Jerry Lewis

Jerry Lewis

Date of birth: 16-03-1926

The only entertainer ever to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize was born into showbiz.

His father was all-round New York entertainer Danny Lewis, and his mother was Rae, a talented pianist.

Jerry made his stage debut aged five, singing "Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?", and by the age of 15 had perfected a comic routine, miming to records of the time.

He spent some time playing the clubs and in 1946 worked with Dean Martin for the first time. The memorable comic partnership was created by chance, when Martin was suddenly placed on the same bill as Lewis when another act failed to show up.

Their first film was My Friend Irma in 1949, and they worked together, on screen and off, until 1956.

In 1959 Lewis signed what was, at the time, the biggest deal in Hollywood's history - $10million plus 60 per cent of the profits of 14 films.

In 1967 Jerry became a professor of film direction at the University of Southern California, and he has won several directing awards, especially in France where he is considered a comic legend who surpasses Chaplain and Keaton.

Lewis has been associated with America's muscular dystrophy association since the mid-Forties and has hosted more than 30 annual telethons for the cause, raising more than $800million.

It was for this work that he was nominated for the Nobel prize in 1977, the highest of a number of humanitarian honours the comic has received.

Professional awards include the Comic Life Achievement Award in 1991, and the Lifetime Achievement Award at the American Comedy Awards in 1998.

 

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