Sunday, August 20, 2017

Jerry Lewis (1926-2017)

Actor. Comedian. Filmmaker. Activist. Icon.

Those are just some of the labels that describe Jerry Lewis, who passed away earlier today in his home in Las Vegas at 91. One of the last of Hollywood's living legends, Lewis' career spanned 7, maybe 8 decades, encompassing radio, movies, stage, and television.

The first phase saw Lewis as part of an act with crooner Dean Martin. Together, they hosted the Colgate Comedy Hour on several occasions, and starred in movies such as "Boeing, Boeing", "Scared Stiff", and "My Friend Irma". However, their careers broke into separate paths in the late 50's-early 60's, which freed Lewis to let his imagination run rampant in films such as "Visit to a Small Planet", "The Delicate Delinquent", "The Family Jewels", and the original "Nutty Professor". "Jewels" was also the inspiration for Filmation's short lived Saturday morning series, Will The Real Jerry Lewis Please Sit Down?, which cycled one season of episodes across two years (1970-2), with David L. Lander, later of Laverne & Shirley, as Lewis, and Howard Morris as the "Jewels"-inspired characters.

Lewis might be better known to at least a couple of generations of viewers for his work with the Muscular Dystrophy Association, for whom he hosted regional & national telethons until 2010 as national chairman. Lewis returned to the MDA fold last year to record a video message on their website after 5 years of discord between the two.

While comedy was his forte, Lewis was also not afraid to try drama, having made guest appearances on, among others, Ben Casey, Wiseguy, & Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. He used appearances on game shows like What's My Line? to further his work with MDA in the 50's & 60's.

We've been accustomed to hearing Lewis sing in a comic voice, but in truth, he discovered he was as much a crooner as Martin. His renditions of "You'll Never Walk Alone" and "Come Rain or Come Shine" were telethon staples.

Speaking of the telethon, here's a classic clip from 1976, as Frank Sinatra facilitates a reunion of Lewis and a certain old friend.....

Rest in peace, Jerry.

No comments: