In 1950, entertainer Jerry Lewis moved into a home on Amalfi Drive in the Riviera. He purchased the ranch-style, sprawling single-story house with his wife Patti, a former big band singer. His address number was 1048 Amalfi and it took up nearly three-quarters of an acre.
Built in 1936, it was an all-American style house that cost the couple $65,000. That was nearly seven times the $9,564 median home value in California in 1950, according to historical census data. The house was photographed for at least two published postcards.
As one postcard showed, the Lewis house had a combination red brick and white picket fence fronting it. Passersby could view plenty of lawn and hedge greenery out in front of the home. Another postcard view shows a row of colorful flowers just behind the front yard fence. The house had a basketball hoop above the garage, evidencing that kids were part of the household. A bay window with white trim was out front between the driveway and front door.
Lewis spoke of the home as “a dream house, with toddler swings in the backyard, a swimming pool, lemon and orange trees.” At the time of Lewis’ October move-in, the funnyman’s life was like a dream too, a fast-moving one.
In his personal life, he and Patti had a couple of kids – Gary and Ronald – running around the huge 4,600-plus square-foot home by then. Gary and Ronald would gain two more brothers – Scott and Christopher – while growing up in the Riviera-area house.
Today, the home is listed as having nine bedrooms while some biographies speak of 12 when Lewis bought it. Either way, the house gave the kids plenty of space to roughhouse together. A vacant lot next door would provide land for which the Lewis family would build a baseball field where their kids played ball.
Befitting of his status as a film, stage, radio and television performer, Lewis had hired hands, such as a cook and butler, to help maintain the household. A maid was in order as well to assist the family with cleaning chores.
By this time, Patti had long ago given up her career to become a homemaker for what would eventually be six sons for the couple.
Living in the Palisades also matched Lewis’s growing star status. Ronald and Nancy Reagan lived up the street. Also sharing Amalfi Drive with the Lewis clan was British actor David Niven whose Pink House was a little less than a mile up the road. The rest of Lewis’s neighbors must have enjoyed being near him, considering that he became the Honorary Mayor of Pacific Palisades in 1953.
While only in his mid-20s in 1950, Lewis was no newcomer to the entertainment business. He was raised in a vaudeville family and started performing in front of people at the age of 5. He developed his own act as a teenager.
“I was 16 and drawing as much as $150 a week playing Loew’s presentation houses in towns like Baltimore, Philadelphia and Boston, traveling the circuit,” Lewis wrote in Jerry Lewis in Person, a book he penned with Herb Gluck.
By 1950, Lewis was already several years into his legendary partnership with fellow entertainer Dean Martin. Lewis and Martin may have been the most-celebrated comedy team in stage or film to date. The duo may have also been the most-profitable pairing. With Lewis playing the “comedic foil” to Martin’s “straight man,” the pair reaped millions of dollars for themselves.
In 1954, Lewis’s home was the setting for a television interview Martin and he gave for Person to Person with Edward R. Murrow. The TV chat by the duo was partly done to promote their new comedy film released that same year called Living it Up and partly to air how the team managed the challenges of staying together for so long.
Lewis’s humor was on full display during the show. Host Murrow noted a library of books behind Lewis and asked the comedian what he’d been recently reading.
Lewis replied, “I don’t like books, they don’t have pictures in them.”
Halfway through the same interview, the camera followed Lewis and Martin from the main house to the good-sized playhouse he had put into the backyard. Once inside, Lewis pointed out to Murrow and his TV audience the many awards displayed on a wall that were given to him and Martin for the many charities they had helped out over the years. The playhouse was where Lewis worked and did some relaxing with his family and friends.
In 1956, Lewis’s partnership with Martin was over. By 1958, the man who would become known as the King of Comedy had purchased a home on St. Cloud Road in the community of Bel-Air. And while his marriage to Patti did not last, Lewis’s audience appeal remains. At 88, this former Palisadian continues performing on stage.
Michael Oldham, co-author of Movie Star Homes: The Famous to the Forgotten and author of the novel The Valentino Formula, can be reached at HollywoodLandings@sbcglobal.net.
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