Jerry Lewis Accused of Sexual Assault and Harassment by Multiple Actresses

Multiple actresses who worked with the late Jerry Lewis accused the comedian of sexual assault and harassment on multiple occasions. The actresses, including Karen Sharpe and Hope Holiday, described disturbing encounters with the Nutty Professor star, who died in 2017 at age 91. The stars spoke with Vanity Fair, as well as Allen v. Farrow filmmakers Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering.

Sharpe worked with Lewis on The Disorderly Orderly. When she met Lewis at the mansion where the movie was being filmed, he "started moving in on me," she claimed, adding that he "grabbed" and "began to fondle" her. He also "unzipped his pants," leaving her "dumbstruck." She stopped him from going further, and he was "furious... I got the feeling that that never really happened to him." Sharpe considered quitting the movie, but Lewis reminded her that she signed the contract. She made the movie, but she only rehearsed with his stand-in and said Lewis told the crew to never speak with her directly.

Holiday, best known today for her role in Billy Wilder's The Apartment, told Vanity Fair Lewis locked her in a dressing room with him when he offered her a part in The Ladies Man. He told her she "could be very attractive, but you wear pants all the time. I have never seen you in a skirt. You have nice legs and you've got good boobs." Lewis began talking to her about sex, and Holiday tried to cut it short by telling him she had to meet her boyfriend.

That didn't stop Lewis, Holiday said. "He starts to talk dirty to me and as he's talking, the pants open, and the ugly thing came out and he starts to jerk off," she told Vanity Fair. "I was frightened... I just sat there and I wanted to leave so badly." The next day on the set, Holiday slapped Lewis harder than she needed to for a scene. He thought she did it on purpose and never spoke to her again.

Holiday's friends suggested she report Lewis to the Screen Actors Guild, but she was scared that Lewis could blacklist her. "He was very big at Paramount," Holiday recalled. "I was under contract to him and to Paramount, and I didn't want to shake the boat. Y'know, I figured I'll just keep my mouth shut."

Cinderfella star Anna Maria Alberghetti claimed Lewis "came on to me constantly" when they worked together, but she refused his advances. She believes Lewis didn't hurt her career because she was already an established star. Lianie Kazan also claimed Lews made advances and was devastated years later when she was introduced as "Lainie Kazan and her cantaloupes" during one of Lewis' telethons.

"He really came on to me, but he [also] wanted me to feel like gravel," Kazan recalled of her meeting with Lewis in the late 1960s. "He wanted me to feel less than... Then he said, 'You know, I had a dream about you last night and that's why I'm here. I want you to star in my movie.' "

The interviews by Dick and Ziering appear in a short film on Vanity Fair's website. The stars said they have seen real progress thanks to the #MeToo movement. "These guys have no choice. It'll be the end of their careers if they keep up this nonsense," Holiday said. "Now women feel they have a place, and if we keep fighting and open our mouths and let them have what they deserve, then we've got a chance. We won't be treated like secondhand nothings."

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, you can contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or go to rainn.org.