- The Washington Times - Monday, September 14, 2015

The French have long revered him as an artistic icon, and now America’s oldest cultural institution is recognizing his contribution to the world of entertainment: The Library of Congress announced Monday it has acquired a trove of films and other materials highlighting the life and career of Jerry Lewis.

The archive of Mr. Lewis’ home movies, documents, rarely seen films and TV clips will be preserved and stored at the Library of Congress’ Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation in Culpeper, Virginia.

And to celebrate the new collection, the 89-year-old comedian/singer himself will perform a concert — “An Evening with Jerry Lewis” — at Culpeper’s historic State Theatre on Oct. 9.

“Many of us know Jerry Lewis through his comedy, in film and onstage, or for his humanitarian work,” Librarian of Congress James H. Billington said in a statement. “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.”

Among the films in the Jerry Lewis Collection: “The Bellboy,” a 1960 episodic farce that Mr. Lewis wrote, directed and starred in; “Cinderfella,” a 1960 comic retelling of the Grimm brothers’ fairytale; and “The Nutty Professor,” the original 1963 Lewis-scripted/directed comedy about an awkward academic who becomes an obnoxious ladies’ man.

“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,” Mr. Lewis said in a statement. “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.”

Born Joseph Levitch in Newark, New Jersey, on March 16, 1926, Jerry Lewis began performing with his vaudville family at age 5. He teamed with crooner Dean Martin in 1945, and the singing-comedy duo Martin and Lewis enjoyed widespread success in films and nightclubs. Mr. Lewis launched his solo career in 1956, and became known for his philanthropy, mostly notably hosting an annual Labor Day telethon to raise money for muscular dystrophy research.

The Lewis collection comprises more than 1,000 items chronicling his films, TV work, home life, awards and charitable activities. Mr. Lewis donated part of the collection, and the Library of Congress acquired the rest via purchases.

The Library’s Packard Campus also houses audio-visual collections of other comic legends such as Bob Hope, Groucho Marx, Lucille Ball, Sid Caesar and Johnny Carson.

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