Comedy legend Jerry Lewis passed away today. He lived to the ripe old age of 91. Best known for his works “The Ladies Man,” “The Nutty Professor,” and “The Bellboy,” Lewis’ comedic ability was never truly given the accolades it deserved during the height of his career—until 2009, when he was given an honorary Oscar.
Rather than celebrating Lewis as one of America’s finest comedians, Variety’s Richard Natale and Carmel Dagan opted instead to pan the actor’s politically incorrect jokes and vocal right-wing political views in their obituary posted today.
“Lewis’ brand of humor did not always wear well as times and attitudes changed,” Variety claims. “Over the last 10 years of his life, his reputation soured slightly as he was forced to apologize for making a gay slur on camera during the 2007 telethon, continued to make racist and misogynistic jokes, and didn’t hesitate to share his right-wing political views.”
Despite having raised more than $2.5 billion dollars for sick children with muscular dystrophy, the publication found it necessary to add an angle about racism and homophobia to his obituary.
Woe betide the actor and film pioneer who dared to stick to his guns instead of bending his knee at the altar of social justice and its politically correct crusaders, who deemed his comedy too risqué for their taste (or lack thereof).
Choosing not to commemorate his achievements in the world of comedy, the humor-challenged publication describes his career as “beset by controversy,” highlighting Lewis’ worst flaws—the kind that made him human, which by their standards, made him a bad person.
“He was, by his own admission, an impatient man, and over the years battled numerous illnesses and a prescription drug dependency,” Variety claims gleefully. “His parting with [Dean] Martin in 1956 after 10 years as a duo was acrimonious. And the telethons were awash in claims that there was a disparity between the money pledged and the money collected.”
The piece goes on to state how Lewis had eventually become irrelevant to the American public—or in their words, “Americans largely dismissed him,” stating that he had developed a following with French film journals by directing “uninspired fare” later in the ‘70s.
Despite some faint, but damning praise about his performance in Scorcese’s “The King of Comedy” and “Wiseguy,” the writers added a caveat to say that his later work “failed to impress.”
Missing from the condemnatory article are Lewis’ contributions to his pioneering use of video assist in filmmaking. As a director, Lewis is credited with inventing the precursor to the complex system, which allows filmmakers to view a video version of a take immediately after it is filmed. When he was filming The Bellboy in 1960, he used a video camera to record scenes simultaneously alongside his film camera.
It must be a real joy for two hacks to highlight Jerry Lewis’ flaws to override all the good he did–both for filmmaking, and for the world in general.
Ian Miles Cheong is a journalist and outspoken media critic. You can reach him through social media at @stillgray on Twitter and on Facebook.