Hey, laaaaady! Jerry Lewis, the favorite comedian of Dean Martin and the nation of France, will soon be making his mark on Washington, D.C. The Library of Congress announced Monday that it has acquired the legendary actor’s personal archive.
In a news release, the slapstick star of “The Nutty Professor” and “Cinderfella” said he was honored by the library’s interest in his archive.
“Knowing that the Library of Congress was interested in acquiring my life’s work was one of the biggest thrills of my life,” he said. “It is comforting to know that this small piece of the world of comedy will be preserved and available to future generations.”
The archive, which was acquired by donation and purchase, comprises “more than 1,000 moving image materials and paper documentation” from Lewis’ long career in television and film. It includes the comedian’s many appearances on “The Tonight Show,” as well as movies Lewis produced at his home, such as “Come Back Little Shiksa” and “The Re-Enforcer.”
Librarian of Congress James H. Billington called Lewis, 89, “one of the few comic auteurs.”
“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,” Billington said.
Lewis, a native of Newark, N.J., first gained fame as the comedy partner of Martin. He broke out on his own in the 1950s with movies such as “The Geisha Boy,” and later became widely known for his work with the Muscular Dystrophy Association, whose annual telethons he hosted for decades. (Footage from those telethons will be included in the archive.)
The library noted that “a small portion of the collection” won’t be available to researchers for 10 years. That presumably includes “The Day the Clown Cried,” Lewis’ 1972 film about the Holocaust that has never been released. Lewis has disowned the film, in which he plays a German clown named Helmut Doork, who is imprisoned in a concentration camp for making fun of Adolf Hitler.
Times reporter Noah Bierman reported last month about the acquisition of Lewis’ archive, including “The Day the Clown Cried,” in an article about the Library of Congress’ Packard Campus.
Lewis will celebrate the acquisition of his archive by performing at the State Theatre in Culpeper, Va., on Oct. 9.