March 16 marks Jerry Lewis’s 90th birthday, which MoMA celebrates with a retrospective of some of his finest films, nearly all presented in rare 35mm prints. Many programs will be accompanied by surprise packages of outtakes, screen tests, home movies, and behind-the-scenes footage chosen by Robert Furmanek, Mr. Lewis’s longtime personal archivist. Happy Birthday Mr. Lewis presents an in-depth look at a profoundly American artist. Organized by Dave Kehr, Adjunct Curator, Department of Film, MoMA, and Robert Furmanek, independent curator.
The comedy duo of Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin took the country by storm, and launched Lewis’s career in film. MoMA celebrates this ground-breaking partnership with highlights from their 16 films together including That’s My Boy (1951), the rarely screened 3 Ring Circus (1954), and Frank Tashlin’s self-reflexive masterwork Hollywood or Bust (1956), as well as “The Birth of Martin and Lewis,” a program of rare film clips, home movies, and excerpts from their famously anarchic early television appearances.
Lewis went on to become a comedy star in his own right in the ‘50s and ‘60s, forming a long-running partnership with director Frank Tashlin that produced such popular success as Rock-a-Bye Baby (1958), The Geisha Boy (1958), and Who’s Minding The Store (1963).
Lewis’s directorial debut with The Bellboy (1960) marked the beginning of a remarkable series of high personal, highly stylized films that earned the admiration of international audiences and critics. In the words of Jean-Luc Godard, “Lewis is the only American director who has made progressive films.” MoMA’s retrospective includes his masterpiece The Nutty Professor (1963) as well as a unique copy of a director’s cut of The Ladies’ Man (1961), featuring some breathtaking moving camera work that was eliminated from the release prints.
Lewis’s stunning work in his late career is highlighted with a special digital screening of Martin Scorsese’s The King of Comedy (1982) as well as Smorgasbord (1983), his last feature as a director.