On this page I'll include an annotated list of all
the Mr. Lewis's film, television, and stage appearances. I'll include pictures and comments on each film. I'll also include
sample sound and video files, if I can get my hands on some.
Here's an example of a format I might use for the entries in my filmography.
The King of Comedy
(1983; Martin Scorsese, director)
Mr. Lewis's performance in this movie seems to go
beyond performance: he sinks so deeply into the role of Jerry Langford that you almost forget he's Jerry Lewis. It's not a
likable performance, and it's not an especially likable film (the kidnapping sequences still make me wince), but it is perhaps
the high point of his career.
is rarely used as a comic device in movies but in Martin
Scorsese's razor sharp satire, The King of Comedy (1983), it seems absolutely appropriate given the obsessiveness
of the central character, Rupert Pupkin (Robert De Niro). Pupkin is an avid celebrity autograph hound and would-be stand-up
comic with delusions of appearing on television in his own talk show. To accomplish his goal he begins stalking
renowned comedian Jerry Langford (Jerry) in a desperate bid to appear on his top-rated program. Naturally,
he meets resistance on all fronts until he hatches a scheme to kidnap Langford with the help of another celebrity stalker,
Marsha (Sandra Bernhard). With mission accomplished, Pupkin then stuns Langford and the authorities with his ransom request:
He demands a spot on Langford's TV show where he can perform his pathetic stand-up act before a national audience.
Scorsese: A Journey by Mary Pat Kelly, screenwriter Paul
Zimmermann said part of his idea for a script was inspired by "an article
in Esquire about
a man who kept a diary in which he assessed each Johnny Carson show:
"Johnny disappointed me tonight," he would write. The talk shows were
the biggest shows on television at the time. I started to think about
connections between autograph-hunters and assassins. Both stalked the famous -
one with a pen and one with a gun. I wrote a treatment and then worked with
Milos Foreman on a screenplay. We ended up with two versions - one he liked and
one I liked. After a few years Milos dropped out of the project and I sent the
version I liked to Marty Scorsese. This was about the time ofThe Last Waltz (1978). Marty read it, and liked it,
but was already doing a script about a comedian with Jay Cocks. Later he said
he hadn't really understood the script at first. But he did send it to Bobby De
Niro. Bobby loved it.....Eventually Marty decided he wanted to direct King of Comedy. He
Bobby took the script, and a novelized version of the story I had written, and
went out to Long Island...when I read the script they did I literally jumped up
and down. I was thrilled."
script was completed, Scorsese and De Niro turned their attention to casting
with particular interest in the role of Jerry Langford. Johnny Carson was
obviously the ideal choice but he turned the offer down. Other possibilities
that didn't pan out included Dick Cavett, Orson Welles, Frank Sinatra, and
Sammy Davis, Jr. While Scorsese was considering other Las Vegas entertainers,
he suddenly thought of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, eventually gravitating
toward Lewis because of his dynamic showmanship during the annual telethons he
hosts for cerebral palsy. Once Lewis accepted the part, pre-production on The
King of Comedy proceeded smoothly.
until Scorsese begin shooting The King of Comedy that
he began to encounter problems. For one thing, he didn't feel like he was
adequately prepared when filming began but was forced to start earlier than
anticipated in order to avoid an impending directors' strike. Then he
encountered logistical problems while filming on the streets of New York City
due to the difficult demands of unions and city officials. The whole process
physically exhausted him yet Scorsese forged ahead. In Scorsese
on Scorsese (edited by David Thompson and Ian Christie), the
director confessed: "It was a very strange movie. The scene when Rupert
Pupkin turns up uninvited at Jerry's house was extremely difficult for
everyone. It took two weeks and it was just so painful because the scene itself
was so excruciating....what improvisation there was came mainly from Sandra
Bernhard in the sequence in which she tries to seduce Jerry. Sandra is a
stand-up comedienne and I used a lot of her stage performance in that scene.
The sexual threat to Jerry was very important, but he used to crack up
laughing. Then it became difficult to deal with, and his comments and jokes
became edgier, throwing Sandra off for a little while. Finally he worked it all
out and helped her with the scene. People in America were confused by The King of Comedy and saw Bob as some kind of
mannequin. But I felt it was De Niro's best performance ever. The King of Comedy was right on the edge for us; we
couldn't go any further at that time."
In this area I'll talk about what I think is this
Mr. Lewis's best movie. I'll try to explain why I think it's their best work and why it's important to me personally.