Los Angeles: Legendary comic artiste Jerry Lewis, who was known for his brash slapstick humour, has died at the age of 91.
Lewis’s agent confirmed that the actor died at his Las Vegas home at around 9.15 am Sunday morning, reported Variety.
He was one of Hollywood’s most entertaining comedians, whose career spanned for more than six decades and he went on to become an auteur filmmaker of comedic classics such as “The Nutty Professor” and “The Bellboy”.
Lewis was born as Joseph Levitch on March 16, 1926 in New Jersey’s Newark to parents, who were in showbiz. He made his debut at a Borscht Belt hotel singing “Brother, can you spare a dime?” at the age of five.
At 15, he started pantomiming operatic and popular songs and was booked into a burlesque house in Buffalo. In 1942, his comic pantomiming gig at Brown’s Hotel in upstate New York, where he was also working the summer as a bellboy, made him cross paths with comic Irving Kaye.
Kaye got Lewis some bookings for stand-up and became his road manager.
He met the young singer, Dean Martin at New York nightclub, The Glass Hatt and was first paired with him in 1946. The duo went on to grow strong for 10 years, starting with “My Friend Irma” in 1949 and others such as “The Caddy,” “The Stooge,” “Artists and Models” and “Pardners”.
But their equation soured overtime and after their film “Hollywood or Bust” (1956), they made their last appearance together at the Copacabana. Their break-up was acrimonious, both Lewis and Martin going separate ways to pursue solo careers.
The pair reconciled after the death of Martin’s son in the late 1980s. Martin died in 1995.
Lewis’ brand of humour was often tagged as racist and misogynistic and he shared his right-wing political views without holding anything back.
He starred in films such as “The Delicate Delinquent”, “Rock-a-Bye Baby” and Martin Scorsese’s “The King of Comedy”, also featuring Robert DeNiro, in which he appeared as a late night talkshow host who is kidnapped.
Lewis went on to direct successes “The Ladies Man” and “The Errand Boy”.
Hollywood bigwigs such as Jim Carrey, Ellen DeGeneres and Goldie Hawn, among others, paid their tributes to Lewis.
“That fool was no dummy. Jerry Lewis was an undeniable genius an unfathomable blessing, comedy’s absolute! I am because he was!” Carrey wrote on Twitter.
DeGeneres tweeted, “Jerry Lewis was a comic and philanthropic icon. I send love to his family today.”
Scorsese said in a statement, “Jerry Lewis was a master.
He was a great entertainer. He was a great artiste. And he was a remarkable man.
“I had the honour of working with him, and it was an experience I’ll always treasure. He was, truly, one of our greats.”
Hawn wrote, “I had the honour of working with him, and it was an experience I’ll always treasure. He was, truly, one of our greats.”
“Star Trek” star William Shatner tweeted, “Condolences to the family of Jerry Lewis. The world is a lot less funnier today.”
Whoopi Goldberg mourned Lewis’ absence, saying, “Jerry Lewis passed today, millions around the world loved him, millions of kids he helped with his telethons. RIP and condolences to his family.”
He is survived by his second wife, SanDee Pitnick, with whom he adopted a daughter. (PTI)
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