It can be hard to disassociate actors from their movie roles, no matter how hard we try. This is especially so for comedians. We watch them onscreen, they make us laugh out loud and we automatically assume that these people are always fun, always up for a laugh and approachable people. The thing is, comedians also have a dark side. In fact, it’s more often comedians who have a darker side than those playing more serious roles. So, when serious drama about their personal lives comes to light, we can be shocked by how different they are from their persona onscreen.
This is what happened to many people who loved (and still enjoy) watching Jerry Lewis movies. This guy was a part of old Hollywood. He was the one that made our parents, our grandparents, and even us, laugh out loud. Lewis had the best comedic timing and watching him onscreen was addicting — you wanted to hang out with this guy every day of the week.
But sadly, Lewis’s life proved to be far less comedic than those he played onscreen. Before he died, there was already drama revolving around Lewis and his family. But now that Lewis has passed away and his will has gone public, fans learned just how bad things were between Lewis and his children.
You see, Lewis had quite a number of children. The actor was married to Patti Palmer from 1944 to 1980. I know, that’s a long time for an actor in Hollywood to be married. With Palmer, Lewis had six sons.
Sadly, Lewis’s relationship with his six sons wasn’t a good one. There were always rumors going around about his family. Gossip about celebrities is the norm but in Lewis’s case, the strain between him and his sons was confirmed by the latter themselves.
The complicated relationship unfolded in 2009, when Lewis’s youngest son, Joseph, died of a drug overdose. It was after the death of Joseph that one of Lewis’s kids, Gary, spoke out publicly about his father. Basically, Gary blamed his father for the death of his brother.
“He was never loving and caring toward me or my brothers,” Gary explained. “I don’t know if Joe’s death is drug related, but I believe it could have been prevented if he and my father had been on better terms. I believe he partly died of a broken heart.” Gary then blatantly accused his father of not really caring for him or any of his brothers. He accused Lewis of being “more worried about his career and his image than his own family.”
Lewis too spoke publicly about the tragic death of his son. “To this day,” the actor said, “I don't understand it because it's unfair -- not unfair to me, but unfair to him. That he went that way made the unfairness stupidity.” Lewis then went on to say, “he was my son and he’s gone, and there’s not a lot I can do about that. I beat myself a thousand times.”
Lewis didn’t only have his six sons. In 1983, the actor married SanDee Pitnick. The two didn’t have any biological children together. However, in 1992, the couple adopted their daughter Danielle. On August 20, 2017, Lewis passed away at the age of 91 and a few days later, when his will was read, the world learned what the actor really thought of his sons.
Let’s quote the statement on the will, shall we? It’s as harsh as it gets. The will reads: “I have intentionally excluded Gary Lewis, Ronald Lewis, Anthony Joseph Lewis, Christopher Joseph Lewis, Scott Anthony Lewis, and Joseph Christopher Lewis and their descendants as beneficiaries of my estate, it being my intention that they shall receive no benefits hereunder.” Clearly, the father had issues with his sons.
Instead, the actor’s fortune would all go to his widow, SanDee Pitnick. If anything happens to her, then everything will be left to their adopted daughter, Danielle. It was a shocker for many of his fans but we can only wonder whether his sons were expecting their father to do something like this.
There was someone else who Lewis left out of his will. You see, the actor didn’t only have his six sons and Danielle. He also had another daughter named Suzan Lewis. The latter was the product of an affair Lewis had had with model Lynn Dixon when he was still married to Palmer.
Lewis didn’t know about Suzan until a few years before passing away. Suzan came forward in 2008 when she claimed the actor was her biological father. A DNA test later proved that she was in fact, related to Lewis. Maybe there’s something about blood relations Lewis doesn’t enjoy because even Suzan was left out of his will.
It’s not like the actor left behind one estate and a couple of cars. It’s been estimated that Lewis’s net worth was at $70 million when he passed away. His widow and his daughter Danielle have inherited a huge fortune.
It’s always sad to see a loveable character have such personal family drama. Let’s hope Jerry Lewis is resting in peace. What is for sure is that the actor passed away with his loved ones close by. His daughter Danielle explained how “he passed peacefully at home of natural causes with his loving family at his side.”