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Jerry Lewis

Jerry Lewis
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Jerry Lewis Biography

Amazingly, Jerry Lewis was funny, once. The French love him, and we hate that. Understandably it's the old Lewis they love, the Lewis of Lewis and Martin and Artists and Models. Groundbreaking in a way, Lewis brought vaudevillian slapstick to both the screen and the stand-up stage, one of the few people who can pull it off so cleanly. But that's all gone, now.

As a good career in movies tapered off, Lewis in 1972 completed the film The Day the Clown Cried. We would love to see this film, but it was never released, and likely will never be released. As to why, let's go over the plot: Clown, Helmut Doork, played by Lewis after a grapefruit starvation diet in which he lost 35 pounds, performs an Adolf Hitler impersonation that lands him in the hands of the Gestapo. Once jailed, Helmut forms a bond with the children as a performer, and camp managers convince him to lead the group into the gas chambers at Auschwitz, Pied Piper style. Though he does not have to, he follows them in, and they all die laughing together. Fin. Read Full Bio >>

Jerry Lewis Awards

2009 Academy Awards, USA Won
2006 Satellite Awards Outstanding Guest Star "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (1999). Won
2005 Primetime Emmy Awards Won
2005 Satellite Awards Won
2005 Las Vegas Film Critics Society Awards Won

