On this historic day, August 20, 2017, 91-year-old Jerry Lewis died of natural causes at his home in Las Vegas, Nevada.
One of the best known American comedians of the 50s, 60s and beyond, Lewis was born as Jerome or Joseph Levitch in Newark, New Jersey in 1926, according to various sources.
The comedian and actor rose to fame in part through his early impersonation skills, which eventually led to a successful career around the world.
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Lewis was born into an entertainment family. Her father, known as Danny Lewis, was a musical arranger, while her mother, Rachel, played the piano.
He started playing when he was five years old. When he was only 12 years old, he began to mime the music he heard. The unique talent led him to drop out of high school to perform, according to Britannica.
Upon arriving in New York, Lewis met singer and actor Dean Martin in 1946.
Martin “would provide the songs and be a straight man for Lewis [the] manic comedy,” the Los Angeles Times noted.
The two quickly became a popular team.
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The duo performed successfully in theaters, including New York’s famous Copacabana nightclub, and eventually signed a deal with Paramount Pictures, as reported by IMDb.
“They have been successful on radio, television, particularly as hosts of NBC’s ‘The Colgate Comedy Hour,’ in live appearances, and in a series of comedy features for Paramount Pictures, including “The Caddy and “The Stooge,” “The LA Times also said.
They were hugely successful and remained a popular comedic team throughout the mid-1950s.
Other memorable movies include “My Friend Irma” and “Living It Up.”
The partnership did not last, however. Lewis and Martin ended up falling out after making a movie called “Pardners” in 1956.
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Thereafter, Lewis continued his career as a solo performer, according to Britannica.
“I consider Jerry Lewis, since the death of Buster Keaton, to be the greatest comic book artist of the time.”
He then became a screenwriter and director of his own films. Lewis was responsible for some of the greatest slapstick gags in history, including “The Nutty Professor,” “The Bellboy,” “The Errand Boy,” “Cinderfella” and “The Ladies Man,” according to multiple sources.
In Europe, he was named best director of the year eight times from 1960.
French film critic Robert Benayoun even wrote, “I regard Jerry Lewis, since the death of Buster Keaton, as the greatest comic artist of the time”, as noted by the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) in a biography of Lewis.
One of his most notable endeavors, however, had nothing to do with comedy or acting. It is rather this charity for which he is well associated.
MDA is a voluntary health organization in the United States for people with muscular dystrophy or neuromuscular diseases such as ALS, according to the group.
Lewis has made it his mission to raise funds and awareness for muscular dystrophy.
Lewis served as its national president for more than five decades.
“Jerry has earned the admiration and respect of millions for bringing help and hope to people of all ages, races and backgrounds living with neuromuscular diseases,” the group noted on its website. .
Over the years, Lewis has made it his mission to raise funds and awareness for muscular dystrophy.
The MDA Telethon has aired every Labor Day weekend for 45 years, according to MDA. Lewis hosted the event for 44 of those years, until 2010; he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for these efforts.
He is also credited with inventing the video assistance system in cinematography, according to multiple sources.
He has won numerous awards for his work over the years and has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, according to that organization’s website. In 2005, he received the Governor’s Award from the Board of Governors of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, considered the highest Emmy award ever given.
In 2005, Lewis received the Governor’s Award from the Board of Governors of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
In 2012, Lewis was hospitalized for two nights in New York City after collapsing with what was believed to be low blood sugar, as reported by Fox News Digital.
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In the years before his death, he suffered from a back condition, linked to a fall from a piano during a comedy, as well as health problems.
He reportedly suffered two heart attacks.
Lewis was married twice – once to Patti Palmer for over 36 years and once to SanDee Pitnick for 34 years until his death.
He was the father of six sons and one daughter.
When he died at 91, he was at home, according to his publicist via AP.
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Jerry Lewis “may have been the latest in a line of…great clowns,” Fox News Digital previously reported.
“He created an indelible character – a kind of extravagant man-child who could not be controlled, not even by the laws of physics.”