Jerry Lewis, legendary director, actor, comedian, writer, singer and philanthropist, died Saturday at 91 at his home in Las Vegas.
“My mentor & friend Jerry Lewis has passed away,” comedian Dane Cook tweeted. “A visionary. A pioneer in all forms of entertainment. A charitable human. A father.”
Born Joseph Levitch in Newark, New Jersey, Lewis began his show business career with a “record-singer” act that was considered so bad that the Atlantic City club where he was playing fired him. By chance, he met Dean Martin, and the struggling singer teamed-up with Lewis to become the hottest show in New York, eventually going to Hollywood to make hit movies like “Pardners” and “That’s My Boy.” The duo worked together from 1946-56.
Lewis went on to write, direct and act in a string of Hollywood films, which people either loved or hated, and critics either praised or panned. “The Nutty Professor” (1963) is considered to be Lewis’s masterpiece by his fans and film aficionados.
He remained politically incorrect despite the times and became increasingly politically conservative over the decades.
For later generations, Lewis is perhaps best known for hosting his annual Labor Day telethon for muscular dystrophy, “Jerry’s kids,” though that was not without controversy, with criticism over the years suggesting that too much of the money raised was going to administration and not the kids. Nonetheless, Lewis raised almost $2.5 billion for the charity.
His final film was the 2013 production of “Max Rose,” which earned considerable critical acclaim. He continued to perform in Las Vegas well into his 80s, with the curtain falling for the final time in 2016.