Life » Culture

Remembering Dean & Jerry

Fifty years ago, two of comedy's kings split


Forty years from now, no one will understand the popularity of Adam Sandler. That's not to say that people won't enjoy his work, but they will not comprehend how so many people spent so much time enjoying his films, his music, and whatever else it is that he does. Consider that Bing Crosby is now part of the silver screen pantheon, but, in his day, he was a sex symbol --- maybe not in a beefcake way...maybe so...

Moving right along, the biggest stars in the world a half century ago suddenly severed their partnership in July of 1956. Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis very publicly broke up their decade-long partnership. They had made 16 films together, becoming top-grossing stars. More than most other great comedy teams, the pair relied on their incredible chemistry to charm the audience, especially since their partnership flourished on the nightclub circuit.

Most of their frequent appearances on early television have been lost, but tapes of the duo on the Colgate Comedy Hour do exist. Ken Burke describes one such appearance in Roctober Magazine No. 29: "There is an indescribable hum that occurs when Martin & Lewis are in front of the bandstand together. ... Lewis hits the stage talking like a hipster; Martin's droll Crosbyish reactions are very funny, which provokes his partner to take it up a notch. Finally, M&L pick up instruments and play horribly with Dick Stabile's Orchestra, proving their inverse hipitude."

Martin and Lewis' feud started before their partnership officially died. Both parties laid down their tongues after 30 years, to the point that Lewis published Dean & Me (A Love Story) last year. On the 50th anniversary of their collapse, their eventual peace should be a cause célèbre (as opposed to all the other media bluster) that reminds us to laugh along with Dean & Jerry in Sailor Beware and Hollywood or Bust.