Friday, March 16, 2012

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JERRY LEWIS







Today is the 86th birthday of comedy legend Jerry Lewis. He was born on this day before Saint Patrick's Day in 1926. What an amazing talent and generous heart Jerry Lewis has always been. What he has done for Muscular Dystrophy alone over the years is absolutely staggering. Jerry Lewis initially gained fame with singer Dean Martin, who served as straight man to Lewis's zany antics in the Martin and Lewis comedy team. They distinguished themselves from the majority of comedy acts of the 1940s by relying on the interaction of the two comics instead of planned skits. In the late 1940s, they quickly rose to national prominence, first with their popular nightclub act, next as stars of their own radio program. Within a year of their first act together, they went from earning 150-175 dollars a week each at one club to $30,000.00 a week as a team at The Copacabana.They then made appearances on early live television, debuting first on the June 20, 1948 debut broadcast of Toast of the Town with Ed Sullivan on the CBS TV Network (later the Ed Sullivan Show), followed on October 3, 1948 by an appearance on the NBC TV series Welcome Aboard then as the first of a series of hosts of The Colgate Comedy Hour in 1950. They began their Paramount film careers in 1949 as ensemble players in My Friend Irma, based on the popular radio series of the same name. This was followed by a sequel in 1950, My Friend Irma Goes West Starting with At War with the Army (1950), Martin and Lewis were the stars of their own vehicles, in fourteen additional titles at Paramount. Final was Hollywood or Bust (1956). All sixteen were produced by Hal Wallis.
However, as Martin's roles in their films became less important, the partnership became strained. Martin's diminished participation became an embarrassment in 1954, when Look magazine used a publicity photo of the team for the magazine cover, but cropped Martin out of the photo. The partnership finally ended on July 24, 1956. Attesting the team's popularity, DC Comics published the best-selling The Adventures of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis comic books from 1952 to 1957. The series continued a year after the team broke up as DC Comics then featured Lewis solo, until 1971, in The Adventures of Jerry Lewis comic books. In this latter series, Lewis was sometimes featured with Superman, Batman, and various other DC Comics heroes and villains. It inspired the Filmation cartoons production company to make, in 1970, a series called Will the Real Jerry Lewis Please Sit Down, with Jerry as the one character inspired by reality, beside other fictitious characters, including Jerry's fictitious relatives. Both Martin and Lewis went on to successful solo careers, but for years neither would comment on the split, nor consider a reunion. They made at least a couple of public appearances together between the breakup and 1961, but then were not seen together in public until a surprise appearance by Martin on Lewis's Labor Day Muscular Dystrophy Telethon in 1976, arranged by Frank Sinatra. The pair eventually reconciled in the late 1980s after the death of Martin's son, Dean Paul Martin. The two men were seen together on stage in Las Vegas when Lewis pushed out Dean's birthday cake and sang "Happy Birthday" to him. In Lewis's 2005 book Dean and Me (A Love Story), Lewis wrote of his kinship with Martin, who died in 1995. After the split from Martin, Lewis remained at Paramount and became a major comedy star with his first film as a solo comic, The Delicate Delinquent (1957). Teaming with director Frank Tashlin, whose background as a Warner Bros. Looney Tunes cartoon director suited Lewis's brand of humor, he starred in five more films, and even appeared uncredited as Itchy McRabbitt in Li'l Abner (1959).Lewis tried his hand at releasing an album in the 1950s, having a chart hit with the song "Rock-a-Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody" (a song largely associated with Al Jolson and later re-popularized by Judy Garland) as well as the song, "It All Depends on You" in 1958. He eventually released his own album titled, Jerry Lewis Just Sings. By the end of his contract with producer Hal B. Wallis, Lewis had several productions of his own under his belt. His first three efforts, The Delicate Delinquent (1957), Rock-A-Bye Baby (1958) and The Geisha Boy (1958), were all efforts to move away from Wallis, who Lewis felt was hindering his comedy. In 1960, Lewis finished his contract with Wallis with Visit to a Small Planet (1960), and wrapped up work on his own production, Cinderfella Cinderfella was postponed for a Christmas 1960 release, and Paramount, needing a quickie feature film for its summer 1960 schedule, held Lewis to his contract to produce one. Lewis came up with The Bellboy. Using the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami as his setting—and on a small budget, with a very tight shooting schedule, and no script—Lewis shot the film by day and performed at the hotel in the evenings. Bill Richmond collaborated with him on the many sight gags. In a 2005 interview, Lewis revealed that Paramount were not happy financing a 'silent movie' and withdrew backing. Lewis used his own funds to cover the $950,000 budget. During production Lewis developed the technique of using video cameras and multiple closed circuit monitors, which allowed him to review his performance instantly. His techniques and methods, documented in his book and his USC class, enabled him to complete most of his films on time and under budget. Happy Birthday, sir comic genius! You're amazing

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