Even Jerry Lewis admits his unreleased 1970s Holocaust movie is “bad, bad, bad” — no minor fact because the 87-year-old comedian directed, wrote and starred in the film. Now, thanks to some leaked video, people can see how Lewis might have been right.
A seven-minute report from a 1972 Danish television show about the making of “The Day the Clown Cried” surfaced recently, and based on that, the movie looks hammy and self-important at the same time.
Shot more than 40 years ago, the movie stars Lewis, in one of his first serious turns as an actor, as a circus performer arrested by the Gestapo and thrown into a concentration camp. Once there, he starts performing for Jewish children, and reportedly travels with some of them to Auschwitz.
The movie was never released and only a handful of people have ever seen it. It nevertheless is considered one of the great fiascoes in modern movie history, joining the ranks of “Ishtar,” “Gigli,” “Howard the Duck” and “Heaven’s Gate.”
In the newly surfaced video, Lewis is seen in a few scenes doing a bit with a cigarette and a flickering candle, flying a paper airplane and then trying (and largely failing) to juggle a few balls.
In a 1992 story about the film in Spy magazine, Harry Shearer (who had seen “The Day the Clown Cried”) said: "The closest I can come to describing the effect is if you flew down to Tijuana and suddenly saw a painting on black velvet of Auschwitz."
At this past May’s Cannes Film Festival, where Lewis was premiering his critically drubbed “Max Rose,” Lewis said of “The Day the Clown Cried”: “No one will ever see it because I'm embarrassed at the poor work."
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