A new short documentary and exposé published by Vanity Fair accuses Jerry Lewis of sexual harassment and assault. The interviews with actresses such as Karen Sharpe and Hope Holiday were conducted by Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering, the duo who tackled Mia Farrow’s allegations against Woody Allen in the HBO documentary series “Allen v Farrow” and the directors of the Oscar-nominated “The Hunting Ground.” Lewis was one of the most popular performers in the world in the 1950s and ’60s, first as part of a comic team with Dean Martin and later as the star of hits such as “The Nutty Professor” and “Cinderfella.” He died in 2017 at the age of 91.
Sharpe met the actor during his commercial zenith. She was cast as Lewis’ love interest in the 1964 comedy “The Disorderly Orderly.” The actress said she was being fitted for costumes in Lewis’ office when he ordered everyone but her out of the room. Lewis allegedly “started moving in on me,” Sharpe said. “He grabbed me. He began to fondle me. He unzipped his pants. Quite frankly, I was dumbstruck.”
“I put my hand up and said, ‘Wait a minute. I don’t know if this is a requirement for your leading ladies, but this is something I don’t do,’” Sharpe added. “I could see that he was furious. I got the feeling that that never really happened to him.”
Sharpe could not quit the film because she had already signed a contract. When she returned to set days later, the entire crew was asked not to speak to her except the director and assistant director. The actress said Lewis also mandated he not rehearse with her. The comedian did not interact with her or acknowledge her unless they were on camera together for a scene.
Hope Holiday was fresh off a breakthrough role in Billy Wilder’s “The Apartment” when she was cast in Lewis’ 1961 movie “The Ladies Man.” On the first day of work, Holiday said Lewis invited her into his dressing room and pressed a button that locked the door shut.
“Then he starts to talk to me: ‘Y’know, you 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,’” Holiday said. “Then he starts to talk to me about sex…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. I was frightened…I just sat there and I wanted to leave so badly.”
Watch the full documentary and read the exposé in its entirety on Vanity Fair’s website.