Comedy legend Jerry Lewis dead at 91
Famed comedian, actor and filmmaker Jerry Lewis died on Sunday at his home in Las Vegas, his publicist confirmed. He was 91.
Lewis developed his comedy career alongside his partner Dean Martin, whose polished persona was a foil to Lewis’ slapstick-style comedy. He would go on to appear in dozens of films, entertaining audiences with a uniquely zany brand of humor.
He was born in Newark, New Jersey, as Jerome Levitch on March 16, 1926. His parents were Jewish vaudeville performers who worked at resorts around New York City, according to the Washington Post. He first performed onstage in 1931.
Lewis began his career in earnest in 1946 at the age of 19, performing in nightclubs alongside Martin. The duo quickly rose to stardom and created 17 films together, including “My Friend Irma” — which marked the pair’s 1949 film debut — and “Hollywood or Bust” in 1956.
Together, Lewis and Martin were an entertainment powerhouse. But over a decade of performing together, a rivalry developed between them. Martin “had people whispering earnestly in his ear that Jerry was holding him back from greater things, and Jerry had sycophants giving him similar advice. They fought openly on film sets and privately behind the scenes,” film critic Shawn Levy wrote for the Guardian in 2005. In 1956, they parted ways.
Lewis created more than 50 films during his lifetime, with leading roles in movies like “The Nutty Professor” and “The Bellboy,” which launched his foray as a director.
He later led The Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, which ran for 44 years and raised roughly $1.5 billion.
Corinne Segal contributed reporting.