We’ll finally see Jerry Lewis’ infamous Holocaust film The Day the Clown Cried (in 10 years)


The Day the Clown Cried is one of the most infamous movies ever made. Jerry Lewis shot the controversial Holocaust film in 1972 and never released it. The plot concerns a Jewish circus clown in Nazi Germany who is sent to Auschwitz and ultimately used to lure Jewish children to their deaths in the gas chambers.

Since 1972, The Day the Clown Cried was shelved and sealed away, with only a few people seeing bootlegs of the film. Actor Harry Shearer and actress/singer Joan O’Brien have both seen the movie and classified The Day the Clown Cried as a stunning disaster of epic proportions.

Turns out we’ll get to finally see this infamous movie. The Library of Congress received a copy of the film from Jerry Lewis himself. There’s a catch, though: Lewis has said that The Day the Clown Cried cannot be screened for at least 10 years. Lewis is 89 years old, and I assume he’d rather the film be a posthumous release. Better that than having to field a barrage of questions about a movie that may very well be one of the biggest comedic misfires in cinematic history.

Yes, it was supposed to be a comedy, albeit a bleak one. In a 1992 article in Spy Magazine, Shearer said of The Day the Clown Cried:

With most of these kinds of things, you find that the anticipation, or the concept, is better than the thing itself. But seeing this film was really awe-inspiring, in that you are rarely in the presence of a perfect object. This was a perfect object. This 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.

So, we’ll eventually get to watch a legendary, unseen oddity, and I am fascinated by the prospect of seeing it. The Day the Clown Cried is one of those movies I’ve been aware of since the early 2000s, so the fact it’s going to eventually see the light of day took me aback, ditto the fact that the print is from Lewis.

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[The LA Times via The Playlist]



Hubert Vigilla
Brooklyn-based fiction writer, film critic, and long-time editor and contributor for Flixist. A booster of all things passionate and idiosyncratic.