Sunday, February 22, 2009

Jerry Lewis: It's About Time!

Tonight at the 81st Academy Awards, filmmaker extraordinaire Jerry Lewis gets some recognition--The Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award:

"The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has recognized Jerry Lewis with one of its greatest honors, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.

The award, named after renowned actor, past Academy president and motion picture industry supporter Jean Hersholt, is bestowed by the Academy on an individual in the motion picture industry whose humanitarian efforts have brought credit to the industry."


Jerry Lewis should have received the Academy's Lifetime Achievement Award years ago. Heck, he should have at least gotten a certificate for coming up with the Video Assist in 1960, when making his directorial debut (in Miami!) in The Bellboy.

But let's face it: comedy never gets the recognition that drama does. Comedy is infinitely more difficult to do, if it weren't, they wouldn't need laugh tracks on most every situation comedy ever produced. Dramas don't require a "sobbing track" or a "suspense track" of a faux audience reacting to dramatic action onscreen, do they? Lewis was Paramount's big moneymaker in the 1950s and 1960s and was given full control over his work. Such was the confidence that studio founder Adolph Zukor essentially gave the star anything he wanted because the producer knew that a Lewis film would make a tidy profit at the box office. Lewis was/is a perfectionist and demanding. He had zero tolerance for incompetents, as he states in the DVD featurette for his 1963 masterwork, The Nutty Professor.

However...

...the Hersholt award is an award honoring humanitarians, and it's one Lewis should have received decades ago, because no one in Hollywood is more associated with charitable work than Lewis. His Labor Day Telethons (held annually since 1960) are the stuff of legend, and I can remember watching them in the 1970s, when Lewis had infinitely more screen time than he has in recent years. I even recall Lewis' Sinatra-planned reunion with Dean Martin in 1976; that was my first time watching the Muscular Dystrophy Telethon! I was only vaguely aware of who Dean Martin was, but before I knew of Lewis the auteur, I recognized him as the "Jerry's Kids" sponsor. I'll bet a couple of generations do the same. I mentioned in a previous post that I wouldn't be watching the Oscars this year, however, I'll be tuning in at my usual booth at The Purple Pit--but only for Jerry's long overdue recognition.

A Jerk Supreme: Jerry Lewis as professor Julius Kelp's alter ego, Buddy Love, in 1963's 'The Nutty Professor.'

6 comments:

  1. A very well deserved award. It's incredible that Jerry Lewis has not been honored sooner.

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  2. Jerry definitely deserved some sort of award. One of the reasons I planned to watch the Oscars tonight was to see him being honored.

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  3. Oh, you inspire me! I've had The Nutty Professor on my computer for a while now, but haven't yet seen it. Today is the day!

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  4. Just wanted to say that I've seen The Nutty Professor now. Many laughs! It was a great comedy, think I'm going to blog about it.
    Can't understand how Eddie Murphy thought he could live up to Lewis, though. But I guess his salary was worth a try.

    Any tips of more Lewis-movies I should see?

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  5. Robby and Keith: Better late than never, right? I missed the presentation but I'll catch it on Youtube later today.

    Lolita: Wow! I'm glad you liked it! He's definitely a "love him or loathe him" performer, and I don't know of many women who like his off-the-wall goofiness, but I must commend your continental style and taste!

    I also recommend "The Disorderly Orderly" and "The Ladies Man"; if you like those, dive right in to the rest of his work, especially his stuff with Dean martin.

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  6. C.K.

    just want to let you know I have passed on the Dardos Award to your blog.
    http://twentyfourframes.wordpress.com/2009/02/25/the-dardos-awards/

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