Enjoy Some Jerry Lewis: R.I.P., 1926-2017
Via David Kehr of The New York Times:
"Jerry Lewis, the comedian and filmmaker who was adored by many, disdained by others, but unquestionably a defining figure of American entertainment in the 20th century, died on Sunday morning at his home in Las Vegas. He was 91.
His death was confirmed by his publicist, Candi Cazau.
Mr. Lewis knew success in movies, on television, in nightclubs, on the Broadway stage and in the university lecture hall. His career had its ups and downs, but when it was at its zenith there were few stars any bigger. And he got there remarkably quickly.
Barely out of his teens, he shot to fame shortly after World War II with a nightclub act in which the rakish, imperturbable Dean Martin crooned and the skinny, hyperactive Mr. Lewis capered around the stage, a dangerously volatile id to Mr. Martin’s supremely relaxed ego.
After his break with Mr. Martin in 1956, Mr. Lewis went on to a successful solo career, eventually writing, producing and directing many of his own films."
Wow, 91 years is quite the run. Jerry and Don Rickles were Hollywood warriors and we lost both in the same year. It's pretty remarkable how fortunate we as movie goers and comedy lovers are to have gotten to enjoy the talents of a Lewis, a Rickles, a Dick Van Dyke for so long and say what you will about Jerry (who was known as a notorious tyrant to work with), but he is someone who introduced a lot of comedians to comedy and is someone who raised a heck of a lot of money for muscular dystrophy.
On a personal level for me, coming from a home that had Dean Martin tunes playing in it's rooms almost everyday, Jerry Lewis was the first comedian I was introduced to as a kid (and it's crazy I'm just realizing that as I type this) and as far as I'm concerned starting with Jerry is a built-in head start when it comes to running the race of comedy. The man was unparalleled at prat falls and did the kind of comedy that you don't see happening in Hollywood as much anymore: slapstick. And he was damn good at it. Him and Dean were an unprecedented twosome of youthful Hollywood good looks, musical talent and charisma that other comedy duos at the time and going forward never really captured again. Call that accurate, call that my Dino bias showing through, but I'd like to hear an argument for another movie partnership with that kind of versatility and range.
Here's three clips from three of the many Martin & Lewis flicks. One is with Jerry & Shirley MacLaine from Artists and Models (pretty risque for the time period), another is my favorite Dean & Jerry song, "Every Street's A Boulevard", from Living It Up and the final is a great scene with him and Dean in Sailor Beware (which also includes Hollywood unknown, James Dean, who has a snippet of dialogue and a little "extra" screen time of his own embellishment - very cool to see):
R.I.P., Jerry. Him and Dean are "Pardners" again.