An Evening with Jerry Lewis (my review)

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An Evening with Jerry Lewis was at the ornate Saint George Theatre in Staten Island near the ferry on October 16 at 7 pm. Jerry Lewis is known originally for his comedy act with Dean Martin. He had a radio and a television show, released songs and comic books. Most will know him from the movies he had with Martin and then on his own which he directed. Possibly the most recognizable movie was the 1996 Nutty Professor which was based on his original in 1963.

Labor Day had a 3 day Telethon from 1966 to 2010 with Lewis as national chairman of the Muscular Dystrophy Association and hosting it and up many hours those days even when sick.  He raised over $2.6 billion. He was fired from a telethon broadcast which had his name on and no public reason given. Years later he did an ad for them.

Lewis got the Légion d’honneur from the French Minister of Culture and he is called the French people’s favorite clown. The Hollywood Reporter says Lewis taught students Steven Spielberg and George Lucas in a film directing class at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles for a number of years.

He is 90 years old and recently acted in the film “Max Rose.” He has had many disabilities so did none of the slapstick physical comedy he was famous for. His falls were one of his trademarks. He is also known for is high pitched laugh, singing and boys voice impersonation.  He had a back injury in a pratfall from a piano in 1965 which almost left him paralyzed. He became dependent on painkillers for years.

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He played at the Saint George Theatre in 1944 at 17 years old. Now he introduced many film clips and he had quite an archive of his work to pick from including dozens of movies. Lewis had a Las Vegas Night club act with Sammy Davis Junior who is short. The clip shows him picking him up and thanking the academy for the award which he pretends Davis is the award. Davis said Lewis’ singing hurts his good eye.

In person Lewis played an air typewriter with music playing. He showed his pantomimist work in the movie clip of the “Errand Bay,” as he is alone in a board room and mouthing words and gestures to the room to music.   As a 15 year old he had miming as part of his act. He made a movie “The Bell Boy” where he was the lead with only one line spoken the whole time and the acting was done with body language. He recently was on “The Tonight Show and with Jimmy Fallon” and they both mimed to music.

Lewis and Martin broke up in 1961 and did not talk for years. He had a clip of his 1976 telethon where he had Frank Sinatra on and was surprised by him bringing Dean Martin on. Now he says he still does not know why they broke up or talked for all those years. One report was that Martin the singer of the group said Lewis had more songs than him in a movie.

Lewis then sang in person the song “Somebody” which ends with “your nobody unless somebody loves you.” Lewis said at one point the most recognizable people on the planet were Muhammad Ali, President Reagan, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and unbelievably he was tied at fourth with the Pope. He ended the show saying he performs for the privileges to make audiences laugh.

The show was not sold out with many rows empty in the balcony. Lewis sat the whole time and from the balcony view a jumbotron would have helped.  It was a 75 minute show with the audience wanting more. After the show I met an Australian theatre promoter who promoted him in the past. She told me she just went back stage and Lewis was in good spirits.

The St. George Theatre site says “it was opened in 1929, to top-of-the-line vaudeville. Some of the theatres unique features included the absence of any obstructions; a $25,000 Wurlitzer organ; an advanced cooling & heating system; one of the largest cantilevered balconies ever built and velvet seats, gilded balconies and grand staircases. The St. George Theatre’s interior is a variety of Spanish and Italian Baroque styles. The foyer is illuminated by large stained glass chandeliers and majestic winding staircases. Throughout the theatre are murals, tiled fountains and sculpted figures set in niches. Past featured performers such as Al Jolson, Kate Smith and Guy Lombardo were there.”

It then became a movie theater until 1977.  Several owners since then have tried reincarnations of the space that included a roller rink, an antique showroom and a night club, none of which were successful. The venue was basically dark for over thirty years. In 2004, Mrs. Rosemary Cappozalo with her daughters, Luanne Sorrentino, and Doreen Cugno, started a not-for-profit organization to save this historic theatre from being torn down. Mrs. Rosemary, a prominent dance educator, donated her life savings (over one million dollars) to the organization and “saved” the St. George Theatre.”

 

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