Speed Reads

allegations

Late comedy icon Jerry Lewis accused of sexual harassment and assault

Late comedian Jerry Lewis has been accused by former co-stars of sexual harassment and assault. 

In a new Vanity Fair piece and documentary called "The Dark Side of a Hollywood Icon," actresses who worked with Lewis spoke with Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering, the filmmaking team behind the Woody Allen documentary Allen v. Farrow, about their experiences with him. Lewis, the star of classic comedies like The Nutty Professor, died in 2017. 

Karen Sharpe, who starred with Lewis in 1964's The Disorderly Orderly, alleged that the comedian once "grabbed me" and "started moving in on me" in his office. 

"He began to fondle me," she said. "He unzipped his pants. Quite frankly, I was dumbstruck. I put my hand up and said, 'Wait a minute. I don't know if this is a requirement for your leading ladies, but this is something I don't do.' I could see that he was furious. I got the feeling that that never really happened to him." 

Hope Holiday, who starred with Lewis in 1961's The Ladies Man, also recounted being called to his dressing room, where he allegedly pressed a button to lock her inside. Lewis then started to "talk dirty to me" and began to masturbate, she alleged. 

"I was frightened," she said. "...I just sat there and I wanted to leave so badly." 

Holiday said her friends at the time suggested she report Lewis to the Screen Actors Guild, but she feared potential career repercussions because "he was very big at Paramount."

Another actress, Jill St. John, said she didn't want to speak ill of the dead but that she had an "extremely unhappy and disappointing experience" working with Lewis, while Connie Stevens, who starred with Lewis in two films, said, "I had heard that he was pretty rough on females. He wasn't on me. Consequently, I was the only actress at his funeral." Read the full piece at Vanity Fair.