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Icon Jerry Lewis Has Died, Aged 91

Jerry Lewis, the high prince of low-brow comedy on stage and in movies as well as a fund-raising powerhouse, has died of "natural causes" at the age of 91, his family says.

"Famed comedian, actor and legendary entertainer Jerry Lewis passed away peacefully today of natural causes at 91 at his home in Las Vegas with his family by his side," a statement from the Lewis family said.

His spokeswoman, Candi Cazau, said by phone that he died around 9.30am local time on Sunday.

Lewis rose to fame as goofy foil to suave partner Dean Martin and was a comic icon in France.

He once summed up his career by saying, "I've had great success being a total idiot", and said the key was maintaining a certain child-like quality.

"I look at the world through a child's eyes because I'm nine," he told Reuters in a November 2002 interview. "I stayed that way. I made a career out of it. It's a wonderful place to be."

Lewis was 87 when his last movie, Max Rose, came out in 2013, playing a jazz pianist who questions his marriage after learning his wife of 65 years may have been unfaithful.

The son of vaudeville entertainers, Lewis became a star in the early 1950s as Martin's spastic sidekick in nightclubs, on television and in 16 movies. At their height, they set off the kind of fan hysteria that once surrounded Frank Sinatra and the Beatles.

Their decade-long partnership ended with a bitter split and Lewis went on to star in his own film comedies.

Lewis' movie persona, like the character he created in the act with Martin, varied little from film to film. He was zany and manic, forever squealing, grimacing and flailing his way through situations beyond his control.

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He starred in more than 45 films in a career spanning five decades. His cross-eyed antics often drew scorn from critics but he was for a time a box-office hit who commanded one of the biggest salaries in Hollywood.

Long after his celebrity faded at home, Lewis was wildly popular in France, where he was hailed as "le Roi du Crazy" (the king of crazy) and inducted into the Legion of Honor, France's highest award, in 1984. He received a similar honour in 2006.

He explained his popularity in France, by saying: "The French are very visually oriented even though they are cerebral. They enjoy what they see and laugh. Then, later, they ask why."

Lewis acknowledged that he elicited either love or hate from audiences -- and little in between.

CELEBRITIES MOURN PASSING OF COMEDIC LEGEND JERRY LEWIS:

"That fool was no dummy. Jerry Lewis was an undeniable genius an unfathomable blessing, comedy's absolute! I am because he was!" -Jim Carrey on Twitter.

"Jerry was a pioneer in comedy and film. And he was a friend. I was fortunate to have seen him a few times over the past couple of years. Even at 91, he didn't miss a beat. Or a punchline. You'll be missed." - Robert DeNiro in a statement

"Condolences to the family of Jerry Lewis. The world is a lot less funnier today." - William Shatner on Twitter

"Dick Gregory and Jerry Lewis were two of the funniest, most legendary and prolific entertainers of our generation and I bow to their genius." - Margaret Cho on Twitter

"Oh NOOOOO!!! Jerry Lewis just died! Another comic legend has left us. Martin&Lewis were the Beatles of comedy! Nobody was EVER bigger!" -Rob Schneider on Twitter

"My mentor & friend Jerry Lewis has passed away. A visionary. A pioneer in all forms of entertainment. A charitable human. A father. He meant the world to me& I will forever cherish the time I got to spend with him & his family. At a dark time in my life he brought me joy. Jerry's daughter Danielle is the reason her dad & I got so close. I will never be able to thank her enough for putting him in my life. Always funny. Always helpful. Always honest. I will miss you Jerry Lewis. The world has lost a true innovator & icon." - Dane Cook, in a series of tweets, on Twitter

"Jerry Lewis passed today, millions around the world loved him, millions of kids he helped w/his telethons. R.I.P. &condolences 2 his family." - Whoopi Goldberg on Twitter

"Jerry Lewis loomed large in my family. Many movies with my mom & he made home movies with Janet and Tony. He made me and many laugh." - Jamie Lee Curtis on Twitter

"Jerry Lewis has passed on. I sincerely hope his afterlife is a warm, peaceful... haven."- Patton Oswalt on Twitter

"We will miss Jerry so much. I can't believe I got to meet him and spend time with him. How did my life get good enough that Jerry Lewis would smile at me? And how sad to lose him. Goodbye to the real, no irony, king of comedy." - Penn Jillette, in a series of tweets, on Twitter

"Sad to read about the passing of Jerry Lewis. We met when we both received honorary degrees from Emerson in '93; how he made me laugh!" - Marlee Matlin on Twitter

"As a kid, I'm pretty sure I was the biggest Jerry Lewis fan in the world. Truly. R.I.P. Jerry Lewis." - Kumail Nanjiani on Twitter

"We lost one of the great ones today...possibly the greatest. Jerry Lewis was one of my comedy heroes & was a gigantic inspiration to me. I am so grateful to have shared some valuable time with him."- Sean Hayes on Instagram

"One of the greatest of all time. A legend. A showman. A comedic icon. A movie star. An activist. A one of a kind." - Josh Gad on Twitter

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