Coming Soon to the Library of Congress...the Complete Jerry Lewis
Washington, District of Columbia
In September, the Library of Congress issued this announcement:
Library Acquires Legendary Comedian Jerry Lewis’ Personal Archive
"The Geisha Boy," "The Bellboy," "Cinderfella," and "The Nutty Professor" are all among the many motion pictures that personify the comedic genius of Jerry Lewis. The Library of Congress announced today that it has acquired a trove of documents, films and other media that provide a unique window into the world of a man who has spent more than 70 years making people laugh.
The collection will complement the Library’s existing collections of iconic humorists, including Bob Hope, Groucho Marx, Danny Kaye, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Sid Caesar and Johnny Carson.
"Many of us know Jerry Lewis through his comedy, in film and onstage, or for his humanitarian work," said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. "Lewis is one of the few comic auteurs. This collection will give the world a more complete picture of his life as a performer, director, producer, writer, recording artist, author, educator and philanthropist. He is one of America’s funniest men, who has demonstrated that comedy as a medium for laughter is one of humanity’s greatest gifts."
"For more than seven decades I’ve been dedicated to making people laugh. If I get more than three people in a room, I do a number," Lewis joked. "Knowing that the Library of Congress was interested in acquiring my life’s work was one of the biggest thrills of my life. It is comforting to know that this small piece of the world of comedy will be preserved and available to future generations." Lewis donated portions of the collection; the rest was acquired via purchase.
The Jerry Lewis Collection contains more than 1,000 moving image materials and paper documentation that cover the entire span of his remarkable career—from an early screen test made years before his movie debut to extensive amounts of test footage, outtakes and bloopers from his self-produced and often self-directed Hollywood productions.
The collection also chronicles his television career, including his appearances with his onetime partner Dean Martin on the "Colgate Comedy Hour" (NBC, 1950-1955), full runs of his various variety series and guest appearances on programs like "The Tonight Show." Lewis received copies of virtually every television appearance he ever made, including "Tonight" show episodes, that don’t exist anywhere else. Other now-obscure programs such as "Broadway Open House" are also in the collection.
In addition, there are home movies, films given to Lewis as gifts (such as the 35 mm print of "Modern Times," which was given to him by Charles Chaplin), videos of his lectures given while instructing at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, filmed nightclub appearances both with and without Martin, and footage from his legendary work on the Muscular Dystrophy Association Telethon.
Collection highlights include:
35 mm prints and pre-prints of many of Lewis’ most popular films including "The Bellboy," "The Errand Boy" and "The Family Jewels."
A rare autographed picture of famous silent comedian Edgar Kennedy.
Test footage—of costumes, make-up, camera and actor screen tests—from some of Lewis’ leading films, including a complete one-reel silent comedy filmed on the set of "The Patsy."
Home movies of Lewis at work and play, featuring such notables as his rock-star son Gary Lewis, comedian Milton Berle at Disneyland in 1955 and Lewis and Dean Martin on the set of "Pardners."
Fully scripted motion pictures produced by Lewis at home, which often starred Lewis’ neighbors Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh. Titles include "Fairfax Avenue" (spoofing "Sunset Boulevard") "Come Back Little Shiksa" and "The Re-Enforcer," starring Dean Martin.
Rare footage of Martin and Lewis doing their nightclub act.
The Jerry Lewis Collection will be available to qualified researchers in the Library’s Motion Picture and Television Reading Room in Washington, D.C. Processing of the collection continues, but much of it is currently available to researchers. A small portion of the collection, however, will be restricted for 10 years.