The Unknown Jerry

Home Movies and More from the Jerry Lewis Collection at the Library of Congress

Oct 2–11, 2018

Jerry Lewis as the Nutty Professor on The Jerry Lewis Show, NBC, 1967–69. Courtesy NBC/Photofest

Although his official debut as a filmmaker wouldn’t occur until The Bellboy in 1960, Jerry Lewis actually began directing movies soon after his arrival in Hollywood in 1949. Working with a group of close industry friends, Lewis wrote, photographed, and directed a series of 16mm films that pushed the definition of “home movies” to its limits, featuring synchronized sound, professional acting, and fully developed storylines.

Presented as “Gar-Ron Productions”—the name came from Jerry and Patti Lewis’s two oldest sons, Gary and Ron—these fledgling efforts featured the Lewis’s close friends Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis, Jerry’s screen partner Dean Martin, writers Harry Crane and Danny Arnold (later of Barney Miller fame), and a rotating cast of family members and Pacific Palisades neighbors. Made between 1951 and 1955, these neophyte works reveal an intuitive understanding of framing and cutting that would blossom with Lewis’s great feature films of the 1960s (a sampling of which are included here).

Newly preserved by the Library of Congress, these films are being shown here for the first time in their entirety.

Organized by Dave Kehr, Curator, Department of Film. Special thanks to Rob Stone, Moving Image Curator, The Library of Congress; Chris Lewis, American Wheelchair Mission; and Jamie Lee Curtis.


If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

MoMA licenses archival audio and select out of copyright film clips from our film collection. At this time, MoMA produced video cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. All requests to license archival audio or out of copyright film clips should be addressed to Scala Archives at [email protected]. Motion picture film stills cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For access to motion picture film stills for research purposes, please contact the Film Study Center at [email protected]. For more information about film loans and our Circulating Film and Video Library, please visit

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication, please email [email protected]. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to [email protected].


This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to [email protected].