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Friday 23 February 2018

Slapstick king Jerry Lewis dies aged 91, family says

Jerry Lewis at the Cannes Film Festival in France in 2013 Photo: REUTERS/Regis Duvignau/File Photo
Jerry Lewis at the Cannes Film Festival in France in 2013 Photo: REUTERS/Regis Duvignau/File Photo

Steve Gorman

Jerry Lewis, the high prince of low-brow comedy on stage and in the movies, died yesterday of "natural causes" at the age of 91, his family said.

Lewis, who rose to fame as goofy foil to suave partner Dean Martin, once summed up his career by saying "I've had great success being a total idiot", and said the key was maintaining a certain child-like quality.

Jerry Lewis with Dean Martin
Jerry Lewis with Dean Martin

"I look at the world through a child's eyes because I'm nine," he said in 2002. "I stayed that way. I made a career out of it. It's a wonderful place to be."

Lewis was 87 when his last movie, 'Max Rose', came out in 2013, playing a pianist who questions his marriage after learning his wife of 65 years may have been unfaithful.

The son of vaudeville entertainers, Lewis became a star in the early 1950s as Martin's sidekick in nightclubs, on television and in 16 movies. At their height, they set off the kind of fan hysteria that once surrounded Frank Sinatra and the Beatles. Their decade-long partnership ended with a bitter split, and Lewis went on to star in his own film comedies.

Lewis starred in more than 45 films in a career spanning five decades.

His antics often drew scorn from critics, but he was for a time a box-office hit who commanded one of the biggest salaries in Hollywood.

Tributes from friends, co-stars and disciples poured in immediately.

"That fool was no dummy. Jerry Lewis was an undeniable genius, an unfathomable blessing, comedy's absolute," Jim Carrey wrote yesterday on Twitter. "I am because he was!"

"The world has lost a true innovator & icon," comedian Dane Cook wrote.

Lewis's career spanned the history of show business in the 20th century, beginning in his parents' vaudeville act at the age of five. He was just 20 when his pairing with Martin made them international stars. He went on to make such favourites as 'The Bellboy' and 'The Nutty Professor', and featured in Martin Scorsese's 'The King of Comedy'.

Irish Independent

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