Comedian Jerry Lewis has died at the age of 91.
Lewis, one-half of the popular Martin and Lewis duo with Dean Martin, hosted the annual MDA telethon over Labor Day weekend from 1966 through 2010.
A statement by the Lewis family was tweeted by Las Vegas Review reporter John Katsilometes: “Legendary entertainer Jerry Lewis passed away peacefully today of natural causes at 91 at his home w/ family by his side.”
Born Joseph Levitch on March 16, 1926, he would later change his name to appeal towards American audiences. He would play the Borscht Belt but it was after a partner quit in 1946 that Jerry Lewis started performing with Dean Martin. This partnership would last about a decade before the two split up and didn’t reconcile until the late 1980s although they had a surprise reunion arranged by Frank Sinatra on the 1976 MDA telethon.
Following the breakup of Martin and Lewis in the 1950s, Lewis went on to develop a very popular solo career with movies such as The Bellboy and The Nutty Professor.
It was every Labor Day weekend in which the comedian was a staple on television through his role as the national chairman of the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Many of us got to know Lewis through the MDA telethon. It didn’t feel like Labor Day weekend without it.
In 2009, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded Lewis with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.
Lewis filmed The Day the Clown Cried in 1972 but the Nazi concentration camp film was never released. In August 2015, a copy was donated to the Library of Congress with an agreement made that it not be shown for another ten years. With his death, it will be interesting to see if anyone will view it. I know that it was featured in The Last Laugh.