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Comedy Icon Jerry Lewis Dies at 91
Trailblazing comedian and filmmaker Jerry Lewis died Sunday morning at 91 of natural causes at his home in Las Vegas.
The death of the star of “The Nutty Professor” and countless other comedic films from the 1950s and 1960s was confirmed by his publicist Candi Cazau, The New York Times reported.
According to the Times, Lewis’ rise to fame came early: In his teenage years, he and singer Dean Martin gained early success with a nightclub act pairing the hyperkinetic Lewis with the laid-back crooner.
Lewis and Martin broke up the act in 1956, and Lewis went on to write, direct and star in a long string of hit comedy films. Over decades, Lewis also raised an estimated $2 billion as spokesman for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, in telethons for “Jerry’s Kids.”
Lewis was born March 16, 1926, in Newark, N.J., to a husband-and-wife team of vaudeville performers, Danny and Rae Levitch. He accompanied them on the road as a teenager, and by 16 was looking for work on his own, eventually pairing with Martin.
Movie and television work quickly propelled Lewis into stardom, the Times said. In the mid-1950s he also had a string of song hits, with the album “Jerry Lewis Just Sings” climbing to No. 3 on the Billboard chart.
Lewis’ star faded somewhat in the 1970s and onward, and he was plagued in later life by health issues including prostate cancer, pulmonary fibrosis and two heart attacks, the Times said. But he was performing in one-man shows as recently as 2016.
In 2015, the U.S. Library of Congress announced that it had acquired Mr. Lewis’ personal archives. “Knowing that the Library of Congress was interested in acquiring my life’s work was one of the biggest thrills of my life,” Lewis said.