I grew up with Jerry Lewis. Not only did I see many of his movies from the sixties in the neighborhood theaters, but if one was showing on TV we always watched. We watched because Jerry Lewis was a funny guy, and his comedy was such that it could be appreciated by young kids such as myself, or adults.
There was also the many times he guest hosted The Tonight Show many times throughout the sixties and into the seventies. He always seemed to be in your living room one way or another. Whereas sometimes the more mature current event commentary of Johnny Carson would fly right over my head at the age of ten or so (or even younger), the spontaneous physical outrageous antics of Jerry would always leave us in stitches. I wish there were some of those episodes still available. But I imagine they are long gone, lost in the purge of saving money by reusing video tapes.
I did manage to snag a DVD release of The Jerry Lewis Show which ran from 1967 – 1969. But it is incomplete with many musical numbers axed and some episodes missing. That collection is only available from 3rd party sellers at an exorbitant price. But there is a “Fan Favorites” DVD with even less content then the one I acquired some years ago. But at $9.95, it’s cheap enough.
Lewis was loved in France but often derided by U.S. Critics. And while even I’ll admit some of his late sixties early seventies stuff is tough to sit through, there’s no denying the man’s comedic genius. My favorite Lewis films are some of the Martin/Lewis films like Living It Up, Artists and Models, and You’re Never too Young.
Of his solo films, I’d rank Rock-a-bye Baby, The Nutty Professor, Don’t Give Up the Ship, The Delicate Delinquent, Cinderfella, and Boeing, Boeing (despite it’s low regard for women) as my favorites.
Then there’s the Muscular Dystrophy Telethon held every Labor day that raised millions for the charity. If you were lucky enough to view the show in it’s early years, before it went coast to coast, becoming (necessarily so) bigger but more bloated with corporate sponsors, you got 24 hours of Lewis being Lewis non stop where he would often go out and mingle with the audience, grabbing money, and just having fun.
I’m not going to get into why the MDA thought it necessary to do away with the yearly event. But their unceremonious firing of Lewis who raised over 2 billion dollars was and remains a disgrace to this day. There is a right way to do things, and a wrong way to do things. After sixty-one years of hard work in which Lewis earned not one penny, instead of rewarding him they kicked him in the ass. And I do know this: Since Lewis last hosted the telethon, Labor Day has never been the same.
Following is a selection of screenshots from my Jerry Lewis Library. I don’t have every film, but what I do have is extensive. Visit to a Small Planet is not here, but I’ll add it when the Blu-ray version arrives next week. Eventually I hope to have them all although some, such as The Sad Sack, have never had a U.S. DVD release for whatever unknown reason. I had a digital copy but it had a Spanish audio track. I also have a copy of The Ladies Man around here somewhere, and will add that as well.
But one thing is certain, Lewis, despite any faults he may have had, was a comedy giant who made the world a better place. We will miss him.
And finally, no Jerry Lewis memorial would be complete without this signature song with which he signed off each and every telethon.