Jerry Lewis will be remembered for making the world a better placeBaltimore Post-Examiner

Jerry Lewis will be remembered for making the world a better place

On a weekend that saw anti-white supremacy protestors marching in Boston and a day after comedian and activist Dick Gregory died, the comedic genius Jerry Lewis passed away as well.

Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis (Wikipedia)

There is a diminishing segment of the Baby Boom generation that remembers Lewis as part of the iconic comedy duo of Martin and Lewis, when he and singer Dean Martin were the most popular performing act on stage, film and television. Comedian and Tonight Show Host Jimmy Fallon called Martin and Lewis “the Beatles of comedy.”

They made 17 films together between 1949-1956 and all were box office hits. They had their own variety show on NBC, The Colgate Comedy Hour, Ed Sullivan’s Toast of the Town and other programs. Wherever they went Martin and Lewis were mobbed by fans.

At the end of their partnership they grew apart, especially after Lewis began to get more attention from the media than Martin. When their final film, Hollywood or Bust, was in the can, Martin and Lewis called it quits.

It didn’t end the career of either performer and in fact both saw their professional endeavors soar to new heights.

Lewis went on to become one of the most successful film entertainers of his time. He got an astounding contract for the time, $10 million — plus 60 percent of the profits — from Paramount Studios and he was given complete control over their production. Those films included The Bellboy and The Nutty Professor, among others. He has a cameo in the widely successful comedy It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

He had appearances on a variety of televisions shows, including his own variety series, the Jerry Lewis show.

For many though, Lewis will be remembered as the host of the Labor Day Telethon for Muscular Dystrophy. From 1966 to 2010 Lewis was the public face of the Muscular Dystrophy Association, devoting much of his time and energy in philanthropy for the MDA.  He earned an Oscar for his charitable work. Estimates say he raised from $1.2 million to $2.6 billion for MDA. In 2011 Lewis ended his tenure as the national chairman of the association and they put out a press release saying Lewis was no longer associated with the group.

Jerry Lewis in 2005 (Wikipedia)

But his body of work, going back over 70 years will live on in the pantheon of comedy.

Not only was he funny, Lewis could sing and dance, including tap dance. He was a performer that could do it all and he used all of his talents to great effect. His physical, slap-stick comedy became an inspiration to comics that followed Lewis.

Lewis was born Jerome Levitch in 1926, in Newark, NJ to Russian Jewish immigrants. He followed in his father’s footsteps. Daniel Levitch performed in Vaudeville as Danny Lewis.

Lewis died at his home in Las Vegas, NV, surrounded by his family; August 20, 2017. He was 91 years old.

Top photo is a YouTube screenshot of Frank Sinatra bringing Dean martin and Jerry Lewis together on the 1976 MDA Telethon

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