“The Day The Clown Cried!”
Fans of the most misguided films ever made are in a frenzy today with this news from Lou Lumenick at the New York Post:
You’ll finally be able to see Jerry Lewis’ Holocaust film — in 2024!
Here is how Lumenick reports the news:
A bombshell for Jerry Lewis fans and other cinephiles was buried in a Los Angeles Times feature story last week — he’s donated his legendarily-unseen Holocaust concentration-camp movie to the Library of Congress.
Now film archivists at the library have exclusively provided details on their prize acquisition to The Post, including why Lewis backed down from his longtime opposition to showing “The Day the Clown Cried,’’ and precisely when and where that will happen. It won’t be until June 2024, and it won’t be easy unless you happen to live in or near Northern Virginia.
Rob Stone, the library’s motion-picture curator, says Lewis, now 89, was approached a few years ago about donating his vast archives. The deal — including “thousands’’ of reels of film — was consummated in June 2014, but the library generally waits until cataloging is complete before making an announcement of an acquisition.
Because Lewis’ donation is so huge, that inventory won’t be done for another “two or three months,’’ he says. But because Stone’s offhand comment to some visitors at a library event has made its way into print, he and Mike Mashon — head of the moving-image section at the library’s Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation — agreed to talk about the controversial “The Day the Clown Cried,’’ which was shot in 1972 and has never been released in theaters or on video.
“So Drastically Wrong!”
One of the few people who has seen even a rough cut of film — comedian and voice-over artist Harry Shearer of “The Simpsons’’ — told Spy Magazine in 1992 that the movie “is so drastically wrong, its pathos and its comedy are so wildly misplaced, that you could not, in your fantasy of what it might be like, improve on what it really is. ‘Oh My God!’ — that’s all you can say.”
Lewis seemed to confirm that assessment in a press conference at the Cannes Film Festival in 2013, the same year that behind-the-scenes footage from a Flemish TV documentary surfaced on YouTube. “It was bad, and it was bad because I lost the magic,’’ he said. “No one will ever see it, because I’m embarrassed at the poor work.”
Beginning in June 2024, Mashon says, “The Day the Clown Cried’’ will be available to scholars for viewing in the research center at the 45-acre Packard Campus in Culpeper, Va., and will be shown to the public in the 205-seat theater.
“But that doesn’t mean we’re going to be releasing it on DVD in 10 years,’’ Mashon says. “The copyright and all commercial rights still reside with the Lewis estate.’’ And even if the library wanted to loan a restored print for showing at a museum like MoMA, “We could only do that with permission from his estate.’’
Kudos to Lumenick for the great reporting – read the entire story here:
And that’s just the latest news related to this fascinating, misplaced film:
The Day the Clown Cried. That’s right, the internet went wild nice before over the legendary, never-released footage from master Comedian Jerry Lewis!
Here is the story of this legendary, never seen film: Jerry Lewis starred and directed this 1972 lost film, which is all about a circus clown who is imprisoned in a Nazi camp. He entertains the children who are there, and in the rumored finale, finally leads them in full clown makeup into the gas chambers.
“Lost Clown Footage!”
Here is a clip now available on youtube – we will see how long it stays available:
Jerry Lewis was one of America’s most revered comedians – with such legendary performances as “The Nutty Professor” and of course, his work with Dean Martin. But it seems he wanted to be taken more seriously as an Artist…
But Wait…Doesn’t “Clown” Sound Familiar?
By now you are thinking: isn’t this legendary “lost” film somewhat similar to “Life Is Beautiful”, Italian rubber-faced funnyman Roberto Benigni’s critically-acclaimed 1997 film?
As reviews said at the time: “Benigni accomplishes the impossible in his World War II comedy Life Is Beautiful: he shapes a simultaneously hilarious and haunting comedy out of the tragedy of the Holocaust.” And he won Best Actor for it! So why not Jerry?
This is known as one of the worst ideas for a movie of all time – so why has the similar “Life Is Beautiful” been so acclaimed? It’s an interesting question to ponder as you imagine “what if ‘the day the clown cried’ was ever finished?”
I wrote a lengthy story about the most misguided films of all time – and this was on the list – because it is difficult to imagine how legendary comedian Jerry Lewis could make a film about leading children into the gas chambers during the holocaust…but as I said, “Life Is Beautiful” has a similar “idea” driving it…
There have been a few stories written by people who CLAIM to have seen it, or who say that Lewis is still bitter that nobody took him seriously about the film or his intent…
Congrats To Daily Grindhouse!
This terrific website is devoted to exploitation films and a celebration of the “grindhouse” era of film – I’ve also written a ton of stories about this genre – go to my home page and put that word in and start the celebration!
The Daily Grindhouse has a great writeup all about this amazing footage – where it came from and what it means….click the link to read the whole story!
The Ten Most Misguided Films Of All Time!
And if you want to see my entire list, click the link below and be ready to be stunned!
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