Bill Richmond, Jerry Lewis' Screenwriting Partner on Seven of the Star's Movies, Dies at 94

Bill Richmond Headshot P 2016
Tom Keller

Later, he won three Emmy Awards for his work on 'The Carol Burnett Show.'

Bill Richmond, a former jazz and big band drummer who partnered with Jerry Lewis to write the scripts for such Lewis-starring films as The Nutty Professor, The Errand Boy and The Family Jewels, has died. He was 94.

Richmond, who went on to share Emmy Awards for his work in 1974, 1975 and 1978 as a writer on CBS' The Carol Burnett Show, died June 4 at his home in Calabasas, Calif., the WGA West announced.

During a stint performing with Frank Sinatra and bandleader Nelson Riddle, Richmond caught the attention of Lewis. He hired the drummer as a backup musician for his stage act, then tapped Richmond to co-write The Ladies Man (1961) at Paramount.

“I could only imagine him going to whoever was running the studio at the time: ‘Jerry, what’s your next picture going to be?’ The Ladies Man. ‘And who’s going to write it?’ ‘My drummer! You got a problem with that?’ That was his attitude,” Richmond said in a 2011 interview.

Richmond was supposed to work with Mel Brooks on that screenplay, but when "egos clashed," Lewis stepped in for Brooks to co-write the comedy about a broken-hearted man (Lewis) who finds a job in a house filled with beautiful women.

Richmond went on to collaborate with Lewis on the screenplays for The Errand Boy (1961), The Nutty Professor (1963), The Patsy (1964), The Family Jewels (1965), The Big Mouth (1967) and Cracking Up (1983).

Richmond also made several cameo appearances in Lewis’ films — he portrayed Stan Laurel in The Bellboy (1960) and was a piano player in The Patsy — and wrote for NBC's The Jerry Lewis Show for two seasons from 1967-69.

“My writing partner happens to be a major movie star — a powerhouse in the industry in those days as far as box office," said Richmond. "He’s arguably my best friend. He not only made me a writer but handed me a career.”

For The Carol Burnett Show, Richmond received six Emmy nominations from 1974 through 1978 and during his career also landed WGA noms for his work on the Burnett show, The Flip Wilson Show and The Tim Conway Show.

His TV résumé also included I Dream of Jeannie, Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In — where he and Alan Katz were in charge of writing the hosts' monologues —  All in the Family, Three’s Company, Welcome Back, Kotter, What’s Happening!!, The John Larroquette Show, Scorch, Charlie & Company, Double Trouble and Blossom (as supervising producer).

Richmond retired in 1995.

Born in Kentucky on Dec. 19, 1921, Richmond was raised in Rockford, Ill. Following military service as a Marine Corps fighter pilot in World War II, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue his dream of making a living as a jazz musician.

As a drummer from 1946-60, Richmond became a sought-after studio session player and toured nationally. In addition to Sinatra and Riddle, he worked with such music icons as Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Nat King Cole, Sammy Davis Jr., Mel Torme, Chet Baker, Benny Carter, Harry James and Les Brown.

Survivors include his wife Saria, four children, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Mobile Village Kitchen.