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Paul V. Coates – Confidential File, Dec. 1, 1959

December 1, 2009 |  2:00 pm

Dec. 1, 1959, Cover
Arab League bans Elizabeth Taylor’s movies!

Jerry Lewis at Bat for Actor Robinson

Paul Coates    Strange guy, Jerry Lewis.

    I've known him for years.  I knew him when he was a kid on Broadway, when he had a partner named Martin, and when they were lucky if -- between them -- they had a sandwich to split.
I remember when they hit the top and split themselves.

    I recall, at the time I blamed Jerry in print for the break, and this couldn't please him at all.

    But we still keep in touch.

    I hear from him now two, maybe three times a year.

    The conversations aren't always pleasant.  In fact, half the time his calls are inspired by something I said -- in print or on TV -- which he didn't like.
Dec.1, 1959, Ike Films He's the caricature of the irate subscriber.  He picks up the phone and lets you know. 

    Lewis has another emotion in common with the average newspaper reader.  He hates to see a man who's down get kicked. 

    This is the trait that is responsible for the other 50% of my contact with him.
Off hand I don't recall the specific instances in the past where he's volunteered to help somebody I wrote about, but my memory is keen on the Hollywood types who offer assistance one day and are too busy to live up to their word the next.

    Jerry Lewis isn't a member of that clique.

    He follows up his pledges.

    That much I do remember.

    And that's why I'm confident that I'm not acting prematurely in reporting to you something that's going to happen in a few weeks.

    It concerns an actor named Jay Robinson.

    Possibly you saw the story the papers carried about him on Thanksgiving.

    "Hollywood's forgotten man sat on the bare floor of his empty mansion," it began.

    It detailed Robinson's real life rise and fall in the Celluloid City.  It told his downhill slide from a $3,000-a-week "genius" at the age of 23 to his conviction, last June, for possession of narcotics. 

    At 29, Robinson was flat busted and finished.

    The evening the story appeared, I interviewed Robinson on television.  After the program, I got a call from Jerry Lewis.

    "I've seen that guy act," he said tersely.  "Get in touch with him for me, will you?  Tell him to come by and see me."

    As an afterthought, Lewis added: "So the guy made one mistake."

    I passed the message on to Robinson.

    Yesterday he went to see Lewis and after the meeting the hungry "forgotten man" called me back.

    He was a far different person from the one I'd interviewed only a few nights before on my show.

    He talked with confidence and self-assurance.

    He told me how Lewis was working on a show when he arrived for the meeting and how the comedian turned to the rest of the cast and said," We'll have to hold up for about 20 minutes.  I've got to talk to this man.  It's very important."

Jerry Doesn't Judge

    Lewis obviously fed Robinson where the hunger was the greatest.  Around the ego.

    For the next half-hour, he told the young actor how appalled he was to learn what had happened to him.  He didn't ask him once if he was innocent or guilty of the charge that ruined his career.

    He just told him that a talent like his deserved a second chance.

    Then he offered it -- a substantial part in his next picture.
Like I say, Jerry Lewis is a strange guy.  Especially strange in a town like Hollywood.