When Turner Classic Movies recently announced that Jerry Lewis would be a special guest at the TCMFF 2014 for a special screening of The Nutty Professor and Footprint Ceremony at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre Forecourt (add TCL to the title of the movie house if you haven’t refused to change), the reaction was a visceral one among prospective passholders to the festival, and Jerry Lewis has always had that effect.
People usually either revile him or adore him, but it is now time to honor Lewis as an icon of Classic Hollywood before it is too late. Lewis, rumored to be part of an all-star cast of 2015’s Big Finish with Debbie Reynolds, Mary Tyler Moore, Tim Conway, Garret Morris, Don Rickles, and Bob Newhart, will certainly have a symbolic ‘big finish’ to his entertainment career once his footprints and handprints are enshrined in Grauman’s forecourt.
He also has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and if there is one activity that marks every TCM Film Festival pass holder, it’s the admiration of Hollywood icons memorialized on the tourist stroll through t-shirt heaven, Hollywood Boulevard. Film fanatics from all over the world converge at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel to pay homage and bask in cinematic glory of the bygone days and halcyon havens of the 20s to the 2000’s while viewing classic film and listening to panel experts extoll the virtues of the rapidly vanishing members of what may be deemed the classic era of Hollywood production. Travelers from Texas to Topeka stoop, stroll, walk and stare at the tiles on the Boulevard while flashes from iPhones light up the night as festival goers head home from an evening screening at a nearby theatre, but exhausted as they are, these visitors just have to have one more photo of someone’s star on the Walk of Fame.
Lewis’ accomplishments are also part of the machinations of his choice as an TCMFF honoree, and his veneration by the Europeans is probably part of his attraction. The Venice Film Festival’s Career Golden Lion in 1999, The Golden Camera for Lifetime Achievement in 2005 from Germany, a BAFTA nomination for his supporting role in The King of Comedy, and many lifetime achievement awards for his contributions to comedy might have something to do with it, as well as his humanitarian causes which led to his 2009 Jean Herscholt award from the Academy. He has writing, producting, acting, and directing credits, and he is still here.
When 19-year-old Jerome Levitch teamed up with one of his 29-year-old acquaintances named Dino Crocetti, some sort of magic happened, becoming known to the world as Martin and Lewis.
They became BFFs and supernovas, but ended up not talking for years until Frank Sinatra invited Dean on stage at a Muscular Dystrophy Telethon. It was historic when they teamed up, it was historic when they broke up, and it was historic when they reunited…
But despite pleas and attempts from Jerry, the relationship didn’t ever completely mend. When Martin’s son died in a plane crash, Jerry called to offer his condolences and a series of sporadic phone calls helped to end some of the possible pain of the breakup of Martin and Lewis.
Honoring Jerry Lewis for all of his comedic talents, his film credits, and his philanthropic gestures is the right choice to make. He’s tenacious, some say he grates on their nerves, and probably evokes everyone’s idea of the wacky, unruly kid in the cafeteria who is willing to put french fries up his nose to make everyone at his table guffaw. While some people are called to be policemen, accountants, or educators, some people seek the limelight for the attention so they can make us laugh. Jerry, I am sure, liked the attention, but he also has created more smiles for the general public of his times than say, someone like Nikita Kruschev or Robert Q. Lewis. Jerry Lewis has also inspired countless comedians who followed in his wake like Eddie Murphy and Robin Williams.
When I first heard that Jerry Lewis was chosen to be honored with a footprint ceremony, I never envisioned me writing about it, but he has certainly earned our respect and shown us new pathways to humor and philanthropy. He deserves our applause.
The Official Jerry Lewis Comedy Museum and Store: http://www.jerrylewiscomedy.com/
Jerry’ Departure from the MDA Telethon: http://articles.latimes.com/2011/aug/05/entertainment/la-et-jerry-lewis-20110805
A 2005 review of Dean and Me: A Love Story by Shawn Levy: http://www.theguardian.com/film/2005/oct/21/1
Jerry Lewis Filmography: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001471/
Why will we never see The Day the Clown Cried? Thanks to Facebook Friend Elise Crane Derby for the link: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=xD-BYt8KiwA&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DxD-BYt8KiwA