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Back in 1972, Jerry Lewis made a film entitled The Day The Clown Cried. Not exactly an intriguing character examination of a depressed clown, the film instead starred Lewis as a German clown who, after mocking Hitler, was forced to entertain children before they went into the gas chambers. Unsurprisingly, after filming it, Lewis never wanted it to see the light of day. But it has now been acquired by the Library Of Congress, which means that it might.
A recent Los Angeles Times article revealed that the sole copy of the film has now been acquired by the Library Of Congress based in Washington D.C. It seems as though The Day The Clown Cried was part of a large collection of Jerry Lewis films that have been acquired.
This is bad news for Lewis, who has widely stated that no-one will ever see The Day The Clown Cried because, in his opinion, it’s awful. But those of you who think that the Library Of Congress is about to break the heart of an 89-year-old man by screening the hugely divisive, but nevertheless infinitely interesting, film, should think again. That’s because they’ve agreed that they won’t screen The Day The Clown Cried for an additional 10 years.
The only footage of The Day The Clown Cried that has ever emerged has come courtesy of a making of, which you can view below:
Those of you who plan on waiting a decade to see The Day The Clown Cried should probably look away, because I’m about to unleash some SPOILERS on the film below.
Are they gone? Good. So, in the film Lewis stars as Helmut Doork, a washed-up German clown in Nazi Germany who after drunkenly mocking Adolf Hitler in a bar is imprisoned by the Gestapo. While behind bars, Helmut tries to perform for his fellow inmates, but is repeatedly beaten.
Then, after accidentally making the Jewish children prisoners laugh, the SS guards decide to use Doork to guide them onto trains, one of which leads to Auschwitz. Eventually he is then used to lead the Jewish children into the gas chambers. Ultimately the film ends with Doork begging to spend the final moments with the children as they head into the showers. He then decides to remain with them and entertain them as the gas rains in.
First and foremost: how the hell did Jerry Lewis ever think this film would work? Well, because Lewis wanted to try and do something that would truly portray the horrors of the Holocaust. In the end, he failed.
And to his eternal credit, he has since gone above and beyond to make sure that The Day The Clown Cried never sees the light of day. But despite Lewis’ objections, cinephiles across the globe will now be counting down the days to see how truly despicable The Day The Clown Cried really is.
PS: Those of you who want to know more should click over to this SPY article from 1992 on the film. It’s both insightful and heart-breaking.