Jerry Lewis

  • Born: March 16, 1926 in Newark, NJ
  • Notable Works:
    • The Bellboy (1960) 
    • The Nutty Professor (1963) 
    • The King of Comedy (1982) 
  • Personal Favorite: The Family Jewels (1965)

Comedian. Actor. Singer. Producer. Writer. Director. The Kid turns 90 today. I would have to say that he is easily one of my top ten favorite screen performers. Physical comedy is timeless, and I really can’t think of a personality more important and more influential to the genre. Starting his career with partner Dean Martin, the two made their way from nightclubs to radio to television to film, making seventeen films in ten years. Lewis started to find success on his own in the late 1950s, frequently starring in films directed by Looney Tunes legend, Frank Tashlin. He often felt comically and creatively hindered by large production companies and started producing, writing, and finally, directing his own films. Between 1960 and 1965, he starred, wrote, produced and directed The Bellboy, The Ladies Man, The Errand Boy, The Nutty Professor, The Patsy, and The Family Jewels (where he played seven different roles.) Due to various health issues, Lewis wasn’t able to act much through the 1970s but had several memorable performances in the 80s and 90s, namely, Hardly Working, The King of Comedy, Arizona Dream, and Funny Bones. He also taught film directing at USC for several years, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas being two of his students. Lewis admired and respected the art of comedy, and often used his films as a commentary to the art and his strong feelings for it. I’ll end on a script excerpt from 1961’s The Errand Boy:

“What have you all been looking at?”

“Your errand boy, that nutty kid, Morty. That’s the best comedy performance I’ve seen on the screen in years.”

“Performance? From that errand boy?”

“That’s right, a performance, the likes of which I’ve never seen.”

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