Jerry Lewis


  1. John Lund, My Friend Irma, 1949.      The first Martin & Lewis movie almost never happened…  “Jerry said it was Al or  nothing,” recalled producer Hal  Wallis.  “He would  never play Seymour.” Wallis had cast Dean Martin  as Al,  the boyfriend of Irma’s girlfriend and Jerry insisted on being Irma’s fella. He was hardly leading man material, but Wallis let him test – and then gave it to Lund. Lewis blew his stack.  They argued until midnight. Exhausted by the Lewis temper and ego, Wallis said he’d drop Jerry from the film and  Dino would probably become a big star without him.  “Fond as he was of Dean, he was jealous of his handsome face and figure.  Jerry was very angry  but  he accepted Seymour.”
  2. Frank Sinatra, Guys and  Dolls,  1955. Failing to net the obvious stars (MGM  refused to part with Gene Kelly; Sinatra wanted Marlon Brando’s role), Paramount  desperately suggested Bing Crosby and Bob Hope or Dean Martin  and Jerry   Lewis  for  Sky  Masterson and Nathan Detroit – to the horror of director Joseph Mankiewicz. He chose Brando and Sinatra!!

  3. Peter Sellers, The Mouse That Roared, 1959.    
    Jerry loved the movie and yelled: “Why wasn’t I shown that script?”  Aha! Walter Shenson,  an American in London, was “a completely new producer” and he  badly  needed a big name. “The only  comedian I could think of was Jerry. I got in touch with his agent.  ‘Send us the script. If Jerry likes it, he’ll buy  it.’ ‘No,’ I said, ‘you got me wrong. I’m going to produce it.’ ‘No,’ he said, ‘we’ll buy it from you’.” .Hah!  Shenson made it with “an unknown young comedian” who became an instant international star,  Jerry got himself a new agent… and Mouse is the main reason why The Beatles OKed Shenson as  producer of  their films.   (I’d caught Jerry’s act at the London Palladium the previous year – and in 1957,  I spent a full day watching him actor-direct Don’t Raise the Bridge, Lower the River at Shepperton studios. He was funnier – nicer – on-stage.  During our interview, in the back of his Rolls, he taped me taping him… “to keep a record of my ever changing opinions about cinema.”)

  4. Jack Lemmon, Some Like It Hot, 1959.      Jer stupidly refused Jerry/Daphne as he did not want to drag up. He was livid when Jack Lemmon won an Oscar nod.
  5. Jonathan Winters, The Loved One, 1964.  “The motion picture with something to offend everyone…”  It would have been more so if Spanish legend Luis Buñuel had managed to  make it with Alec Guinness in  the mid-1950s. Instead, the newly Oscared UK director Tony Richardson made a mess of it.  Jerry Lewis was a surprise in the frame for the Glenworthy twins, Henry and Wilbur  – their occupations being the main targets of Evelyn Waugh’s 1948 satire. One ran the Whispering Glades home and his bro, a washed-up Hollywood suit. Winters, complained Observer critic Charles Taylor in 2006, was aggressive, “with less of the gently spaced-out quality he has always shown in improv.”
  6. Reni Santoni, Enter Laughing, 1966.     “Jerry called me and said he’d love to play the lead,” auteur Carl Reiner told Hollywood Reporter Scott Feinberg about his autobiographical comedy. “I said, “Jerry, you’re wonderful, but you’re 32 and the boy is 17, so it just doesn’t make sense.” Reiner remembered it bcause Jerry then invited him, his producer Joe Stein and their wives over for dinner. On arrival, Jerry placed them in specific seats, “turned on a projector and ran a film he had made in the few hours since we had last spoken, in which, in character, he asked each of us a variety of questions from the screen. He loved doing original things, and it was so smart and funny that, before we knew it, we were having a conversation with the screen. I came away from that certain about one thing: He was a true genius, there’s no question about it.”
  7. Woody Allen, Take The Money And Run, 1968.      Still not sure if his future lay in movies, after being blooded byWhat’s New Pussycat and Casino Royale, Woody felt it best if Virgil Starkwell was Jerry in the mockumentary about the inept bank robber. Until they met and he ran into the same ego issues provoked by working withWarren Beatty and Peter Sellers. Woody craved no superstar interference with his work.So he did it all. Badly. He was rescuedby editor Ralph Rosenblum. His tidying and trimming lmqde it   a comedy classic.
  8. Martin Short, Innerspace. 1986. Joe Dante was having  talks with Jerry, when he left the room  Ha returned about 90 minutes later, having forgotten bis briefcase. You know the rest …   There was a tape recorder in the case and now Jer knew what everyone had been saying about him! The only  time I interviewed Lewis,  in his Rolls Royce during  the shooting of the ghastly Don’t Raise the Bridge, Lower the River at the UK’s  Shepperton Studios in 1967, he openly taped me taping him!  It was, he assured me, his way of keeping a record of his ever  changing views on cinema!  Dante also saw just four guys for poor Jack Putter into whose posterior Dennis Quaid is syringed: Short, Mel Gibson, Robin Williams and Rick Moranis,’
  9. Joe Piscopo, Star Trek: The Next Generation, TV, 1988.       Jer  rejected an invite to  do his schtick in space as  the holodeck comic in the episode, The Outrageous Okona. The least successful Saturday Night Live guy played it – with a Lewis impersonation.
  10. Walter Matthau, Grumpy Old Men, 1993.     Surprise, surprise… but it would never have worked as well… The old firm of Martin & Lewis were an early notion for old-timers John Gustafson and Max Goldman. Martin’s health was too fragile. He died in 1995, three days after the sequel, Grumpier Old Men also passed. The original was the sixth of ten films pairing Matthau and Jack Lemmon.
  11. Alan King, Rush Hour 2, 2000.     Surprise, surprise, old Jer’ – who hadn’t made a movie in five years – was invited by flash-bang director Brett Ratner to cameo Steven Reign, a US Mr Big in the Hong Kong crime sector. But even at 74, Jer’ knew when a comedy was not funny. Clearly, Ratner and Chris Tucker did not.


                                                               Tributes >>>>>>

The French were right about him all along. – Gilbert Gottfried.

Jerry Lewis, a complicated soul who made the whole world laugh has died. – Bette Midler.

Jerry was a pioneer in comedy and film. And he was a friend… Even at 91, he didn’t miss a beat… Or a punchline. – Robert De Niro.

Jerry Lewis was a master. He was a giant. He was an innovator. He was a great entertainer. He was a great artist. And he was a remarkable man. I had the honor of working with him, and it was an experience I’ll always treasure. He was, truly, one of our greats. – Martin Scorsese.

As a child I lived for his movies. Nobody could match his on-screen hilarity! As an adult I learned he was just as funny backstage. – Mark Hamill

So long, Jerry. You made me howl with laughter. And you paid me to write for you, proving you really had a zany streak. Miss ya, man, bad. – Dick Cavett

That fool was no dummy. Jerry Lewis was an undeniable genius an unfathomable blessing, comedy’s absolute! I am because he was!  – Jim Carrey.


 Birth year: 1926Death year: 2017Other name: Casting Calls:  11