Quantcast i24NEWS - Actor Jerry Lewis, among the most popular of the 1950s and 60s, dies at 91

Actor Jerry Lewis, among the most popular of the 1950s and 60s, dies at 91

Jerry Lewis hugs a framed gold record of his song "Rockabye," in his dressing room on March 12, 1957 at the Palace Theater in New York.
AP Photo/Hans Von Nolde
Lewis perfected the role of the quirky clown but also won acclaim as a writer, actor and philanthropist

Jerry Lewis, the comic actor who become one of Hollywood's most popular stars of the 1950s and 60s, died Sunday at the age of 91, his publicist said.

Lewis was half of the 1950s most popular comedy duo when he worked with actor and singer Dean Martin in the 1950s.

The two fed off each other in now-classic comedy gags, including pratfalls, slapstick and lots of seltzer water. They signed a long-term contract with Paramount Pictures.

A public falling-out ensued, after which Lewis starred in successful films on his own during the 1960s. Among these were several which he wrote and directed, such "The Bellboy", "The Ladies Man", and "The Nutty Professor".

AP Photo/Dan Grossi

The actor was also popular in Europe, where he received France's Legion of Honor.

His annual Muscular Dystrophy telethon, which continued from 1966 until 2010, raising about $2.5 billion for treatment.

Lewis is also known for an unreleased Holocaust drama "The Day the Clown Cried", filmed in 1972. Never screened and disowned by Lewis, a copy of the film reportedly exists in the US Library of Congress, but is not to be released until 2024.


A career spanning decades

Lewis, born Joseph Levitch to Jewish parents in a vaudeville family, first took center stage at the tender age of five, when he performed "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" He began playing at resorts outside New York City that catered to Jewish patrons, known by touring entertainers as the Borscht Circuit.

By age 15, he had assembled his own routine of comedic lip-syncing and made the rounds of New York talent agents, although only a burlesque house in Buffalo was interested.

At the age of 20, for Lewis, when he embarked on arguably one of the most successful entertainment partnerships of all time with Martin.

Other notable films in Lewis' repertoire include "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" (1959), "The Geisha Boy" (1958) and "Funnybones" (1984). He won acclaim for his dramatic role in the 1983 Martin Scorsese film "The King of Comedy," co-starring with Robert De Niro that showed his acting versatility.

His box office grosses, spanning nearly 50 years, total 800 million dollars -- an impressive figure since movie tickets cost no more than 50 cents during the height of his popularity.

(Staff with AFP)


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