Jerry Lewis, 1926-2017: The comic icon's greatest roles

Joal Ryan
Contributor

Jerry Lewis, the brilliant, divisive giant of comedy, died at his Las Vegas home Sunday morning at age 91. In a career that spanned nearly his entire life, Lewis played funnyman to Dean Martin; starred in, wrote, and directed the original Nutty Professor; and served as longtime host of TV’s most famous telethon. Once Hollywood’s most bankable star, Lewis fronted more than 50 movies, from the light Martin-and-Lewis fare of Artists and Models to Martin Scorsese’s darkly funny The King of Comedy. Click through for a look at his most famous — and infamous — roles.

 


‘The Colgate Comedy Hour’ (1950-55)

Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis showed off their considerable comedy chops on this musical-variety series that featured the top acts of the day. (Photo: Everett Collection)

‘Artists and Models’ (1955)

The 14th and one of the best Martin-Lewis films, this romp co-starred Shirley MacLaine. (Photo: Everett Collection)

‘The Delicate Delinquent’ (1957)

After splitting with Martin, Lewis made his solo debut in this crime comedy co-starring Darren McGavin. (Photo: Everett Collection)

‘The Bellboy’ (1960)

Lewis made his directing debut in this slapstick farce, in which he stars as a dimwitted bellhop who stumbles from one goofy situation to another. His character is named Stanley, after Lewis’s inspiration, Stan Laurel, of Laurel and Hardy fame. (Photo: Everett Collection)

‘The Nutty Professor’ (1963)

Lewis wrote, directed, and starried in the film that is considered his comedic tour de force, playing the titular bumbling scientist opposite Stella Stevens. Eddie Murphy’s decades-later reboot became a blockbuster. (Photo: Everett Collection)

‘The Disorderly Orderly’ (1964)

Lewis scored another big hit playing an orderly at a sanitarium who exhibits the same symptoms as the patients he comes in contact with. (Photo: Everett Collection)

The MDA Telethon (1966-2010)

Lewis reunited with Dean Martin (a truce brokered by Rat Pack kingpin Frank Sinatra) at the 1976 edition of his annual star-studded Labor Day telethon that raised millions for the Muscular Dystrophy Association and solidified Lewis’s reputation as a humanitarian. (Photo: Everett Collection)

‘The Day the Clown Cried’ (Unreleased)

Perhaps Hollywood’s most infamous film, this misguided Holocaust comedy, directed by and starring Lewis, has remained on the shelf since its filming in the early 1970s. Here Lewis is seen in costume on the set at the Winter Circus in Paris in 1972. (Photo: Everett Collection)

‘The King of Comedy’ (1983)

Lewis won accolades for his dramatic role as the kidnap victim of Robert De Niro’s wannabe standup comic in this Martin Scorsese-helmed film. (Photo: Everett Collection)