JERRY Lewis, the slapstick comedian best known for his comedy/singing act with Dean Martin and tireless efforts to fight muscular dystrophy, has died. He was 91.

The comedy legend died of natural causes, surrounded by his family, in his Las Vegas home at 9.15am Sunday (2.15am Monday AEST), his publicist Candi Cazau confirmed.

Lewis sprang to fame in the 1950s as a zany comic performer in nightclubs, on television and in the movies, launching his act as the cross-eyed sidekick of the suave singer Dean Martin.

During their 10-year partnership, the duo starred in 16 films and achieved huge box office success.

 

After their split in 1956, Lewis starred in a slew of hit films such as The Nutty Professor, Cinderfella and The Bellboy. He featured in more than 45 films in a career spanning five decades.

Later generations knew him primarily as the tireless conductor of the US telethons for victims of muscular dystrophy, raising millions of dollars for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Lewis retired from making movies in 1995, but returned as star of the 2016 drama Max Rose.

He once said he hoped that his antics helped pull France into a better place in the decades after World War II.

That nation's sense of humour "took France through all those difficult years, and will take it through difficult times now because the French are not afraid to laugh," Lewis observed.

The Nutty Professor was honoured with France's Legion of Honor award in 1983.

Later in life, the comedian caused controversy with comments on race, his right-wing political views and belief that women are not funny ("I think of [a female comedian] as a producing machine that brings babies in the world.")

Celebrities from Whoopi Goldberg to Patton Oswalt have paid tribute to the legendary comedian on Twitter.

"Jerry Lewis has passed on," Oswalt tweeted. "I sincerely hope his afterlife is a warm, peaceful… haven."

Gad commented, "One of the greatest of all time. A legend. A showman. A comedic icon. A movie star. An activist. A one of a kind. RIP #jerrylewis."

The veteran entertainer was hospitalised in Las Vegas in June this year for treatment of a urinary tract infection.

The longtime Las Vegas resident had been beset for many years with various ailments, including heart attacks, an inflammatory lung disorder and chronic back pain.

 

BELOW: The world mourns the iconic performer

News Corp Australia

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