The talented, iconic entertainer Jerry Lewis has died at age 91.
According to Variety, Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist John Katsilometes reported that he died at his home at 9:15 a.m. on August 20, 2017. His agent confirmed the news.
Born Joseph Levitch on March 16, 1926, in Newark, New Jersey, Lewis was the son of actor Danny Lewis and pianist Rae Lewis. He followed in his parents’ footsteps as soon as he turned 5 with his debut at New York’s “Borscht Belt” nightclubs in the Catskill Mountains.
By 15 he had dropped out of high school to pursue a career in show business, though he soon found it more difficult than he’d expected, working as a theater usher to make ends meet.
A friend of his dad’s, comedian Max Coleman, one day convinced him to perform at Brown’s Hotel in Loch Sheldrake, New York. His well-received debut earned him more gigs.
When he was 19, he had a chance encounter with the person who would change his life forever: the incomparable Dean Martin. Following a joint performance in 1946, one of the greatest partnerships in the history of entertainment was born.
Their type of slapstick-heavy, give-and-take comedy landed them their own radio show, The Martin and Lewis Show. The exposure from that enterprise then earned them their first movie roles.
The duo made 16 films together, though eventually Lewis’ star rose so high he branched off on his own as both an actor and director.
Along with being an iconic entertainer, Lewis was also a teacher of film and a philanthropist, hosting an annual telethon to donate money for the fight against muscular dystrophy.
He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977.
In 2014, his handprints and footprints were forever cemented in the courtyard of the TCL Chinese Theatre (formerly Grauman’s).
He is survived by his wife SanDee and six children.