Spotlight: The Day The Clown Cried


As a film geek, there are very, very, very few films that I have always wanted to see but could never get my hands on. In the digital age, it's become easier and easier to see a lot of these films, everything from Matthew Barney's Cremaster Cycle to Claire Denis' Trouble Every Day have been crossed off my list, but one film destined to remain on that list forever is Jerry Lewis' 1972 Holocaust dramedy The Day The Clown Cried.

Footage was recently uncovered, via a 7-minute Danish making-of documentary of sorts. Even the tiniest bit of footage from this film is enough to send the most reserved film geeks through the roof with excitement. Below I've included more information about the film, along with every youtube video that exists with footage from or about the film, including this new video that has just recently emerged...

This seven minute video was found by Devin over at Badass Digest, and his article's title should be some small indication as to what a holy grail this film is for us film geeks.

The film tells the story of Helmut Doork (Lewis) who lives in Germany during World War II, and one night, in a drunken rage he slanders the Third Reich, a crime which gets him a one-way ticket to a concentration camp. While at the camp, he's given the job of entertaining the children, which includes leading them, Pied Piper-style to the gas chamber. It sounds horrifying, and those who have seen it (Simpsons voice actor Harry Shearer among them) have verified as much. The film's script can be found here, for those interested in reading it.

Lewis completed the film, but refused to release it, and allegedly keeps the only copy of it locked in a vault, to be destroyed upon his death. As time goes on, you would think that he would soften to the desperate pleas of filmdom's biggest geeks, but he remains steadfast in his determination to never release the film. Some say it's because Roberto Benigni's 1998 Oscar winning film Life is Beautiful handled similarly dicey material in a much better fashion; Others say it's because the film is such an embarrassment to Lewis that he can't bear to let anyone see it.

Whatever the case may be, it's unlikely that I'll ever get to see the film in its entirety, so footage like this makes me go nuts when it's discovered because it's the closest I'll ever get to the film itself. Below are a few more select videos (big thanks to Slashfilm for collecting these in one place), including a 2011 interview with Lewis & the thoughts of Shearer after having seen the film.

The film seems destined to languish in unseen obscurity, lost to time and egos much like Orson Welles' original cut of The Magnificent Ambersons. If you have other holy grail films, let me know what they are in the comments section below, I'd love to discuss what some of your favorite unattainable films are...