For more than six decades, Jerry Lewis held the world spellbound with his magical talent. Lewis is credited as one of the pioneers of modern-day comedy in Hollywood, but his life beyond the screen was more interesting.
His first wife, Patti Palmer, which lasted for more than three decades, was shattered by his flirtatious lifestyle. Here’s a look at Lewis’s life and his family saga.
WHO WAS JERRY LEWIS?
Lewis was born on March 19, 1926, and rose to be one of the central figures in the movie industry in his time. Lewis was a comedian, actor, and director whose unique comic style made him one of the most popular performers of the 1950s and ’60s.
At age 12, Lewis had already developed a particular type of comedy miming to records, and it did not take long before he dropped out of school to perform his comic style in New York theatres and nightclubs.
His career blossomed when he met singer Dean Martin in 1944, and after two years, the duo paired up to become a performing team. Martin performed as the singer while Lewis supplied the comedy, thrilling the fans.
After performing in several clubs and cities, the pair received an offer from Paramount, and their first film, “My Friend Irma,” was shot in 1949, which established them as box office stars.
After their last work together in 1959, both stars had a well-publicized fallout that ended their partnership. Afterward, Lewis went solo and signed a new contract with Paramount that gave him more control over his works.
After his most popular and successful work, “The Nutty Professor,” Lewis’s career did not achieve the spark and fame he enjoyed, and as a result, he took a ten-year break from appearing in movies.
His first marriage to Patti Palmer lasted for 35 years, but the duo called it quit in 1983. The former couple tied the knot in 1945 when Lewis’s career was beginning to enjoy wide applause.
The duo tied the knot a few months after they met, and two years after, their first son Gary was born. The former couple went on to have five more boys, Ronald Steven’ Ronnie’ (adopted) in 1949, Scott Anthony in 1956, Christopher in 1957, Anthony in 1959, and Joseph in 1964.
After filing for a divorce, Patti requested $450,000 a year to support herself and their youngest son, Joseph Christopher, who was 16-years-old at the time. She claimed she was penniless to cater for their young teen, whom the actor often neglected.
She claimed Lewis had no regard for their marriage and constantly left her at his mercy financially, leaving her with no money of her own. In addition, she claimed Lewis’s extravagant lifestyle had caused their bills to pile up, forcing her to sell her jewelry.
While she claimed his lifestyle was the cause of their split, many believe it was caused by Lewis’s thirst for more women and his different affairs that included some famous names in the industry.
HIS MANY AFFAIRS
The comic legend’s career was blistering, but his many flings left those close to him in shock. The actor boasted of affairs with big stars like Marilyn Monroe and was rumored to have had a love child with another woman.
Lewis was rumored to have a three-year-long affair with famous model Lynn Dixon, who gave birth to Suzan Minoret in 1952. The child was Lewis’ alleged love child, who he never recognized in public.
Speaking of his affair with Monroe, Lewis reportedly said that it left him crippled for a month. The affair was described as passionate and took place while he was married to his first wife.
The Oscar-winner surprised the world when he announced his marriage to his secret lover SanDee Pitnick less than a month after he finalized his divorce from his first wife.
The former dancer was the final straw for Lewis, and he had a marriage that lasted more than three decades with her, and at his death, he left a chunk of his wealth to her. Together the couple adopted a child Danielle Sara Lewis in 2004.
LEAVING HIS KIDS OUT OF HIS WILL
After he died in 2017 at age 91, Lewis left a shocking instruction for his sons with his first wife. He disinherited them from his will, which showed how strong his bad blood was with them when he died.
The famous comedian did not want to leave a penny for his five sons. In his last will, Lewis made it clear that he intentionally removed his sons Gary, Ronald, Anthony, Christopher, Scott, and Joseph from benefiting from his estate in any way.
The late actor left his estate worth several million to his wife of over 30 years, SanDee, and their 25-year-old adopted daughter Danielle was named the next in line to inherit his fortune. In his lifetime, Lewis’s poor relationship with his sons became a viral piece of news.
Following the death of his youngest son Joseph from an overdose in 2009, Lewis’s eldest son Gary blamed the actor. Gary stated that Lewis had abandoned and neglected Joseph, which left him vulnerable and heartbroken.
According to Gary, if their famous dad were caring for the then 45-year-old, his life would not have had a sad ending to it. In 2014 Lewis opened up on Joseph’s death, noting that it was unfair that he died the way he did.
The actor noted he beat himself over the death of his young son, but some fans still raise questions over Lewis’s commitment to his kids as a father. Although he had a great career, many believed he was not much of a father.