Jerry Lewis Dies; Comedy Legend Was 91
Jerry Lewis, the comedy icon who entertained generations of fans over the course of his nearly 70-year career, has passed away at the age of 91.
According to a statement issued by his family, Lewis passed away at his home in Las Vegas this morning.
The comic had reportedly been battling various health ailments and was surrounded by loved ones at the time of his passing.
Lewis rose to fame in the early ’50s as one half of the wildly popular comedy duo he formed with Dean Martin.
Together, Martin and Lewis went from a touring nightclub act to a dominant force at the box office.
The duo reigned supreme as the top draw in theaters from 1950-56.
After a bitter breakup with Martin, Lewis proved equally popular as a solo performer, starring in such comedy classics as The Bellboy and The Nutty Professor.
Despite his status as a legend in the world of comedy, those closest to Lewis say he considered his humanitarian work to be his greatest legacy.
Chairman of the Muscular Dystrophy Association from 1955 until 2011, Lewis helped raise over $2.5 billion for the organization.
In 1977, he was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.
Though his popularity in the U.S. peaked in the early ’60s, Lewis remained a widely beloved and highly influential figure in Europe, winning best director awards at eight international film competitions.
Lewis’ films were championed by French New Wave directors such as Jean-Luc Godard and Francoise Truffaut, and he was awarded the French Legion of Honor in 2009.
Lewis was battled a number of life-threatening ailments over the years, undergoing open-heart surgery in 1983, surgery for prostate cancer in 1992, treatment for a debilitating dependence on prescription drugs in 2003, and suffering a heart attack in 2006
In his final years, he fought pulmonary fibrosis, a condition that drained him of his trademark manic energy and caused severe swelling throughout his body.
Lewis became the number one trending topic on Twitter within minutes of the news of his death going public.
Fans, friends, and fellow comics all paid heartfelt tribute to the comic and his work, with many thanking him for the decades of laughs and immeasurable influence.
Lewis wed singer Patti Palmer at the age of 18 after just ten days of dating.
They remained married for 38 years and had six children together.
In 1983, Lewis married his second, SanDee Pitnick.
The couple adopted a daughter and remained together until Lewis’ death.