Beloved comedian Jerry Lewis has died.
The 91-year-old, who is best known for zany films like The Nutty Professor, America's annual muscular dystrophy telethons and his partnership with Dean Martin, passed away at his home in Las Vegas on Sunday morning (20Aug17).
Entertainer and actor Penn Jillette was among the first to pay tribute to the film and TV legend, tweeting: "Jerry Lewis just died. When I met him, I fell apart, just sobbed. I guess it’s time for that again. We will miss Jerry so much. I can’t believe I got to meet him and spend time with him."
Lewis was a big hit in Las Vegas, performing comedy specials there between 1949 and 2016.
Born Joseph Levitch in Newark, New Jersey, Lewis made his showbusiness debut at the age of five and by 15 he was a young star, performing regularly in Buffalo, New York.
In 1942 he landed a gig at the prestigious Brown’s Hotel in upstate New York, where he was also working as a bellboy, but his career really took off four years later after he met charismatic singer Martin at New York club the Glass Hatt and the odd couple became a dynamic double act, performing on stage, radio and TV and in movies for a decade.
Their big screen hits included The Caddy, The Stooge, and Pardners.
Lewis and Martin parted ways acrimoniously in 1956 and both went on to have hit solo careers, but Lewis' slapstick humour became outdated and his success waned in America, where he became a regular on the variety circuit and the host of the annual Labor Day Muscular Dystrophy Telethon.
Ironically, his popularity never dipped in France, where he was considered an international treasure and awarded the Legion of Honor award in 1983. His final film, Max Rose, screened at France's Cannes Film Festival in 2013.
Away from showbusiness, Lewis' life was full of tragedy and controversy - his son Joseph from his first marriage to singer Patti Palmer died in 2009, and the comic picked up a reputation for being a grumpy, impatient man, who was difficult to work with behind the scenes. He also battled numerous illnesses and a prescription drug dependency.
The Nutty Professor in 1963 was Jerry's biggest solo success, and he had a brief movie career resurgence in 1982 when he was cast as a successful comedian opposite Robert De Niro in director Martin Scorsese's The King of Comedy.
As well as his Legion of Honor award, Lewis received the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences’ Jean Hersholt Award for his charitable work, and in May, 2014, he added his footprints to the cement outside the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.
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