Show All Awards >>

Jerry Lewis Trivia

  • Lewis is the father of 1960s pop musician Gary Lewis, who had several hits during the mid-1960s with his group Gary Lewis and the Playboys.
  • Claims he was thrown out of high school for punching out his principal who had offended him with an anti-Semitic remark. Then went directly into vaudeville. An episode of "Seinfeld" (1990) makes use of plot point based on Lewis'(alleged) real-life strategem of secretly leaving an audiotape recorder running in a briefcase he intentionally leaves behind him in meetings to see what some people may be saying about him.
  • Born at 12:15pm-EST
  • Father of 6 sons with his first marriage. Adopted daughter, Daniele, during his second marriage.
  • Had open heart surgery in 1983.
  • Underwent surgery for prostate cancer in 1992.
  • While contending his birth name is Joseph Levitch, official birth records show his first name to be Jerome.
  • Jerry took his last name from his actor-father's stage name.
  • He is known as a clothes horse. He gives away suits rather than having them cleaned and refuses to wear a pair of socks more than once.
  • He was presented the French Legion of Honor in 1984 and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977.
  • He taught a class in film at the University of California.
  • In 1995, he became the highest paid performer in Broadway history for his role as the Devil in "Damn Yankees".
  • Son of Danny Lewis.
  • Oldest son Gary Lewis and his soft-rock group The Playboys had several pop hits in the 1960s, including "This Diamond Ring".
  • He and Dean Martin were the world's top box-office earners from 1950-56. Lewis, on his own, also ruled as #1 movie draw in 1957, 1959, and 1961 to 1964!
  • Nominated for Nobel Prize for his 50 years raising money to fight muscular dystrophy.
  • First filmmaker to develop and use video-assist device on location.
  • Wrote 10 scripts in 10 years.
  • Says there is no gap between comedy and tragedy.
  • In Italy, Lewis has been given the nickname 'Picchiatello' (which means something like "nut" or "crazy"). At least three of his movies use the word in their Italian title: You're Never Too Young (1955) which became "Il Nipote Picchiatello" ("The Crazy Nephew"), Hardly Working (1980) ("Bentornato Picchiatello", or "Welcome Back Crazy") and Cracking Up (1983)("Qua La Mano Picchiatello". pr "Shake My Hand, Crazy").
  • He was a big fan of The Catcher in the Rye and strongly identified with the main character Holden Caulfield. He planned to direct a movie version but failed to aquire the rights from the book's reclusive author J.D. Salinger.
  • Suffers from diabetes and pulmonary fibrosis.
  • Children with Patti Palmer : Gary (b. 1945), Ronald (b. 1949), Scott (b. 1956), Christopher (b. 1957), Anthony (b. 1959)and Joseph (b. 1964). With SanDee Pitrick a daughter Danielle (b. 1992).
  • In 1969, Lewis announced the bold project of franchising a series of Jerry Lewis Cinemas. A firm believer in family entertainment, he said that the one inviolate rule of the chain would be that nothing other than family-oriented films would be shown. The theaters were to be state-of-the-art, easy to operate, and franchised to individuals who could meet the chain's investment requirements. Changing tastes in popular entertainment coupled with internal mismanagement caused the project to collapse within just a few years, and several lawsuits that could have resulted in jail time for Lewis and his associates were settled out of court.
  • The character Professor John Frink in "The Simpsons" (1989) is based on his role of Professor Kelp in The Nutty Professor (1963). Also some of Krusty the Clown's off-stage antics are based on him.
  • Starred (with Dean Martin) on NBC Radio's "The Martin and Lewis Show" (1949-1953).
  • 13 October 2003 - Entered a Las Vegas hospital to kick steroids used in the treatment of his pulmonary fibrosis.
  • Wrote, produced, and acted in the film The Day the Clown Cried (1972), which was never released. The film purports to tell the tale of a clown at Auschwitz during WWII.
  • Was teamed up with Dean Martin from 1946-56.
  • His film class students included Steven Spielberg and George Lucas.
  • Sammy Davis Jr. called him the "greatest white faker" as a dancer.
  • Was voted the 50th Greatest Director of all time by Entertainment Weekly. Although he is at the bottom of this list, perhaps a bit shockingly, Charles Chaplin didn't even make the list.
  • Biography in: John Wakeman, editor. "World Film Directors, Volume Two, 1945-1985". Pages 586-593. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1988.
  • Came upon his long-time theme song, "Rock-a-Bye Your Baby (With a Dixie Melody)," by accident. In 1956 he had to cover for an indisposed Judy Garland at a performance in Las Vegas, which included singing several of her songs. His performance of "Rock-a-Bye Your Baby," using Garland's arrangement, went over so well with the audience that Lewis has used it as his theme song ever since.
  • Despite never having much of a singing voice (biographer Arthur Marx once likened his singing to "the croaking of a parched parrot"), his album, "Jerry Lewis Just Sings" (American Decca: 1956), was a best-seller upon its release, securing a place in the top-20 on the Billboard Album Charts.
  • Has been in constant back pain since miscalculating on a pratfall on "The Andy Williams Show" (1962) in 1965. Percodan (a highly addictive morphine substitute, now only perscribed in emergencies) left him an addict for almost two decades. He now uses an implant device that dulls nerve impulses and can be controlled by a hand-held remote control
  • Although critics usually referred to him as "the little guy" throughout his career, Lewis was about the same height or slightly shorter than Dean Martin (both were a little under 6 feet tall). To try to make himself look more diminutive next to his partner, Lewis frequently hunched and also shaved a few inches off the heels of his shoes and added them to Martin's.
  • Besides Dean Martin, Lewis says the closest friend he ever had was Sammy Davis Jr. Davis would call Lewis in tears at times because of the racial slurs people would say to him about his relationship with Swedish actress May Britt.
  • Claims to have never have seen Hollywood or Bust (1956), the last film he made with his partner, Dean Martin, saying it's much too painful for him to watch.
  • Contrary to belief, the 1976 MDA telethon was not the first reconciliation of the legendary comedy team. In 1960, four years after they split, Martin & Lewis briefly reunited. Both were performing their own separate acts at the Sands hotel in Las Vegas, a club they frequently played while they were together. Lewis caught Martin's closing act and Martin introduced his former partner to the audience, bringing him on stage. For about fifteen minutes, they joked a bit and sang a duet of "Come Back to Me". Unfortunately, the reunion was only a one time thing. Later when Lewis was too exhausted to perform his act, Martin generously replaced him.
  • Encouraged Christopher Walken to act. Walken met Lewis while he was on "The Colgate Comedy Hour" (1950) and Lewis suggested to the young boy that he pursue a career in show business.
  • Norman Lear (creator of "All in the Family" (1971)) co-wrote many of Martin & Lewis' "The Colgate Comedy Hour" (1950) shows.
  • Says his favorite Martin & Lewis film is The Stooge (1953) because "it came closest to capturing what Dean and I had as a team".
  • Some have said that if Lewis hadn't pursued a career in show business, he would have been a professional baseball player for the Dodgers. He played with the team a few times at charity events and was apparently very good.
  • Was best friends with Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh. They starred in Lewis' home movies after Curtis complained about the parts he was being offered by his studio.
  • Was close friends with comic Lenny Bruce.
  • Was offered the role of Jerry/Daphne in Some Like It Hot (1959), directed by his friend Billy Wilder. He declined because he didn't want to dress in drag. The part, of course, eventually went to Jack Lemmon and he received an Oscar nomination for his performance. Lewis says that Lemmon would send him chocolates every year to thank him and he now regrets not taking the role.
  • Diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis in 2001.
  • Pronounced clinically dead from a massive heart attack in December 1982, after completing The King of Comedy (1983) with Robert De Niro.
  • 145 IQ.
  • He developed the first "Video Assist" for the motion picture camera in 1966. This allowed him to view his performance while directing his films. This is used extensively today in filmmaking, known as "Video Village."Society of Operating Cameramen, (SOC) Honorary Member (1981)
  • Collapsed at a London show in September 2002.
  • Is portrayed by Sean Hayes in Martin and Lewis (2002) (TV)

  • Jerry Lewis Photos

  • Jerry Lewis

    "An Evening with Jerry Lewis - Live from Las Vegas!" at the Orleans Hotel and Casino - November 18, 2012

  • Jerry Lewis with his daughter Danielle Sarah Lewis and wife SanDee Pitnick

    "Method to the Madness of Jerry Lewis" Encore Original Documentary Hollywood Premiere - Arrivals

  • Jerry Lewis

    16th Annual NBS Scholarship Gala NBA Scholarship Dinner - Jerry Lewis Receives the Nevada Broadcasters' Association Lifetime Achievement Award

  • Jerry Lewis

    New York Friars Club Roast of Quentin Tarantino - Arrivals

  • Jerry Lewis

    2009 Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon

  • Jerry Lewis

    62nd Annual Cannes Film Festival - "Le Grand Journal" Television Show with Jerry Lewis

  • more

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