In celebration of the 75th anniversary year of the teaming of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis (and conversely, the 65th anniversary of their split), this episode of “The Online Movie Show” takes a look at how the zany comedy duo became overnight sensations. Richard S. Greene, author of “Marketing Mayhem!: Selling Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis to Post-War America,” is the episode’s guest.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Jerry Lewis’ book “The Total FilmMaker,” based on a series of lectures he gave on the challenges and strategies for being a film director. On this episode of “The Online Movie Show,” film historian James L. Neibaur shares his recollections of Lewis and provides insight on his contributions to filmmaking.
BOOTLEG FILES 772: “The First Martin and Lewis Reunion” (1958 segment from Eddie Fisher’s television show).
LAST SEEN: On YouTube.
AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: Uncertain if this was ever part of a documentary.
REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: No one bothered to clear the rights.
CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: We’ll discuss this below.
One of the most dramatic moments on 1970s television occurred during the 1976 broadcast of Jerry Lewis’ Labor Day weekend telethon on behalf of the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Frank Sinatra was on stage with Lewis making a donation to the fundraiser and then he announced that he had a friend offstage that he wanted to have join him. The friend was Dean Martin and viewers were watching what they thought was the first reunion between the former comedy team partners in 20 years.
On Saturday, June 5, the 43rd Kennedy Center Honors will be held in Washington, D.C. This annual event follows a tradition of honoring five individuals or entities within the performing arts, with commendations given to icons from the worlds of film and television, theater, popular music, classical music and opera, and dance
Traditionally, the Kennedy Center Honors have focused on lifetime achievements – an exception was made in 2018 when the award went to the creators of the Broadway show “Hamilton.” Also, for years it was an unspoken tradition to present four of the awards to white artists and one to a token minority – it wasn’t until 2013 that the majority of honorees were nonwhites. And while the Kennedy Center Honors was initially designed to celebrate American talent, over the years the prize has gone to British and Japanese artists.
BOOTLEG FILES 673: “The Jack Benny Birthday Special” (1969 TV special).
LAST SEEN: On YouTube.
AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.
REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: It fell through the cracks.
CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Unlikely.
During the mid-1960s into the early 1970s, Jack Benny made a number of TV specials that aired on NBC. Most of these offerings were pleasant but entirely forgettable, and Benny often seemed to be dialing in his performances.
Always prone to giving the consumer more bang for their bucks, Mill Creek Entertainment compiles a six DVD set of the best of Martin and Lewis. And while it may not have their all time greats, it still manages to be a solid set that can mesh in with any collection of a Martin and Lewis fanatic. The set comes packed in the usual slip case and compiles a lot of past releases for one fine compendium you can entertain yourself with for hours. In this case, it’s almost thirty hours total of Martin and Lewis shenanigans with five movies and twenty eight episodes of “The Colgate Comedy Hour.”
BOOTLEG FILES 603: “The Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon” (a 1966-2010 annual televised fundraiser for the Muscular Dystrophy Association).
LAST SEEN: Bits and pieces can be found on YouTube and other video sites.
AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.
REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: No attempt was made to release the entire telethon broadcasts in their entirety for home entertainment viewing.
CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: None.
For many people, this week’s passing of Jerry Lewis was followed by commentary and articles on his classic films. But for my generation – those who grew up in the 1970s and early 1980s – the emotional connection to Lewis was less about his movies and more about the bizarre, elephantine mayhem that he unleashed annually on the American public over the Labor Day weekend that became known as the “Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon.” Never in the history of fundraising has a greater display of slapstick, vulgarity and pathos been slapped together around the personality of someone who was certainly the most brilliant egomaniac in show business.
Gregory Monro’s documentary offers a scattershot overview of Jerry Lewis’ life and career, with a heavy emphasis on the funnyman’s peaks while carefully avoiding the controversies and failures that he generated. Lewis was the son of entertainers who put their careers before his childhood needs, and an emotional low point occurred when his parents managed to miss his bar mitzvah because they had stage engagements. The film notes that Lewis’ meteoric success in the late 1940s when he was barely out of his twenties created friction with his father Danny Lewis, a singer who never achieved stardom.