Posted on Sunday, August 11th, 2013 by Russ Fischer
In the early ’70s, Jerry Lewis directed and starred in The Day the Clown Cried, which would go on to become of the most notorious “lost” films in cinema history. In fact the film isn’t really lost — it exists, and Lewis has a copy. Harry Shearer is among the very few people that claim to have seen it, and Lewis says it will never, ever be released.
But this isn’t just a Jerry Lewis movie. It’s the Jerry Lewis Holocaust movie, where he plays a German clown arrested for ragging on Hitler, and who ends up in a concentration camp for political prisoners before being shipped to Auschwitz. There he’s used to lead kids into the gas chamber, and Lewis finally joins the kids inside the room, giving his last performance . That’s some seriously dark, weird stuff, and it is reportedly even weirder to watch than it sounds. According to Shearer, the idea may have been to release it in a string of family-oriented theaters that Lewis owned at the time.
The movie has been completely suppressed over the years, with varying reasons given for its disappearance. But now some new behind the scenes footage has shown up online, and it’s probably as much of the movie as you’ll ever see. Check it out below.
Devin at Badass Digest came across this clip. Via the comments in his piece, here’s a better quality version, albeit a non-embeddable one.
This is truly a legendary relic of Hollywood. Below is a great interview between Howard Stern and Harry Shearer, where Shearer talks about the time he saw the movie twenty years ago, via an illicit tape copy.
I don’t think it’s referenced below, but Shearer’s famous quote about the movie to Spy Magazine was “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.”
And this is the previous behind the scenes look, which offers less than the clip that showed up today.
Finally, here’s Lewis talking about the film earlier this year, explaining why this is probably as much of the movie as we’ll ever see.