Posts Tagged ‘Jerry Lewis’

Jerry Lewis, RIP

Monday, August 21st, 2017

Comedian, actor and director Jerry Lewis has died at age 91.

It’s hard to evaluate the work of someone who absolutely dominated their field for an extended period of time and then almost immediately went out of fashion. Lewis was far and away the most successful comic actor of mid-century America, appearing in an extremely successful series of movies with Dean Martin, then having a successful solo career as both a actor and director.

But after The Nutty Professor, it was a long, long slide. Between 1963 and 1980, you had Rowen & Martins Laugh-In, Lenny Bruce, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Richard Pryor, Saturday Night Live and Robin Williams, yet in Hardly Working (intended as a “comeback” film), Lewis was doing the same tried physical shtick. (Roger Ebert called it “one of the worst movies ever to achieve commercial release in this country.”) In between he directed the amazingly ill-conceived and incomplete The Day the Clown Cried, about a clown (Lewis) entertaining children on the way to the gas chamber in Auschwitz. Surviving footage suggests it is every bit as awful and cringe-worthy as you’d imagine.

In the meantime, he taught an acclaimed directing class at USC attended by (among others) George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, and was a familiar face for decades of television viewers for his Muscular Dystrophy Labor Day Telethon. And he turned in the occasional fine dramatic performance, such as in The King of Comedy.

For someone who smoked as much as he did, had as many health issues, and battled prescription drug abuse, 91 is a very rip old age indeed.

Here’s a very early footage of Lewis and Martin from what I think may be the very first MDA telethon:

Here he is making his appearance as nutty professor alter ego Buddy Love:

And here’s a long, interesting piece on Lewis I linked to once before.

Long, Interesting Piece on Jerry Lewis

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

No, really. I wouldn’t call myself a Jerry Lewis fan (his brand of humor had already gone out of fashion by the time I was born), but he did do an excellent job in The King of Comedy (which is, I can assure you, not the film you want to watch while you’re depressed). Anyway, there’s a lot of interesting stuff in here, even if you take his claim of banging Marilyn Monroe with a grain of salt. I was unaware he had written a highly-praised book on directing, or taught directing classes attended by Stephen Spielberg and George Lucas. He also seems to be a remarkably astute businessman, since he made the studios promise to give all the rights to his movies back after 30 years.

Anyway, it’s an interesting piece, even if you’re not particularly a Jerry Lewis fan.