Born Joseph Levitch in Newark, New Jersey, Jerry Lewis is best-known for his slapstick humor in screen, television, stage and radio. He was originally paired up with Dean Martin in 1946, forming the famed comedy team of Martin and Lewis. In addition to the duo's popular nightclub work, they starred in a successful series of comedy films for Paramount Pictures.
As a filmmaker, Lewis is credited with inventing the video assist system in cinematography Lewis is also known for his charity fund-raising telethons and position as national chairman for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA).
Lewis has won several awards for lifetime achievements from The American Comedy Awards, The Golden Camera, Los Angeles Film Critics Association, and The Venice Film Festival, and he has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2005, he received the Governors Award of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Board of Governors, which is the highest Emmy Award presented. On February 22, 2009, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded Lewis the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.
-----Lewis' father, Daniel Levitch, was a Master of Ceremonies and vaudeville entertainer who used the professional name Danny Lewis. His mother, Rachel ("Rae") Levitch was a piano player for a radio station.
Lewis started performing at age five and would often perform alongside his parents in the Catskill Mountains in New York State. By fifteen he had developed his "Record Act", in which he exaggeratedly mimed the lyrics to songs on a phonograph. He used the professional name Joey Lewis, but soon changed it to Jerry Lewis to avoid confusion with comedian Joe E. Lewis and heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis.
Lewis initially rose to prominence with singer Dean Martin, who served as straight man to Lewis's zany antics in the Martin and Lewis comedy team. They distinguished themselves from the majority of comedy acts of the 1940s by relying on the interaction of the two comics instead of planned skits.
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-----In the late 1940s, they quickly rose to national prominence, first with their popular nightclub act, next as stars of their own radio program. They then made appearances on early live television, debuting first on the June 20, 1948 debut broadcast of Toast of the Town with Ed Sullivan on the CBS TV Network (later The Ed Sullivan Show), followed on October 3, 1948 by an appearance on the NBC TV series Welcome Aboard, then as the first of a series of hosts of The Colgate Comedy Hour in 1950, and finally as film stars in a string of successes for Paramount Pictures.
However, as Martin's roles in their films became less important, the partnership became strained and ended on July 24, 1956.
Both Martin and Lewis went on to successful solo careers, but for years neither would comment on the split, nor consider a reunion. They made at least a couple of public appearances together between the breakup and 1961, but then were not seen together in public until a surprise appearance by Martin on Lewis's Labor Day Muscular Dystrophy Telethon in 1976, arranged by Frank Sinatra.
In Lewis's 2005 book Dean and Me (A Love Story), Lewis wrote of his kinship with Martin, who had died in 1995. The pair eventually reconciled in the late 1980s after the death of Martin's son, Dean Paul Martin. The two men were seen together on stage in Las Vegas when Lewis pushed out Dean's birthday cake and sang Happy Birthday to him.
After the split from Martin, Lewis remained at Paramount and became a major comedy star with his first film as a solo comic, The Delicate Delinquent in 1957. Teaming with director Frank Tashlin, whose background as a Warner Bros. Looney Tunes cartoon director suited Lewis's brand of humor, he starred in five more films, and in 1959, appeared uncredited as Itchy McRabbitt in Li'l Abner.
Lewis released a record album in the 1950s, having a chart hit with the song "Rock-a-Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody" as well as the song, "It All Depends on You" in 1958. He eventually released his own album titled, Jerry Lewis Just Sings. By the end of his contract with producer Hal B. Wallis, Lewis had several productions of his own under his belt.
|Jerry in 2009.|
Lewis has battled prostate cancer, diabetes I, and pulmonary fibrosis, and has had at least two heart attacks.