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Get Serious: Comic Actors in Dramatic Roles
Posted September 27, 2010 to photo album "Get Serious: Comic Actors in Dramatic Roles"
Slide 6: Jerry Lewis in The King of Comedy
In may ways, Jerry Lewis may be America’s greatest clown. In film after film, the goofball Lewis throws himself into kooky, klutzy characters that can’t help but screw up. From The Nutty Professor to The Disorderly Orderly, Lewis embodies pure zaniness. For most people, the real Jerry Lewis appeared only once a year during his Labor Day telethon for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. But in Martin Scorsese’s 1983 The King of Comedy, Lewis showed a side few had seen: the bitter businessman. In many ways, the brilliance of Lewis’ performance wasn’t that it was such a shift, but rather it was the other side of the clown we already knew. As David Ehrenstein astutely points out, “Critic after critic — even those hostile to the film as a whole — has remarked on the excellence of Lewis's performance. On an immediate level it's easy to see why. It's an assured, solid piece of craftsmanship—quite unlike anything he has ever done before. And there's the rub. Jerry Lewis—show business legend for over a quarter of a century, loved by the public, ignored by the critics, praised by French highbrows, damned by the American pseudo-elite—suddenly stands before us in a new guise. But is it really all that new? …it's a Jerry not all that removed from the off-screen/stage Jerry—the abrasive show businessman so often the target of critical barbs.”