Comedy actor Jerry Lewis died from an on-going heart condition which finally caught up with him at the ripe old age of 91!

So, it is fair to say that he had a pretty good long life despite a dodgy ticker that gave him a heart attack in 1960, again in the 80’s and then again in the 2,000’s.

The name Jerry Lewis, probably won’t register with many younger people in their 20’s or 30’s but in his day, he was a ‘King of Comedy’ and was loved by American audiences and gained a fan base in Europe, particularly with the French who have a fondness for slap stick and silly humour.

Lewis first found a name for himself as a stand-up comedian playing the US nightclub circuit showing off his wacky side. However, it wasn’t until he met a certain night club crooner by the name of Dean Martin that his fame took off.

Dean Martin happened to be on the same bill as Lewis and one night after both performers had finished their own stage acts, they had some ad-lib banter together in the spotlight which went down a storm with the unsuspecting audience.

The word quickly spread and Martin & Lewis became a very successful double act. Martin, the good-looking womaniser and singer was the straight partner, while Lewis played the clown.

Croydon Guardian:
Martin & Lewis

It wasn’t long until Hollywood came calling and the pair found themselves making movies and the public adored them.

The act split up in the late 50’s and Lewis went on to make more success in films and on Broadway while Martin become one of the famous Rat Pack members teaming up with other singing royalty with the great Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr.

For Jerry Lewis, it was no surprise that he made a successful career as bot his parents were also entertainers and performed song and dance acts in old fashioned vaudeville.

Lewis’s Heyday was certainly the 1950’s double act and into the 1960’s with his solo comedy movies but he wasn’t in such demand in the 1970’s and it wasn’t until he was cast by Martin Scorsese movie ‘King of Comedy’ alongside Robert De Niro in 1982 that his career had a revival.

Croydon Guardian:
King of Comedy - Lewis and De Niro

The film was about a slightly disturbed man called Rupert Pumpkin (De Niro) who has fantasies about being a stand-up comedian and sees his route to fame happing through a late night talk show hosted by a comedy presenter named Jerry Langford (Lewis).

Pumpkin hounds and stalks Langford asking him for the opportunity to be on his show only to be turned down (politely at first but later with frustrated annoyance) time and time again.

For Pumpkin, he sees his only choice is to kidnap Langford, with the help of his neurotic friend Masha (Sandra Bernhard) and hold him for ransom until his terms are met.

It was a strange film in many ways and split audience reaction when it was first released in the US in 1982, although UK audiences didn’t see the film in cinemas until June 1983.

Also, the film appeared as though the Jerry Langford character was based upon Lewis himself, which in a way was a brave thing to do.

Both De Niro and Lewis were nominated for Baftas but the film did win best screenplay.

Although it had been said that Jerry Lewis could be quite volatile behind the clown façade he was also renowned as a great supporter of charities, in particular with the Muscular Dystrophy Association raising millions for their cause.

Jerry Lewis, Hollywood Legend.