Tuesday, Mar. 01, 2011

Jerry Lewis, 1959 Oscars

As it turns out, the third time isn't always a charm. Funnyman Jerry Lewis had hosted the Academy Awards twice before he took on the 1959 show, along with Bob Hope, David Niven, Sir Laurence Olivier, Tony Randall and Mort Sahl. Remarkably, despite a plethora of hosts the broadcast was actually 20 minutes too short: the finale, with stars singing "There's No Business Like Show Business," came too soon. Lewis tried valiantly to fill the remaining airtime, but, notes TIME's Richard Corliss, "Until Nixon's 18½, Lewis' 20 were the minutes that lived in pop-culture infamy. Catastrophe would be one way to describe it. Another would be great live television — the spectacle of tuxedoed Hollywood pratfalling into humiliation, and handing the banana peel of blame to the one man who tried to keep the viewers entertained." No business like show business, indeed.