Jerry Lewis got his start in entertainment performing vaudeville at a young age after dropping out of school. Working for years as a touring comedian, a chance encounter with singer Dean Martin led to a comedy duo that would dominate the public imagination for much of the 1950s. Their first film, 1949’s My Friend Irma, was a commercial and critical success, spawning a string of successful buddy comedies such as At War with the Army (1950) and Hollywood or Bust (1956)—their last film as a duo.
After setting out as a solo artist, Lewis continued to act and write in films such as The Sad Sack (1957), and Rock-a-Bye Baby (1958). It was during this time that Lewis began directing home movies with his actor friends that spoofed popular films. After starring in Cinderfella (1960), Lewis felt strongly that it should be released as a Christmas film and promised Paramount he would make another film for them to release in the summer. After 8 days of writing, Lewis directed The Bellboy (1960) over a period of 4 weeks in between his touring act and edited it while in Las Vegas performing shows.
This began a long career of directing for Lewis, helming such films as The Ladies Man (1961), The Nutty Professor (1963), The Patsy (1964) The Family Jewels (1965), The Big Mouth (1967), Which Way to the Front? (1970), Hardly Working (1980), and Cracking Up (1983), in addition to television episodes of Ben Casey, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, Brothers, and Super Force. As a director Lewis proved to be innovative and pioneered the use of video assist technology for which he holds the patent.
He has received the Governors Award from the Emmys, a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize and the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award bestowed on him by AMPAS in recognition of his efforts to fight Muscular Dystrophy, an almost 60 year crusade.