Jerry Lewis turned 90 last week. For decades his antics brightened the entertainment landscape.
Lewis is well-known for his partnership with singer Dean Martin. They were Martin and Lewis on-stage and on the big screen from 1946 to 1956. Then, for Lewis, there were more movies, solo stage shows, and the annual muscular dystrophy telethon.
Early in his career, Lewis, who lives in Las Vegas, began amassing a treasure trove of material that he recently donated to the Library of Congress, including Hollywood movies, home movies, TV shows, scripts, correspondence, and the like.
Rob Stone, has been shepherding the collection through the archiving process. Stone is Moving Image Curator at the Library of Congress’s National Audio-Visual Conservation Center in Culpepper, Virginia.
"It’s a large, large collection. Jerry did keep most everything in his career. It was hard when they gave us the material to know for sure what was exactly on each item."
"Overall, we’re talking 4,000 or 5,000 pieces. The entire collection includes things like home movies, home movie productions, includes in a lot of cases the actual film. But then massive amounts of outtakes, camera tests, screen tests, also footage of Jerry and Dean on stage, Jerry by himself on stage."
"A real interesting part of the collection is when Jerry was on somebody else’s TV show he got a copy of that show. So for instance, there are TV shows that just don’t exist anymore but the episode that Jerry was on exists because Jerry got a copy of it."
"The home movies are personal things like the boys opening up Christmas presents and the visit to Disneyland, although their visit to Disneyland involved Milton Berle."
"He also did what we’re calling home productions, which went beyond home movies, they were actually scripted movies. And those two are being evaluated to whether they need to be under restriction or not."
"The donation in a two part. There was the film and video material. And then there is the paper material, which is the scripts, story boards, posters, stills. That stuff took a little bit longer to organize. So we went ahead and got the audio-visual portion of the collection here. And hopefully, later this year, I’ll be coming to Las Vegas to meet with Chris Lewis, Jerry’s son, the son who is taking care of the collection to pack up the material because that is also part of the gift to the library."
"Jerry differs in the sense that he was so broad in what he did. He did television, he did stage, he did film. And when he did film, he was writing it, he was directing it, he was editing it, he was producing it. So on the film side we got the total filmmaker, literally."
"The nice thing about him giving his collection to the library is he’s going to allow pretty much anybody in the country that wants to come and experience the things that I’m experiencing. So it really is quite the gift to the nation."
"A good chunk of the film now can be seen by contacting the library and going to our research center up in Washington, D.C. That could happen pretty much now. The paper material, if we get it this year, it could be two or three years before it will be readily available for access."
"I think that some of it is that he was just so enamored by the whole process. He still possess quite a large collection of cameras. Certainly, when he was here, he talked to a couple of folks here at length about cameras and lenses. So, I think it has always been an interest of his and once you shot it and developed it you would want to keep it."
Rob Stone, Moving Image Curator at the Library of Congress's National Audio-Visual Conservation Center in Culpepper, Virginia
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