Jerry Lewis, who grew from a child performer to a major nightclub act to a global phenomenon thanks to an insane devotion to his art, has died, it has been announced. He began his screen career with his comedy partner, smooth crooner Dean Martin, in a series of movies starting with My Friend Irma in 1949, and continuing with such crowd-pleasers as At War with the Army, Scared Stiff, Artists and Models and Hollywood or Bust.
After a public falling out with Martin, he broke out on his own with many big hits such as The Delicate Delinquent, The Sad Sack, Rock-a-Bye Baby, then developing the techniques director Frank Tashlin had nurtured in his act with The Geisha Boy, The Bellboy, Cinderfella, The Ladies Man, It's Only Money, The Nutty Professor (his most celebrated work), Who's Minding the Store, The Patsy, The Disorderly Orderly, and so on into the seventies where the quality of his efforts had declined. One film he judged so poorly conceived he refused to release it: the Holocaust movie The Day the Clown Cried.
In the meantime, he became as well known for his charitable works, including a yearly telethon, though he made a brief comeback in Martin Scorsese's cult classic The King of Comedy. He continued to work up until the end: his last credit was a Nicolas Cage movie he had a cameo in. The stories about Lewis as a showbiz monster are just as legendary as his talent, but his obsessive dedication to delivering greatness for his legions of fans will never be diminished.