茅e Esther Grace Calonico), a former singer with聽Ted Fio Ritomarried October 3, 1944, divorced September 1980[
  • SanDee Pitnick; married February 13, 1983; a 32-year-old Las Vegas dancer; married in聽Key Biscayne, Florida

He has six sons (one adopted) and one daughter (adopted):

With Patti Palmer

  • Gary Lewis(born July 31, 1945);聽known for his 1960s pop group聽Gary Lewis & the Playboys
  • Ronald Steven “Ronnie” Lewis (born December 1949 [adopted])
  • Scott Anthony Lewis (born February 22, 1956)
  • Christopher Lewis (born October 1957)
  • Anthony Lewis (born October 1959)
  • Joseph Lewis (born January 1964, died October 24, 2009 [from a聽narcoticsoverdose])[36]

With SanDee Pitnick

  • Danielle Sara Lewis (adopted March 1992)

Lewis has suffered from a number of illnesses and addictions related both to aging and a back injury sustained in a comedic pratfall from a piano while performing at the聽Sands Hotel聽on the聽Las Vegas Strip聽on March 20, 1965.

The accident almost left him paralyzed. In its aftermath, Lewis became addicted to the painkiller聽Percodan聽for thirteen years

He says he has been off the drug since 1978.]聽In April 2002, Lewis had a聽Medtronic聽“Synergy”聽neurostimulator聽implanted in his back which has helped reduce the discomfort. He is now one of the company’s leading spokesmen.

In the 2011 documentary聽Method to the Madness of Jerry Lewis,聽Lewis said he suffered his first heart attack while filming聽Cinderfella聽in 1960.

In December 1982, Lewis suffered another heart attack. En route to San Diego from New York City on a cross-country commercial airline flight on June 11, 2006, he sustained a minor heart attack .

It was discovered that he had pneumonia as well as a severely damaged heart. He underwent a聽cardiac catheterization聽and two聽stents聽were inserted into one of his coronary arteries, which was 90% blocked. The surgery resulted in increased blood flow to his heart and has allowed him to continue his rebound from earlier lung problems. Having the cardiac catheterization meant canceling several major events from his schedule, but Lewis fully recuperated in a matter of weeks.

In 1999, Lewis’ Australian tour was cut short when he had to be hospitalized in聽Darwin聽with viral聽meningitis. He was ill for more than five months. It was reported in the Australian press that he had failed to pay his medical bills. However, Lewis maintained that the payment confusion was the fault of his health insurer. The resulting negative publicity caused him to sue his insurer for US$100聽million

Lewis has had聽prostate cancer,聽diabetes,聽pulmonary fibrosis and a decades-long history of聽heart disease.聽Prednisone 聽treatment in the late 1990s for pulmonary fibrosis resulted in weight gain and a noticeable change in his appearance.

In September 2001, Lewis was unable to perform at a planned London charity event at the聽London Palladium.

He was the headlining act, and he was introduced, but did not appear. He had suddenly become unwell, apparently with heart problems. He was subsequently taken to the hospital. Some months thereafter, Lewis began an arduous, months-long therapy that weaned him off prednisone and enabled him to return to work. On June 12, 2012, he was treated and released from a hospital after collapsing from聽hypoglycemia聽at a聽New York Friars’ Club聽event. This latest health issue forced him to cancel a show in Sydney.

Muscular dystrophy activism

Throughout his entire life and prolific career, Lewis was a world renowned humanitarian who has supported fundraising for research into聽muscular dystrophy. Until 2011, he served as national chairman of and spokesman for the聽Muscular Dystrophy Association聽(MDA) (formerly, the聽Muscular Dystrophy Associations of America).

Lewis began hosting telethons to benefit the company from 1952 to 1959, then every聽Labor Day聽weekend from 1966 to 2010, he hosted the live annual聽Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon. Over nearly half a century, he raised over $2.6聽billion in donations for the cause.

On August 3, 2011, it was announced that Lewis would no longer host the MDA telethons聽and is no longer associated with the Muscular Dystrophy Association

On May 1, 2015, it was announced that in view of “the new realities of television viewing and philanthropic giving”, the telethon was being discontinued.

]聽In early 2016, Lewis made an online video statement for the organization on its website, in honor of its rebranding, marking his first appearance in support of the Muscular Dystrophy Association since his final Labor Day Telethon in 2010 and the ending of his tenure as national chairman in 2011.

Theater chain

In 1969, Lewis agreed to lend his name to “Jerry Lewis Cinemas”, offered by National Cinema Corporation as a franchise business opportunity for those interested in theatrical movie exhibition. Jerry Lewis Cinemas stated that their theaters could be operated by a staff of as few as two with the aid of automation and support provided by the franchiser in booking films and in other aspects of film exhibition.

A forerunner of the smaller rooms typical of later multi-screen complexes, a Jerry Lewis Cinema was billed in franchising ads as a “mini-theatre” with a seating capacity of between 200 and 350. In addition to Lewis’s name, each Jerry Lewis Cinema bore a sign with a cartoon logo of Lewis in profile.

Initially 158 territories were franchised, with a buy-in fee of $10,000 or $15,000 depending on the territory, for what was called an “individual exhibitor”. For $50,000, the Jerry Lewis Cinemas offered an opportunity known as an “area directorship”, in which investors controlled franchising opportunities in a territory as well as their own cinemas.

The success of the chain was hampered by a policy of only booking second-run, family-friendly films. Eventually the policy was changed, and the Jerry Lewis Cinemas were allowed to show more competitive films, but after a decade the chain failed. Both Lewis and National Cinema Corp. declared bankruptcy in 1980.

Jerry’s House

In 2010, Lewis met with 7-year-old Lochie Graham who shared his idea for “Jerry’s House”, a place for vulnerable and traumatized children. The Australian charity hope2Day is raising funds to build the facility in聽Melbourne, Australia.

SOURCES : WIKIPEDIA

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