It was 70 years ago today, on July 25 1946, that Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis made their debut as a comedy team at the 500 Club in Atlantic City. Prior to teaming up Dean Martin was a nightclub singer while Jerry Lewis was a comic among whose schticks was lip-synching to records. The two met in 1945 while they were both performing at the Glass Hat Club in New York City.
The debut of Martin and Lewis did not go over particularly well that night at the 500 Club. In fact, it went so badly that the owner of the 500 Club, Paul "Skinny" D'Amato, threatened to fire them if their second show that night was not better than their first. Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis then wholly redid their act, doing away with many of the scripted gags they had used in their first show and relying more on improvisation. Their second show that night received a much better reception than the first.
It was not long before Martin and Lewis were performing at clubs all along the East Coast. On June 20 1948 they appeared on the first edition of a brand new TV show, Toast of the Town (later to be renamed for its host, The Ed Sullivan Show). On August 3 1948 they appeared on Texaco Star Theatre Starring Milton Berle. By 1949 Martin and Lewis had their own radio show on NBC. That same year they made their feature film debut in My Friend Irma (1949).
Sadly, Martin and Lewis would not last. After a successful radio show, sixteen successful films, and numerous television appearances, tensions between Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis reached such a point that the two were constantly arguing. On July 25 1956, ten years exactly after their debut as a comedy team, Dean Martin split with Jerry Lewis. Their seventeenth and final film together, Hollywood or Bust, was released several months later, on December 6 1956.
While the team of Martin and Lewis had ended, they would each go onto highly successful solo careers. Dean Martin not only became a popular recording artist, but also starred in a number of movies and had his own long running variety show. Jerry Lewis made several successful comedy films. Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis would eventually reconcile, appearing together on Jerry Lewis's Muscular Dystrophy Association telethon on Labour Day 1976. The two appeared together one last time at Bally's Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on June 7 1989. Dean Martin was performing there and Jerry Lewis showed up for Dean's 72nd birthday. Sadly, Dean Martin died on December 25 1995, ending any chance of the world again seeing the team of Martin and Lewis perform live.