Jerry Lewis: US comedian dies aged 91 in Las Vegas

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American comedian Jerry Lewis, who has died aged 91.
Reuters

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In later life, Jerry Lewis courted controversy with comments on race and politics

Entertainer Jerry Lewis, one of Hollywood’s most successful comedians, has died aged 91.

A family statement said he died of natural causes at his home in Las Vegas on Sunday morning.

Lewis’s 10-year partnership with Dean Martin saw them star in 16 films and achieve huge box office success.

He became the highest-paid actor in Hollywood, chalking up hits such as The Bell Boy, Cinderfella and The Nutty Professor.

Other notable successes included The King of Comedy in 1983, in which he played a talk show host stalked by Robert de Niro.

“Famed comedian, actor and legendary entertainer Jerry Lewis passed away peacefully today of natural causes at 91 at his home in Las Vegas with his family by his side,” the family statement said.

Lewis teamed up with Dean Martin in the late 1940s, acting the goofy sidekick to Martin’s suave persona.

Over the next 10 years they appeared in nightclubs, on television and in movies, but their partnership ended with a bitter split.

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Jerry Lewis became known for his goofy, slapstick style of comedy

In an interview, Lewis once said the key to his success had been in maintaining a certain child-like quality, but added: “I’ve had great success being a total idiot.”

“I look at the world through a child’s eyes because I’m nine,” he told Reuters in 2002.

“I stayed that way. I made a career out of it. It’s a wonderful place to be.”

In 1995, he became the highest-paid star in Broadway history as Mr Applegate in the musical Damn Yankees. He also won acclaim as a writer.

However, in later life the comedian caused controversy with comments on race and his right-wing political views.

Lewis was born Joseph Levitch in Newark, New Jersey, to Russian-Jewish parents who were both in showbusiness.

He started performing on stage at the age of five alongside his parents.

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