• Based on Joan O'Brien's book by the same name, about a German clown who was arrested by the Gestapo, interred in a concentration camp, and used to march Jewish children into the ovens. Director-star Jerry Lewis lost close to 40 pounds to play the role. Filmed mostly in Stockholm, Sweden, the film has been tied up in litigation and never finished. Rough footage exists but a completed version never materialized. The screenplay is weak and the rough copy of the film depicts a cold, bleak and uneven film needing of a finish cut and scoring. Today it stands notable mostly for the departure that Lewis took in his career from his man-child persona. Twenty-five years later director-star Roberto Benigni's critically acclaimed Italian film La Vita e Bella (Life is Beautiful) successfully merged comedy with life in a Jewish concentration camp. Lewis' film did try to bridge the warm heart of La Vita e Bella and the shocking realism of Steven Speilberg's Schindler's List a quarter of a century before either of these films were made, and a quarter of a century before the subject was acceptable in Hollywood, and it is difficult to tell what the finished product would have looked liked or how it would have been received. In any respect, Lewis took a big chance (a gamble that he ultimately lost) by attempting a film far from the mainstream of Hollywood and it appears The Day the Clown Died will remain in legal limbo forever.
  • I think it's one of those films that should be shown to the public at a festival like Sundance or shown at the Simon Wiesenthal Center and then decide whether or not to release it, or made into an entirely new film.

    The film was made in the early 70s at a time when the Holocaust was still in many people's minds and the subject still a very sensitive one to many people. In 2005, it would STILL be one of the most controversial films ever... I think that because the public has yet to judge the film is sad because it is of historic significance as well as an important film in Jerry's career, possibly the most important film of his career. Whether it is "good","bad" or "tacky" is irrelevant when the public can't judge for themselves.
  • No, I haven't seen "The Day the Clown Cried." For years, though, I've heard about it. There have been many articles and evaluations made in terms of its quality--judgments sometimes from others who haven't seen the film either.

    I tend to agree with registered IMDb member "dvdtrkr," in stating that all these opinions don't mean much, and are irrelevant next to the opportunity for at least a portion of the public to judge for themselves. He suggests a festival or special engagement occasion as an appropriate venue.

    As for controversy, if they could release "Birth of a Nation" and "Triumph of the Will," it seems that this little effort by Jerry could be seen without "demoralizing" its viewers.

    Besides, look who heads the cast: the fine, accomplished Harriet Anderson, one of Ingmar Bergman's protégés, for whom he especially wrote "Sommared me Monika' ('53) and later starred her in some his best works: "Gycklaras afton" ('53) "Sasom i en spegel" ('61) and "Fanny och Alexander" ('83).

    Lewis managed to amass a considerable audience, both in the U. S. and abroad, with his cinematic efforts. The French took him very seriously as a comedic craftsman, and here's a chance to view a different side of him--significant if only for research/historical purposes . . . completing the portrait of an artist.

    So, it's time to open up that vault where the film lies dormant, for a special festival viewing of a work that Lewis not only considered making--but actually took the time, energy and money to bring it to near-final fruition.
  • I am reviewing the Day the Clown Cried after watching the recently aired German documentary that premiered in 2016. About thirty minutes of footage has been available to the pubic online. Although over an hour of the movie has still never been seen, or premiered to an audience, millions of interested fans remain eager to witness. Along with countless articles and interviews on the subject, a believe a review is justified. With that said, this review is focused on the many "hats" that Jerry Lewis wore in the making of The Day the Clown Cried. More than 40 years later, the reason behind him not making the entire movie public is more clear.

    As the Producer, Jerry had to work with other financial people in order to make this movie happen. With multiple speculations along with recent interviews, it has been confirmed that Jerry had an uphill battle in order to make the movie happen. This alone can ruin a movie, let alone guarantee it to flop. In several scenes we see wonderful production value. Costumes, locations, props are historically accurate. In others, we see a lack of this. Some of the scenes lack substance due to lack of budget. Filmed in Sweden, you could tell that they did the best with what they had to work with. Many of the Actors work well while others are do not. This is a perfect example of some of the children in the prison scenes. Many are well cast while others appear like obvious local extras.

    As Director, Jerry had successfully directed may Paramount comedies throughout the 1960's. His quality as a Director would have made him a well seasoned professional for the 1972 production. However, although the premise of the movie is about a Clown, The Day the Clown Cried is far from a typical Jerry Lewis comedy. Having been able to direct himself many times before was never a problem. Yet for a drama, this may have added to the pressure of producing a better performance for a drama.

