BREAKING: American entertainer Jerry Lewis dies, aged 91.
It is reported that he died at his Las Vegas home this morning (Sunday) of natural causes. His publicist, Candi Cazau said that his family were by his side.
His career spanned the history of show business in the 20th century, beginning in his parents' vaudeville act at the age of five but when he was 20, it was his pairing with Martin that made them international stars. Their debut, in 1946 at Atlantic City's 500 Club, was a bust. Warned by owner "Skinny" D'Amato that they might be fired, Martin and Lewis tossed the script and improvised their way into history.New York columnists Walter Winchell and Ed Sullivan came to the club and raved over the sexy singer and the berserk clown. The pairing ended in 1956 and they remained estranged for years.
He went on to make such favourites as The Bellboy, was featured in Martin Scorsese's The King of Comedy and appeared as himself in Billy Crystal's Mr Saturday Night.In the 1990s, he scored a stage comeback as the devil in the Broadway revival of Damn Yankees.
In his 80s, he was still travelling the world, working on a stage version of The Nutty Professor. He was so active he would sometimes forget the basics, like eating, and in 2012, Lewis missed an awards ceremony thrown by his beloved Friars Club because his blood sugar dropped from lack of food and he had to spend the night in the hospital.
In his 90s, he was still performing stand-up shows.
A major influence on Jim Carrey and other slapstick performers, Lewis also was known as the ringmaster of the Labour Day Muscular Dystrophy Association telethon in the US, joking and reminiscing and introducing guests, sharing stories about ailing children and concluding with his personal anthem, the ballad You'll Never Walk Alone.
From the 1960s onwards, the telethons raised more than a billion dollars. He announced in 2011 that he would step down as host, but would remain chairman of the association he joined some 60 years ago.
His fundraising efforts won him the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the 2009 Oscar telecast, an honour he said "touches my heart and the very depth of my soul".
He snarled at critics and interviewers who displeased him. He also pontificated on talk shows, lectured to college students and compiled his thoughts in the 1971 book The Total Film-Maker."I believe, in my own way, that I say something on film. I'm getting to those who probably don't have the mentality to understand what ... 'A Man for All Seasons' is all about, plus many who did understand it," he wrote."I am not ashamed or embarrassed at how seemingly trite or saccharine something in my films will sound. I really do make films for my great-great-grandchildren and not for my fellows at the Screen Directors Guild or for the critics."
American critics recognised the comedian's popular appeal but not his aspirations to higher art; the French did. Writing in Paris' Le Monde newspaper, Jacques Siclier praised Lewis' "apish allure, his conduct of a child, his grimaces, his contortions, his maladjustment to the world, his morbid fear of women, his way of disturbing order everywhere he appeared".The French government awarded Lewis the Chevalier of the Legion of Honour in 1983 and Commander of Arts and Letters the following year. Film critic Andrew Sarris observed: "The fact that Lewis lacks verbal wit on the screen doesn't particularly bother the French."