Dean Martin used to be a singer in night clubs, who sang mostly on the East Coast and was barely making it when he met the struggling comedian Jerry Lewis. They thought they could put up a duo like Crosby and Hope, only their first gig did not go very well. They decided to risk it all for the second gig and created that chaotic interaction between a singing straight man and an interrupting, heckling lunatic. The extreme antics worked, against all odds and the legendary duo became an overnight success. With money came responsibility, with responsibility came stress. The friction between the two did not erupt for almost ten years, but then it all went within days.
Through the extreme exposure in the movies and the radio show, but also the live shows and appearances on other TV shows such as the NBC Colgate Comedy Hour boosted their individual popularities, particularly Dean Martin’s, who always wanted to be a serious actor and a crooner, something the Hal Wallis comedies increasingly limited and curtailed. The tension exploded in arguments and the reasons are to this date unclear, but they split ten years after they became partners.
While their contracts were never made public, the rumour mill spoke about money disputes and the individual worth of them two as separate entities. Interestingly enough, as separate stars they did go different ways, but both became worldwide successes, Dean Martin as recording star, actor and TV star, Jerry Lewis as a comedian, actor and director.
They are not the only ones who split up because of money. History is full with similar stories, where successful partnerships dissolved because of money. Beatles, for instance, Pink Floyd, in music; in TV just recently Harry Shearer, a voice actor, left the Simpsons, leaving the future of the characters in the series he voiced up in the air. In movies, financial considerations are the reason why many popular franchises get rebooted, like Spider Man, for instance, which is currently casting the lead for the third time in recent history.
What remains is the enormous legacy of Martin and Lewis, perhaps the most successful comedy duo ever. They entered the history of show business together and will forever be linked, despite the falling out they went through. In recent times, all Lewis and Martin movies are being digitally restored for release on BluRay. The still existing demand for their comedy is a testimony to their genius and timeless quality they had.