Actor, director, writer and producer Jerry Lewis has been voted the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award by the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Academy President Sid Ganis announced today. The award, an Oscar® statuette, will be presented to Lewis during the 81st Academy Awards ceremony on February 22, 2009.
The Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award is given to an individual in the motion picture industry whose humanitarian efforts have brought credit to the industry.
“Jerry is a legendary comedian who has not only brought laughter to millions around the world,” said Ganis, “but has also helped thousands upon thousands by raising funds and awareness for those suffering from muscular dystrophy.”
Lewis began making local and national televised appeals on behalf of the newly founded Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) in the early 1950s. He has been the organization’s national chairman since 1952 and has served as the “number one volunteer” of the annual Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon since 1966, raising more than $2 billion for the cause.
Born in 1926 in Newark, New Jersey, Lewis first found fame as part of a groundbreaking nightclub act with his partner, Dean Martin. The comedy team of Martin and Lewis made their screen debut in My Friend Irma (1949) and starred in 16 films together through 1956. Lewis went on to star in more than two dozen films, including The Bellboy (1960), The Ladies’ Man (1961), The Nutty Professor (1963), The Disorderly Orderly (1964), The Family Jewels (1965) and The King of Comedy (1983). A series of lectures on filmmaking that Lewis delivered as an adjunct professor at USC was published as The Total Film-Maker in 1971.