Several veteran actors have come forward with troubling allegations against Jerry Lewis, accusing the late comedy legend of sexual harassment and assault during his heyday in the 1960s.
On Wednesday, Vanity Fair unveiled an investigation and a short documentary detailing the allegations against Lewis, who died in 2017 aged 91. The article includes interviews with actors like Karen Sharpe and Hope Holiday, who both co-starred with Lewis in the 1960s. Filmmakers Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering, who investigated Mia Farrow’s allegations against Woody Allen in HBO’s “Allen v. Farrow,” spotlight the stories of these actors in the accompanying film.
Sharpe, now 87, told Vanity Fair that Lewis unzipped her pants and started fondling her after he summoned her to his office for costume fittings while filming “The Disorderly Orderly” in 1964.
“I put my hand up and said, ‘Wait a minute. I don’t know if it’s a requirement for your leading ladies, but it’s something I don’t do,” she recalled. “I could see he was furious. I had a feeling it never really happened to him.
Sharpe, whose other credits include 1955’s “Man with the Gun” and the 1959 TV series “Johnny Ringo,” said she offered to quit the film after the incident. When she returned to set to resume filming three days later, however, she learned that she would only be allowed to rehearse her scenes with Lewis’ replacement, and the crew had been instructed not to. not talk to him.
Holiday, now 91, described a similar scenario that allegedly took place on the set of “The Ladies Man” in 1961.
“The first day we worked, he said, ‘Can you come to the locker room afterwards? I want to discuss what we’re going to shoot tomorrow,” she said. “I walk into this garish dressing room with red wallpaper and gold furniture…and I sit down and he presses a button, locks me in the dressing room with him.”
At that point Lewis started “talking dirty to me and as he was talking the pants came open, and the ugly thing came out and he started jerking off,” Holiday said. “I was scared…I just sat there and wanted to leave so badly.”
Lewis was married to Patti Palmer from 1944 to 1980 and to Sandra Pitnick from 1983 until her death. He and Palmer shared six children, and he and Pitnick had a daughter together.
The actor bragged about his sex life in interviews well into his senior years, and his reputation as a womanizer never diminished with age. In 2014, Amy Schumer described an uncomfortable moment she had with Lewis at an event that year where they both performed.
“He came over and we hugged and then he started pushing me away, trying to lay me down on the stage,” she told GQ. “So I strapped myself in and used my knees to stay in place, and he was in my ear saying, ‘Lay down’. I whispered ‘No’ in his ear. Even after I said no he was still trying I had to use my heart to stay awake – he’s a strong motherfucker.
“I’m not going to be the girl who gets fucked after her set,” she added. “Sorry, Jerry Lewis.”
See the full investigation and documentary film on the Vanity Fair website.
Need help? Visit RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center website.