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 Post subject: JERRY LEWIS (1926-2017)
PostPosted: Sun Aug 20, 2017 2:39 pm 
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Death of Jerry Lewis 1926-2017. Comedian, actor, filmmaker, fundraiser, teacher, dies at 91. A defining figure of film, humor, American culture of the post-WWII era.

He died suddenly 20 August 2017, aged 91.

His importance and influence were immense. He began in the ego and id, sex and slapstick act of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis that rose to fame a little after the War meteorically. Playing at the Copacabana, Hal Wallis saw them and signed them on a 5-year contract at Paramount, but it's independently that they gained attention. It's after they split in 1956 that Jerry began to write, direct, and star in his own movies.

They were the kind of thing a snobbish young American film buff of the era, looking for inspiration from Europe, might choose to avoid, and for pretty good reason - the Martin and Lewis movies were silly and slapdash. It turned out that over time it soon developed that the French, with their passion for cinema, and their very different take on American culture, were coming to regard the independent filmmaker Jerry Lewis who merged later on as a kind of movie genius. Jean-Luc Godard described Jerry Lewis as "The greatest American political filmmaker of the 1960's" (Le Monde's obituary today).

Americans for the most part thought of this French Jerry-worship, which became notorious, as a joke. Stateside, despite many parts in TV series and a few good serous film performances, Jerry Lewis was probably best known in latter decades as the guiding force of the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Association Telethon, which had grown out of a charity he and Dean Martin had long supported. But as Jerry's long career comes to a final end, it may to time to reassess his achievement.

There were 13 Martin and Lewis films, which provide a commentary on American culture and were phenomenally successful. His own independent creative period began with The Bellboy (1960). Other important movies of his most creative period are The Ladies Man (1961), The Nutty Professor (1963) (his personal favorite and the one most analyzed). Subsequent films were Three on a Couch (1966), The Big Mouth (1967), Which Way to the Front? (1970), The Day the Clown Cried (1972), Hardly Working (released 1980), and his last, Smorgasbord, also known as "Cracking Up" (1983), his last directorial effort. See the Times for comments on these.

The typically detailed "10 Great Jerry Lewis Movies to Stream
This group of films demonstrates the breadth of Lewis’s talent as an actor, comedian and director."

Lewis was a survivor and a recovering addict. He suffered from many illnesses and injuries, including serious back injury dating from a fall in a Las Vegas show in the early Sixties and recurrent heart attacks, and he was addicted to the painkiller Percodan till the late Seventies and was weaned off a dependence on the corticosteroid prednisone through a long and painful rehab program early in the 2000's.

In addition to his large filmography of successes, some merely commercial, others artistic and technical, he's also known as the maker and star of what's rumored to be one of the worst (or more accurately most misguided and tasteless) movies ever made, The Day the Clown Cried (1970), which he directed and starred in as a pathetic clown during the Holocaust who wound up entertaining Jewish children on the way into the gas chambers to soothe their fears. He was ashamed of it and had it suppressed and a copy of it resides in the Library of Congress not to be released until 2025.

Both the Times and Le Monde describe Jerry Lewis as a kind of self-taught filmmaker, who began as an amateur at home on 16mm after years of being shot in successful movies by others, and got advice from industry connections. He invented a device for video-viewing "rushes" on set that is still used today. This ground-up autodidact origin of his director status may help explain why he was a good film school teacher and why the French (Le Monde again) say he "was an auteur in the most complete sense of the term."


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