    As an Artist, one's pride can get the best of oneself. Whether you are from France or not, there is evidence to conclude that Jerry Lewis is a comedic genius. For decades, Jerry Lewis has made people laugh. As a professional, Jerry Lewis has pushed himself to get the very best from his performance and budget. Speculations have convinced fans that Lewis was taking drugs (pain killers) during the production of the Day the Clown Cried due to a physical ailment. I believe this made his performance both good and bad. In many scenes of the movie, we see this. Some scenes are emotionally driven with a real dramatic overtone of acting. I believe the emotional pressure of the film can been seen on Lewis's face during his performance. At times, you can see his character overwhelmed and losing hope. These moments are overpowering. Other scenes lack this quality for the same reason. Some scenes are quickly shot and are void of the same quality as before. This falls on the shoulders of the Director.

    Finally, and most importantly, as a Jew, Jerry Lewis is quoted in the documentary about what that means to him and to what he was aiming to do with the movie's overall message. This Hat alone can overwhelm anyone making a movie involving the Holocaust. Steven Spielberg refused to take any payment for his work on Schindler's List because he felt it would have been blood money. The fear of a negative audience reaction to the movie is one thing to handle. It is something completely different if you are excommunicated and labeled for benefiting from the murder of millions. Jerry Lewis had the fear of not only ruining himself professionally but personally as well.

    Each of these roles that Jerry Lewis held in the making of The Day the Clown Cried effected his decision to not release the movie. I believe it was a collection of these duties that made himself hesitant to be judged. With what is available to view, the movie has great merit along with great doubt. The fear of this movie being a disaster for 1972 is well defended. Then again, the idea of this movie being a masterpiece and one of Jerry Lewis's best, is also a realistic possibility.

    The vision that Jerry Lewis wanted and got I feel were two different products. His Identity during the production and forty years later plays evident to just that.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    For years I had heard about Lewis' unreleased project; recently I got to read a copy of the script (thanks to "Subterranian Cinema.") In a nutshell, Lewis' character (and he wrote it for himself) is the same as the clown in "Barely Working"...he teeters between childish slapstick and adult pathos. It does not help that he rechristened the clown "Helmut Dorque" (pronounced "dork"; I think he was called Schmidt it the novel.) The plot is similar to the movies he made with Dino; a faded German circus clown gets drunk in a bar and puts down Hitler; two Gestapo officers hear him and he is arrested. After an interrogation which tries to be comic, Dorque is sent to a politcal prisoner concentration camp for three to four years. In 1941 or 1942 the camp is expanded into a holding area for Jews, and Dorque performs for the Jewish children, who are mostly German. He builds a rapport with them, and later is accidentally sent to a death camp with them. There he is forced to clowishly march them into the camp's gas chamber...Dorque is not a Nazi, as others have written, rather he is an apolitical and self-centered man who only wants to be world-famous again, and the lust for performing is his downfall. What destroys the script is that Lewis tries to make a comedy, and all we really see is seething rage, rage that emanates from the downward spiral of Jerry's career. "Spy Magazine" got a hold of a rough cut of the film and showed it to members of the cast and Harry Shearer; all of them were embarrassed, Shearer called the film a " black velvet painting of Auschwitz from Tijuana...the sentiment is right, but the artistic medium is just horribly wrong" or words to that effect. Be thankful this never made it; otherwise those great telethons would have never happened.
  • If you have read the screenplay to this apparently completed, then deep-sixed film, you quickly comprehend there isn't anything particularly fatal on paper. It is humanist, yes, and delves into a situation so ugly and desperate that the pathos and horror should arise naturally, unforced from the material. I would venture worse-reading films have made it to the screen as star vehicles, and sometimes done pretty well-- by an alignment of miraculous chances-- as both box office and as cinema.

    I am merely guessing that the entire problem with the filmed version is (as Harry Shearer says in so many words) one of failing to find precisely the right tone. The tone and mounting would make or break this material, veering it toward Apocalypse Now on the one hand, or Plan Nine From Outer Space on the other.

