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Comedy Legend Jerry Lewis Dead at 91

Comedy legend Jerry Lewis, who forged an iconic partnership with Dean Martin in the 1950s and enjoyed a decades-long career as one of Hollywood’s most beloved slapstick comedians, died Sunday at his home in Las Vegas, according to reports from Variety and the Hollywood Reporter. He was 91.

Lewis reportedly died at his home at 9:15 a.m. Sunday, according to Las Vegas Journal-Review reporter John Katsilometes.

The comedy icon had faced health problems in recent years, including a hospitalization for a urinary tract infection in June. In the early 90s, Lewis reportedly underwent surgery for prostate cancer, and suffered a mild heart attack in 2006; he also suffered from pulmonary fibrosis in his later life.

Lewis first paired with singer Dean Martin in nightclubs in 1946, and the pair went on to enjoy a ten-year partnership that turned into one of the most iconic in Hollywood, ultimately producing films including My Friend Irma (1949), The Stooge (1951), Jumping Jacks (1952), Scared Stiff (1953), The Caddy (1953),  Artists and Models (1955), Pardners (1956), and Hollywood or Bust (1956), among others.

The duo split up in 1956 after reported in-fighting, but publicly reconciled during Lewis’s Muscular Dystrophy Telethon in 1972. Martin died in 1995.

Lewis also scored major hits for Paramount in the late 1950s and early 1960s with films like The Sad Sack (1957), The Geisha Boy (1958), Don’t Give Up the Ship (1959), CinderFella (1960),  The Bellboy (1960), and his biggest hit of all, The Nutty Professor (1963). In the 1970s, he suffered several critical misfires and professional setbacks, including his decision not to release his 1972 Holocaust film The Day the Clown Cried. During this period, Lewis also reportedly developed a more than decade-long addiction to painkiller medication, after fracturing his spine in a fall while performing for The Andy Williams Show.

In 1983, Lewis was cast in a comeback role as late-night host Jerry Langford opposite Robert De Niro in Martin Scorsese’s hit The King of Comedy.

He continued to appear in films and television shows sporadically throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, including guest appearances in episodes of The Simpsons and Law and Order: SVU.

Lewis also founded the Muscular Dystrophy Association Telethon in 1966 and hosted the program every year until 2010. The annual Labor Day fundraiser is reported to have raised more than $2 billion for the cause.

Lewis is reportedly survived by his second wife, SanDee Pitnick, five sons, and a daughter.

 

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