Sunday, August 20, 2017

Jerry Lewis (1926-2017)

     Jerry Lewis was discovered dead today in his Las Vegas home. The comedian was 91. In all honesty, I was never a big fan in spite of my fondness for a lot of vaudeville style comedy. My experience with Lewis was his charity work raising money for muscular dystrophy research and the occasional dramatic acting role on television. The most recent case is his portrayal of Det. John Munch's uncle on Law & Order: SVU. So I am definitely not the guy to be writing an obituary for Lewis.
     Lewis did not have the kind of impact on me that usually merits writing a few words about him. It is likely the mockery involved in his films being extremely popular in France gets more mileage for me than anything else. Norm McDonald's whole 'Germans love David Hasselhoff” is just a riff on “The French love Jerry Lewis” shtick comedians starting doing in the late '80's. If you want a good overview of Lewis' life, the New York Times has you covered
     Lewis means controversy in my mind. Lots of Hollywood types who have worked with him considered Lewis an angry man who was bitterly vengeful against the people he perceived to have wronged him. Some say it is difficult to reconcile his true persona will the guy who made goofy comedies. I have not must indulged in his comedy work, but I have no problem recognizing funny men can hide a dark side. People who use humor often do so in order to survive in a nasty world. So maybe I have some empathy for the guy. But then he comes around with some incredibly bigoted statements like women cannot do comedy, and I decide he is just a nasty guy. But speak no ill of the dead, so I will leave it there.
     The macabre part of me is curious about another controversy related to Lewis. Will his never before seen film The Day the Clown Cried ever be made public? The film is about a washed up German circus clown who is thrown into a concentration for mocking Adolf Hitler. There he performs his act for the Jewish children. The camp commandant eventually utilizes him to lead children, Pied Piper-style, into the gas chambers. Lewis apparently believed the film would be poignant. By all accounts from the few people who have seen the film, it is nothing but tasteless. Something tells me there is a part of Lewis' last will and testament stating the film is never to be seen by human eyes again.
     Rest in peace, Mr. Lewis. I suspect you were never able to truly live in it.  

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