    I have to confess, after reading this, that I wish someone, maybe some goth, dour euro director (maybe Bergman or Bresson) had filmed this during the late 50s or early 60s. In Lewis' hands, it had no chance to rise to its greatest potential, and now no one will likely ever touch the original material again. But with some goofy dialogue and some of the more obviously inappropriate suggestions as to where to camp it up exponged, I think it all could have worked. The results, still, might be a film no one would want to watch.
  • I've been reading about this "notorious" film for many years now, and just listened to a podcast from projection-booth.com in which the reviewers were able to see a poor copy of the film and they raved about it. I doubt that Mr. Lewis reads comments on IMDb (but it's possible)and it sounds from interviews I've read that the film is a sore spot with him. From what I've heard from the podcast (and I read the script circulating around the internet, which apparently is very different from the film), the adaptation was far ahead of its time and I and many others would love to see it. Why isn't there some sort of campaign to get this film to the public? Even one showing at a film festival somewhere could possibly generate enough publicity for it to find a distributor who might be able to help straighten out the financial problems associated with it. If you're reading this, Mr. Lewis, please make this film available to be seen!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I've noticed that there are some comments here that indicate some of the posters have never even read the script. I obtained one 6 years ago and have read it like many other people, but none of us have actually seen the rough cut of the film, only a few of Jerry Lewis' friends and apparently Harry Shearer and the other people mentioned in Zardoz12's comments. It seems that the premise of the story could work, and was well meaning, but the way Mr. Lewis went about it with the script is horrible, well-intentioned, but horrible. One thing that people should be aware of is Helmut, the clown, isn't a Nazi, nor does he want to trick Jewish children into going into a gas chamber. He is a self absorbed, miserable has-been, who finds a sliver of relief from his imprisonment through entertaining little Jewish children who are detained in a camp next to his own, with a fence between them. All of his fellow prisoners despise him after he tells them how he's a great performer, and then entertains them unsuccessfully, so he is encouraged by the children's' attention. When the camp officers discover his rapport with the children, they force him to become the fatal pied piper by threatening his life. He doesn't march children into a gas chamber repeatedly through the movie, which is the impression some people seem to have. This happens only once, with an ending that I suppose I won't give away(unless someone else already did and I didn't notice). The most laughable thing about the script that I received was the cover, which I assume is a reproduction of the real thing. There is an image of Jerry Lewis as the clown, looking very downtrodden. Below it, he has a comment about how "this is a family film for the summer of 1973"! FAMILY FILM!?!?! If this script was different, like all the pages were ripped out and a new script put in it's place, it might work.
  • I'd like to take issue with some of the negative comments made about this film. It is indeed tasteless and poorly written, the dialogue at points is embarassing and maybe the rough cut of the film skews the script toward being a shameless star vehicle, (i can't comment as i've only read the script) but it is humanistic and undeserving of such vitriol. The character of Doork is arrogant and self obsessed but his motivation for entertaining the children in the camp is denial of the horrors around him rather than collusion. There isn't a large ammount of subtlty involved in the plot but how do you deal with the murder of children in a subtle and tastefull way?
  • The Holocaust is a political hot button, and the notion of making any film with both dramatic and comedic elements about it is likely to make people recoil. Yet, "Life is Beautiful" and other films have pulled it off.

    Having read the script for "The Day the Clown Cried," I can say it's doable, but the concept would fly over most people's heads. With very little action, it is a deeply introspective script, one which relies on the audience being able to identify with what's going on inside a fatally flawed character rather than the external story. American audiences, in particular, have a difficult time getting beyond the most shallow of understandings of people, preferring action over character development in films, so I don't think it would work here. It would turn on the skill of the performances to bring the nuances of internal characterization to life.

    I think I understand what Jerry Lewis was trying to do -- he wanted to show the pain and darkness that underlies the character of comedic entertainers, and yet show that beneath their egos, there is heart, and that in their lives, there is great irony. He's been doing that for 40 years on his telethon, after all. But though I think the performers were eminently more qualified to act in 1972 than those today, the looser style of today's film-making would allow for a more successful film now than then.
  • In May 1992, Spy magazine spoke to comedian and actor Harry Shearer, who claimed that Lewis had shown him a rough cut of the film in 1979. Shearer claims he told Lewis the film was "terrible", which reportedly made Lewis furious.

    More recently, on the Howard Stern Show (clip available at YouTube), Shearer changed his story and said that he had seen the film without Lewis's permission, raising questions as to whether Lewis's "fury" at Shearer was due to his calling the film terrible or to his having seen it against its maker's wishes. Shearer has yet to explain how an unnamed acquaintance of his acquired a copy of the film from Lewis's private vault.

    Production stills and footage of the making of the film reveal that Lewis does not wear his hair jet black and oily as the clown (as he does in THE JAZZ SINGER, a TV broadcast whose stills are often mistaken for stills from the film), nor does he wear a pinky ring or shiny Florsheim shoes while imprisoned in the Nazi camp - two myths perpetuated by Shearer and Joshua White, an MDA telethon director (Shawn Levy, KING OF COMEDY, p. 381).

