PRODUCER AND STAR JERRY LEWIS SOUGHT OUT ARTIST FOR 1960 COMEDY
By Mary Adair Dockery
In 1959, Hollywood legend Jerry Lewis was working behind the scenes to market his 1960 production Cinderfella. A main goal, the comedian and actor says, was hiring preeminent artist Norman Rockwell to illustrate his movie poster.
“My whole idea was to get an icon in the world of art and have that icon sell the movie for me,” Lewis (b.1926) tells Heritage Auctions. “And Rockwell brought that.”
The movie performed beyond expectations, and Lewis says Rockwell’s art was a key factor. “We figured the picture would gross about $7 million domestic,” Lewis says. “The minute we put Rockwell’s name to it, the figure became $16 million. When it went out, it did about $5.5 million more than that. … We really, really banged the ball out of the park.”
Rockwell’s original Cinderfella movie poster art, consigned directly by Lewis, is featured in Heritage’s American Art auction scheduled for May 7, 2016. It’s expected to realize at least $300,000.
“The present work embodies the artistic collaboration of two American legends, illustrator Norman Rockwell and comedian Jerry Lewis,” says Heritage Auctions’ Senior Vice President Ed Jaster. “It has remained in Mr. Lewis’ collection since Rockwell presented it to him in 1960.”
Rockwell’s art appeared on all promotional materials for the movie, including posters, magazine tearsheets, newspaper ads, lobby cards and the sheet music cover for “Let Me Be a People,” a song performed by Lewis in the film.
In his prolific career, Rockwell (1894-1978) executed only a handful of illustrations for films, including the poster art for The Song of Bernadette (1943), which Heritage sold for $605,000 in 2013.