RIP Jerry Lewis! Comic Legend Was “Nutty Professor” AND Jerry Langford! His “Clown” Drama Will Never Be Seen…

RIP Jerry Lewis…

RIP to comic legend Jerry Lewis, who died at the age of 91…one of comedy’s biggest movie stars in the 50’s and 60’s, he was known for smash comedy hits such as “The Nutty Professor” and “Cinderfella”, and was also wellknown as Dean Martin’s sidekick when they made films and toured as Martin & Lewis…

There are so many places you can go online to read all about his brilliant – and volatile career – so, I wanted to focus on two moments in his career that stand out, for very different reasons…

Jerry Lewis IS Jerry Langford!

In 1982, Lewis gave a mesmerizing performance as Jerry Langford, the late night talk show King – his version of Johnny Carson – who is stalked by wannabe comic Rupert Pupkin, played by Robert DeNiro…

The Prescient “King”!

“The King Of Comedy” is a brilliant film – with an equally brilliant performance by Sandra Bernhard as well – the film was a box office bomb upon release that continues to grow in stature over the years…directed by Martin Scorsese, it foretold the era of “Famous for being famous”, as Pupkin’s fame comes not for his comedic ability, but for making headlines….this brilliant film was recently afforded a new blu-ray release and a big reunion on stage…

Robert De Niro just released a statement about Jerry’s death:

“Jerry was a pioneer in comedy and film. And he was a friend. I was fortunate to have seen him a few times over the past couple of years. Even at 91, he didn’t miss a beat… Or a punchline. You’ll be missed.”

This reunion is part of the blu-ray release, and worth getting to watch all of the extra material included:

You can read more about the event here:

Jerry Lewis was polarizing, there is no doubt about that – but perhaps his most misguided creative effort was “The Day The Clown Cried”:

The Unseen “Clown!”

This film was shot in the early 70’s but never released – and virtually NEVER SEEN – it’s one of Hollywood’s most legendary “lost films”…it was his attempt to make a serious film about the holocaust – portraying a concentration camp clown who had to lead the small children to their deaths…

The overwhelmingly negative reaction to just hearing about the film made him lock it up forever, never to be seen – and legends have been built up around the movie – is it amazingly misguided or unjustly shamed – and a masterpiece! It is hard to know, as very few people have seen it – but for many, there may have been a grossly unfair reaction to the movie:

Jerry Lewis was trying to make a statement – trying to tackle drama, since he was one of the biggest comic stars of the 60’s…and in hindsight, while a seemingly misguided idea for a film, the plot isn’t that much different from an award-winning film that Comedian Roberto Benigni made in the 1990’s:

LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL, Roberto Benigni, Giorgio Cantarini, 1998, conversation in concentration camp barracks

In 1997, Italian comic Benigni made “Life Is BeautifuL”, the story of a father and son in a concentration camp, and how the father attempts to keep the horrors of war away from his child – by making life inside the concentration camp a game…

The film won a slew of Oscars, including Benigni for Best Actor, so perhaps Lewis was misjudged, but since his film hasn’t ever been shown in public, we will never know…if you want to know more about this project, you can see my story here:

RIP Jerry Lewis – a brilliant Comedian, Actor and Filmmaker…

Categories: Academy Awards, Art, Awards, Books / Media, Cult Movies, Director Martin Scorsese, Film Fight Club, Film Noir, Great Films, Hollywood, Independent Cinema, Memoirs, Movies, New York, Obscure Movies, Talent/Celebrities, TV Show

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10 replies

  1. And we were only talking about ‘The King of Comedy’ recently too.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  2. I think all geniuses are complicated, no matter what field they’re in. Nice tribute John. And I love that first picture of him.

    • Agree on the complicated point, no doubt. He got a lot of bad press in the last decade, easy for people to forget what an accomplished entertainer he was…thanks as always for the comment!

  3. Sorry to hear of his passing. His movies were a part of our childhood. He will be missed.


  1. RIP Jerry Lewis! Comic Legend Was “Nutty Professor” AND Jerry Langford! His “Clown” Drama Will Never Be Seen… – johnrieber | Rogues & Vagabonds
  2. Johnny Depp! Nazi Clowns! Sgt. Pepper! Three “What Were They Thinking” Movies! – johnrieber
  3. RIP Jerry Lewis… - John Rieber -

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