No comedian since Charles Chaplin has been so loved and so reviled. He is America's Dark Prince of Comedy—brilliant, bitter, passionate and deeply conflicted. A man of many demons, his cockiness conceals a labyrinth of doubts and self-destructive impulses. An American original whom Americans have never quite come to terms with, he also happens to be one of the greatest filmmakers of the latter half of the 20th century. And for this he deserves an Academy Award.
It's not surprising that he's never even been nominated for one. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has a tradition of snubbing comedians. The list of those whose movies failed to win a single Oscar is appallingly long and distinguished: Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Harry Langdon, Mabel Normand, the Marx Brothers, W.C. Fields, Abbott and Costello, Bob Hope, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor, to name a few. The academy finally gave Keaton an honorary Oscar in 1960, and one to Stan Laurel in 1961 (after Lewis lobbied passionately on his behalf), and even one to Charlie Chaplin in 1972, bringing the once-demonized "un-American" director back to Hollywood after 20 years of exile in Europe.
Now it's time to honor Jerry Lewis.
"No film could be more devastating, more bitter in its humor, more brackish, with the richness of the invention constantly aggravated by the poverty of the situations". It is, in other words, an acme of stupidity, but an acme in the same sense as Bouvard and Pécuchet."
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