Jerry Lewis, the comedy star who became an internationally acclaimed filmmaking auteur – who wrote, directed and starred in the comedy classics The Nutty Professor and The Bellboy – has died at the age of 91.
Jerry Lewis achieved early success as a comedy duo with legendary crooner Dean Martin, gradually transforming their stage act into a hit radio show and sixteen feature films over the course of ten years. After their breakup, which was anything but amicable, Jerry Lewis spun his solo career into a series of hit comedies that would, for the time, practically define the word “zany.”
In many Jerry Lewis films, the world itself was as absurd as any Looney Tune, and his comedic persona was typically equally broad. Jerry Lewis’s signature “schtick,” a man-child with exaggerated mannerisms and a hilariously shrill voice, became one of the most iconic comedic personae ever created. Impersonations ran rampant, some affectionate, some insulting, but all of them indicative of the enormous cultural impact Jerry Lewis had throughout his extensive career, which ran for over half a decade.
Although Jerry Lewis developed a reputation for being difficult off-camera, he was a remarkable entertainer who dedicated 44 years of his life to hosting Labor Day telethons to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, earning approximately $2.5 billion for the charity throughout his tenure.
Jerry Lewis is one of those movie stars everybody knows, whether they’ve seen his films or not. So whether you’re looking to revisit his many classics or discover the works of Jerry Lewis for the very first time, we wanted to leave you with a list of films that made him an icon, and deserve to be discovered – and re-discovered – for years to come.
Rest in peace, Jerry Lewis.
The Must-See Films of Jerry Lewis (1926-2017):
Top Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images
William Bibbiani (everyone calls him ‘Bibbs’) is Crave’s film content editor and critic. You can hear him every week on Canceled Too Soon and watch him on the weekly YouTube series What the Flick. Follow his rantings on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.