The antics of Jerry Lewis touched the juvenile side in us all and gave us permission to laugh at the more ridiculous side of life. Through his movies, Lewis had a way of making fun of the mundane as well as striking a spear right at the heart of the pomposity. A string of comedies he starred in, some he wrote, directed or produced as well, recall a period when the cares of life could be put aside for a while and easily replaced by laughter at the outlandish and the absurd.
Born to vaudevillian show business parents, he apparently had few boundaries for his level of slapstick in a simpler time when the modern age was still in its youth. It was a slapstick influenced by Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keeton, according to The New York Times, that in turn influenced the likes of comedians Eddie Murphy and Jim Carrey, who tweeted Sunday, "I am because he was!"
Lewis starred in a string of comedies, a partial list including "The Bellboy," "The Stooge," "Artists and Models," "Don't Give Up the Ship," "Cinderfella," "The Disorderly Orderly," and who could forget his bucktoothed ultra-nerdy character in "The Nutty Professor," a role that seemed to say it all about his comedic talents? In some he starred alongside crooner and actor Dean Martin, the straight man to Lewis' boneheaded repartee.
Here are seven memorable Jerry Lewis roles that made us laugh:
1. The Nutty Professor (1963) — Lewis plays a bucktoothed, nasal-voiced, ultra-nerdy mad scientist somewhat like an exaggerated awkward academic in this early '60s comedy. Starring alongside screen beauty Stella Stevens, he drinks a potion where he becomes handsome but obnoxious.
2. The Bellboy (1960) — With his typical slapstick twist, Lewis plays a mostly mute clumsy bellboy at the luxurious Fontainebleau Hotel who has to interact with wealthy hotel guests.
3. The Stooge (1952) — Playing alongside Dean Martin, a failing nightclub singer who, in an attempt to add some bumbling comic relief, hires Lewis, who steals the show as his second banana.
4. Artists and Models (1955) — Lewis wrote, produced, directed, and starred alongside Martin in this musical that also stars Shirley MacLaine and Dorothy Malone. Lewis is Martin's goofy roommate and plays an author who loves comic books.
5. Don't Give Up the Ship (1959) — Lewis plays a sailor explaining why he lost a destroyer and ends up having to find the ship or pay for it in this black-and-white comedy.
6. Cinderfella (1960) — The male version of the well-known "Cinderella," complete with wicked stepbrothers, a Fairy Godfather and a lost shoe at the ball.
7. The Disorderly Orderly (1964) — Lewis plays a hypochondriac who flunks out of medical school and goes to work at a sanitarium. Lewis' character suffers from "neurotic identification empathy" causing him to suffer the symptoms of others.
And, then there were the telethons — for years synonymous with Labor Day Weekend. The Muscular Dystrophy Telethon was a 21-hour fest-a-rama featuring performances by stars and musicians. During its span from 1966 to 2010, it raised more than $400 million for "Jerry's Kids" stricken with the disease.
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