The following is a guest post by David Jackson, Archivist, Bob Hope Collection, Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation.
As processing archivist for the Bob Hope papers, I frequently come across the early professional work of several icons of American entertainment, such as Doris Day, Judy Garland, and Desi Arnaz. Jerry Lewis, whose collection likewise resides at the Library of Congress, is another such film giant whose early career can be traced through the Hope collection. Lewis’ recent passing led me to investigate the connections between the two comics.
Jerry Lewis, with his partner Dean Martin, first appeared on the Bob Hope radio show on Tuesday, October 26, 1948, the first of four appearances during the 1948-1949 radio season. Introduced as “a new Comedy team sensation, Martin & Lewis,” the episode represented some of the earliest (and highest rated) radio exposure of the hot new nightclub act. In fact, the Martin & Lewis sketch performed that night was built around the joke of Jerry’s resistance to appear on radio.
Jerry: I don’t care what you say, I’m not going on the radio. I hate the radio – if you make me go on the radio I’ll swallow my skate key!
Hope: Well, we pay our guest stars five thousand dollars for a guest shot. And if you guys work out, you can come back for five more shots.
Jerry: And I want mine with soda. (JUBILANT) I did it, I did it – I put one over on ‘em! …Ain’t I the shifty one.
Martin and Lewis didn’t quite make it back for “five more shots,” but their three subsequent bookings were only equaled that season by film star Lucille Ball’s appearances on Hope’s program. Their last two appearances on the Bob Hope Show were made to promote the debut of the Martin and Lewis Show. Bob Hope gave one last boost to the team’s radio career, when he turned up as their very first guest star on the April 3, 1949 opener.
Hope: I’m here tonight to perform a very pleasant task. As you must know by now, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis are two young and very talented fellows whom NBC has adopted. I’m sure they’ll bring you many hours of top entertainment. And I’m sincerely honored to be here and welcome to the network, the handsome, talented, gorgeous-voiced Dean Martin…
Dean: Thanks, Bob, for all the wonderful compliments.
Hope: …And his partner, Jerry Lewis.
Jerry: Thanks, Bob, for…(switch)…I don’t get no compliments?
In 1953, Bob Hope, Jerry Lewis, and Dean Martin traded favors again, this time in film. Martin and Lewis made a cameo appearance in Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, and Dorothy Lamour’s Road to Bali, with Bob and Bing turning up in Jerry and Dean’s Scared Stiff, the latter movie serving as a remake of Hope’s 1940 film The Ghost Breakers.
Perhaps the sweetest tribute to Jerry Lewis was one written for that first radio show, special lyrics written for Bob Hope’s signature turn, “Thanks for the Memory,” that were cut from the final broadcast, but which remain preserved in the Bob Hope papers at the Library of Congress.
Thanks for the memory
Of the Martin-Lewis team
You’re sure to gain esteem
It’s true, you know, as showmen go
You’re really on the beam
We thank you so much.
Now, decades later, these two titans of American comedy are reunited at the Packard Campus for Audio-Visual Conservation in Culpeper, Virginia, repository of the Bob Hope and Jerry Lewis Collections. The Bob Hope papers are currently undergoing processing, but some 740 boxes (309 linear feet), including the complete radio, film, and television scripts, as well as joke and personal appearance files, are now available for researcher access through the Recorded Sound Reference Center. The Jerry Lewis Collection, a recent acquisition, contains some 3600 audio-visual items, and will soon see an addition of 10-12 pallets of scripts and other manuscript materials.