New sexual harassment and sexual assault allegations mount against Jerry Lewis

CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 23: Jerry Lewis attends the Jerry Lewis hommage and 'Max Rose' Premiere at The 66th Annucal Cannes Film Festival at Palais des Festivals on May 23, 2013 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images)

Several women have come forward with new allegations of sexual assault against the late actor and filmmaker Jerry Lewis. A new report from Vanity Fair details assaults on the set of several of Lewis’ films made while under contract to Paramount Pictures in the ‘60s. 

The new details were gathered, in part, by filmmakers Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering (Allen v. Farrow), who began working on a documentary about the actor’s troubling behavior in 2017. They spoke to actresses Hope Holiday, Renée Taylor, Lainie Kazan, and Karen Sharpe, now 87, who worked alongside Lewis on his 1964 film The Disorderly Orderly. Though directed by Frank Tashlin, Sharpe details Lewis’ influence and control over every part of the film, including who could speak to her. 

Cast as the titular orderly’s love interest, Sharpe shares that Lewis not only assaulted her during production, but then punished her for rejecting his advances. Lewis’ retaliation included refusing to work with Sharpe whenever cameras weren’t rolling, and forbidding the crew from speaking to her.

The report relays statements by other actresses who suffered under Lewis at the time, including Connie Stevens, Anna Maria Alberghetti, and Jill St. John, who said of her work with Lewis on Who’s Minding the Store?:

“one should not confuse the artist with the man. Making the film was an extremely unhappy and disappointing experience. Rather than detail my previous bitterness about filming with someone no longer on this planet, and who cannot rebut, I prefer to say that a good time was not had by all.”

The assaults all occurred while the comedian was married to Patti Palmer, whom Lewis wed in 1944, and with whom he had six children, before she divorced him in 1980. Lewis was forever outspoken about his sexual proclivities on set, even bragging in a 2011 interview with GQ of a relationship with Marilyn Monroe.

Lewis later married Sandra Pitnick in 1983. The couple adopted a child together, and remained married until Lewis’ death in 2017.

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Autumn Wright

Autumn Wright is an anime journalist, which is a real job. As a writer at We Got This Covered, they cover the biggest new seasonal releases, interview voice actors, and investigate labor practices in the global industry. Autumn can be found biking to queer punk through Brooklyn, and you can read more of their words in Polygon, WIRED, The Washington Post, and elsewhere.