The Day The Clown Cried (Unreleased Jerry Lewis Film; 1972)


The Day the Clown Cried
Still image from the film.
Still image from the film.
Status Partially Found

In 1971, Jerry Lewis and Nathan Wachsberger began producing a film titled The Day the Clown Cried, which was quite controversial due to its content; that being of a Clown who becomes a prisoner of war in a Nazi concentration camp for speaking badly of Adolf Hitler. The plot is incredibly dark and tragic, that being another reason for its controversial nature, despite only having been seen by a handful of people. The script was originally written almost a decade earlier, in 1962, by Joan O'Brien and Charles Denton, although it was eventually re-written from the ground up by Lewis, prior to the beginning of the film's production.

The production of the film was riddled with issues, namely being that the budget for the film ran out before its completion. A feud ensued between Lewis and Wachberger, which ended with Lewis taking a copy of the film so that it wouldn't get lost, and Wachberger keeping the original negatives, planning to finish the film himself. Nothing ever came from Wachberger; though Lewis continued working on the film, stating in 1973 that the film was in final production, and had even been invited to play at the Cannes Film Festival, after which time it was to be released in America. To this day, the film has not been released, and has become somewhat infamous amongst film buffs/historians.

In 1979, comedian Harry Shearer was shown a rough cut of the film, later recalling the film in a 1992 magazine article and saying "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."

Several screenshots from the film and photos from the set have surfaced, as well as a early draft of Lewis' re-written script from 1971,[1] a brief behind-the-scenes clip and, most recently, a half-hour, 1972 Flemish behind-the-scenes documentary on the production, featuring actual takes of a scene from the film (one of which would have presumably been used in the final product). In 2001, while giving a motivational speech, Lewis was asked about a potential release for The Day the Clown Cried, replying "none of your goddamn business!". However, when asked the question again by an audience member during a live 2013 interview,[2] he revealed that the film would never receive a release, the reason being that he was embarrassed by how it turned out.

French film director Xavier Giannoli publicly revealed in 2012 that he is in possession of a 35mm, incomplete (1h 15m) copy of the film and has stated that he has held a few private screenings of it, perhaps most notably for French film critic Jean-Michel Frodon, who wrote about it in his 2013 publication The Last Laugh: Strange Humors of Cinema.[3][4][5]

In 2015, the LA Times reported that a copy of the film had recently been donated to the Library of Congress by Jerry Lewis, but with the condition that the film not be shown for 10 years. [6]

On February 3, 2016, German public TV ARD aired a 2-hour documentary called "Der Clown". German film maker Eric Friedler shows interviews, original footage and re-staged scenes from the original scripts with some Swedish actors who participated in Lewis' movie. Finally, the film shows the first full interview with Lewis about his work after 43 years. Later in February 2016, the discovery of an unfinished documentary by Traces Films was mentioned in several relevant YouTube comment threads. The documentary makers are Australian based and posted a six minute teaser in 2012 which includes exceptionally candid and emotional interview excerpts with Jerry Lewis discussing his involvement with making "The Day the Clown Cried". The documentary makers have refused to make any detailed comment other than state the film has reached a critical juncture in its production process.

On June 16, 2016, roughly 30 minutes of footage from the film was discovered on Vimeo. The footage includes dubbed film scenes from a German documentary about the film, while other sections are filled in with title cards as well as certain scenes from Patton Oswalt’s live staging of the script. Despite all the missing material, it’s far and away the most comprehensive assemblage yet seen of the project.


Videos

Short behind-the-scenes clip.
The full Flemish behind-the-scenes documentary (courtesy of Uncle Sporkums).
A collection of stills from the film (updated 11 May '14, courtesy of Uncle Sporkums).

References

  1. mega.co.nz download link for the 1971 early film script (.pdf). Retrieved 21 Sep '13.
  2. 2013 live interview with Jerry Lewis. Retrieved 29 May '13.
  3. French interview from 2012 in which Giannoli claims to own a copy of the film. Retrieved 24 Aug '13.
  4. Translation of the first few minutes of the aforementioned Giannoli interview, in which he discusses the film (courtesy of conductivor). Retrieved 24 Aug '13.
  5. Extract from the 2013 publication The Last Laugh: Strange Humors of Cinema; chapter on The Day the Clown Cried. Retrieved 11 Mar '14.
  6. Silent movie buffs search the screen for clues to origins of 'Mostly Lost' films; LA Times. Retreived 5 Aug '15.

Comments


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SomeRealGuy

9 months ago
Score 0++
Well, I'll be back here in 2025.
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Reynard

9 months ago
Score 0++
Would you have a coffee in the meantime?
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Gojirob

7 months ago
Score -1++
Animaniacs reffed this in an episode where the sibs harassed a Lewis-like director.
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Mrkoolnerd

5 months ago
Score 0++
this movie is also talked about in the book where our information of him comes from though it doesn't really add anything we don't already know though it says it wasn't a comedy which is unusual for lewis
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Anonymous user #1

5 months ago
Score 0++
About 1/3 of this has been found, so it should be "partially found"
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Anonymous user #1

5 months ago
Score 0++
By 1/3 I mean 30mins of its 90 minute runtime
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Anonymous user #1

5 months ago
Score 0++
Thnx for changing it, I'll make an account soon, maybe called CryClown or Bluerazboy either
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CryClown

5 months ago
Score 0++
Cryclown is up! :D
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Uncle Sporkums

5 months ago
Score 0++
The bastards at Youtube deleted a nearly identical upload I had of this at exactly the same time, and left the other one up.
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Anonymous user #2

3 months ago
Score 0++
The video was taken off of vimeo
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Uncle Sporkums

3 months ago
Score 0++
This was my personal edit of the footage. The scenes are all in the places they should be, and the closed captioned subtitles are more accurate. One scene is missing them though, because the scene is different than it is in the final draft script. http://www.d...s_shortfilms
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Anonymous user #3

2 months ago
Score -1++

I have a teacher at my CC who has claimed to see this film. What's funny is he often lies about stuff but he often tells the truth about stuff you would think is a lie ( he's interviewed Charles Manson and has played Theremin live with The Beach Boys)

So it's hard to tell whether he's lying about seeing the film. According to him however is was an awful movie not because of the subject matter but just because in general in wasn't very good. If there's a scene of the clown crying and the camera shakes during the scene then he may not have been lying.
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