The Real Reason Jerry Lewis Stopped Working With Dean Martin

On Tuesday, July 24 1956, Jerry Lewis crossed the hallway to the room of Dean Martin, his friend and comedy partner of 10 years. Lewis wanted some ice before their final performances. The two wished each other a good show and Lewis left the room. But when he left, Lewis thought his heart would break. "I was losing my best friend and I didn't know why," he wrote in his 2007 memoir Dean and Me (A Love Story). Although they were both sad to see it happen, Martin and Lewis knew that "there was no getting around it: The time had come to call it a day."

According to Biography, the devilishly funny duo met at a gig one night and hit it off right away, taking turns joking around with the other during their respective acts. They teamed up soon afterwards, with Dean playing the straight man to Lewis's clown. The Martin and Lewis duo became a household name with a national radio program in 1949, 16 films between 1949-56, and a network TV variety show, The Colgate Comedy Hour.

Martin and Lewis's surprise reunion came two decades later

After the night of their last three shows in Atlantic City, another 20 years would pass before Martin and Lewis got back together, according to Country Living. And they didn't even mean for it to happen.

Lewis hosted an annual telethon on Labor Day to raise funds for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. In 1976, a mutual friend of the former comedy duo, Frank Sinatra, arranged for Martin to appear unannounced on the telethon for an unexpected reunion. "You son of a b****," Lewis was heard mumbling to Sinatra, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The old friends hugged it out for the cameras and then fell right back into the jocular mode of friendly funnymen that defined their joint career decades earlier.

"You know, it seems like we haven't seen each other for 20 years," said Martin, who had gone on to find stardom with Sinatra and the other members of the Rat Pack. "Well, you know," said Lewis without missing a step, "there was all those rumors about our breaking up — and then when I started the show and you weren't there, I believed it." But even a sneaky, grinning Sinatra wasn't enough to mend old wounds. The two wouldn't truly make amends until the death of Martin's son in a plane crash in 1987, and their friendship, until Martin's death in 1995, could only be described as casual at best.