Comedian and filmmaker extraordinaire, adored by millions and the subject of much disdain by others, and one of the defining figures of American entertainment, passed away in Los Angeles yesterday at the ripe old age of 91. His death was attributed to natural causes.
Lewis first shot to fame in 1946 when he partnered with singer Dean Martin, with both perfecting a planned routine of ad-libbed disruptions in each other’s performances. Their act – contrasting Lewis’ man-child persona with Martin’s easygoing playboy personality – ruled the nightclub circuit for the next decade. Post that, Lewis went on to develop a successful solo career, with a host of successful pop records and comic film roles. By the late 1960s, though, Lewis fell out of favour with moviegoing audiences, with his juvenile comic persona seen as a mismatch with the times.
His philanthropy also kept him in the news, with Lewis hosting a TV telethon every Labour Day from 1966 to 2010 to raise funds for muscular dystrophy. He was awarded with the top honorary Emmy award – the Governors Award – in 2005, as well as an honorary Oscar – the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award – in 2009.