    The script for the film is available online and well worth reading. There is little reason to believe that Shearer ever saw the film, and much reason to accept that he did not: he made the story up to boost his reputation.
  • At least 25 minutes of the film was shown on German television on the documentary Der Clown. Jerry Lewis even was interviewed for it. The movie could've been Jerry's best work. He gives his best dramatic performance in the scenes that are shown, and the ending is very sad and touching. Even though about an hour of it was missing from the documentary the main scenes are shown. Some of the actors from the film got together and even acted out some of the missing scenes. Basically Europa Studios who confiscated parts of the film literally threw it into the garbage after many years of non-payment, and one of the workers rescued it from the garbage. This film had the biggest travesty in film history happen to it. First the producer Nathan Waschberger that screwed up the money side of it, then the author Joan O'Brien not allowing Jerry Lewis to continue the option on the script. Really dumb if you ask me since he offered her a great deal of money for it. After seeing parts of the movie, it's confusing why she thought it was terrible. My thought is, that she was angry that he had turned the character into a more sympathetic one and had changed his name. Personally reading his version of the script in comparison to her original work, his is better. Then trash like Harry Shearer gave a movie he couldn't have possibly seen, a bad name. Harry Shearer was sadly given interview time in the German documentary, which made me want to vomit. He's still confused over this not being funny and a comedy.... Comedians make dramatic movies sometimes??? Why he cannot connect these dots in his brain is beyond me. But people took this man's word and he did great damage to this movie's reputation. Very tragic. Jerry was still enthusiastic about this movie into the 90's, but his enthusiasm turned to disgust and hate for the project after so much bad luck with getting it released. Now these days he does believe that his work was bad, even though other cast members and people working on the project told him it was great work. Jerry Lewis is a perfectionist, and this is clear from this statement about the movie in the documentary. "It was almost great... and almost isn't good enough for me." So any statement from him about it being bad, can really be taken as him being a perfectionist and never satisfied with his work. Many actors and directors are never satisfied with their work. I honestly think that if the film footage that was shown in the documentary, did continue that level of quality work through the the film, and had it been released, Jerry could've been nominated for an Academy Award. Sadly we will never know....
  • I had no problem at all finding a bootleg print of this film. And having SEEN it (as most have not) I can't fairly express what a masterwork it is.

    First, one must detach the name "Jerry Lewis" from the many characters he plays in the film. This is not slapstick comedy.

    Also the camera work is much more Richard Lester in "A Hard Days Night" than classic cinematography. It's a little crude, yes, but truly jolting for a "Jerry Lewis" film.

    One can't help but wonder WHAT drove him to make such a markedly different movie. Let's be honest, this film is NOT for everyone. Yet, it is a vital record of a major actor who dared to take a chance.

    As we know now, the camera negatives are in archival storage to be shown in 10 years. Until then, search around and you can find it. NOT a perfect copy but I don't regret a minute of watching it.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The list of topics approved for inclusion in movies about Nazi extermination camps is so short as to produce lookalike products that humanists invariably gush over. Since the genre's debut with the TV mini-series 'Holocaust' (or perhaps earlier with 'The Pawnbroker'), the criteria result in the same pious movie being made over and over; 'Sophies Choice' is 'The Pianist' is 'Bent' is 'Schindlers List.' It's all bathos from actors who want to prove their humanity and make an Oscar grab. The rotten truth is that all of these movies end up being calculated career moves, producing an escalation of the star's, or director's public acclaim. And it's become acceptable (if not admirable) in modern entertainment to do so. So isn't using a genocide-film project to hoist your movie career to a new plateau nearly as distasteful as supporting/participating in genocide?

    The 'holocaust movie' is our new Hamlet, an acting litmus test whose reception by audiences is key; can Joe Blow or Suzie Housecoat pull off a holocaust film? Will viewers, with their barely-investigated and poorly-verbalized acting, film & art standards declare it a triumph? Did you cry when you saw it? I've ceased caring about the filmic holocaust because of this ridiculous game.

    Mother Night showcased the holocaust as seen through Kurt Vonnegut's usual hapless protagonist and an absurdist tone. It escaped the official emotional arc of the genre but ran into problems elsewhere. Comedy (or any of its associates) is not an approved tone for the holocaust genre. So somewhere near the rockbottom of holocaust-bathos is this movie; Lewis's self-admiring advertisement for his depth and humanity. This notorious movie's problem is that it sticks an arrogant actor into an arrogant role in a grotesque attempt to show off his humility (!), and again produce a career bump. But Lewis is such a hambone that his depth and humanity are buried under a ton of lowbrow taste, self-admiration & pretense; the construction of the perception of others to benefit himself.

    On top of that, most people now regard clowns as being sufficiently creepy on their own, even without snuffing kiddies in a gas chamber.

    The real crime of this movie isn't its poor taste (as all you finger-wagging, deep-thinking taste-mavens can't wait to state). Sure it's kitsch but it ultimately manhandles the sentiment of the genre so badly that it becomes 'schmaltz'; failed seriousness. Rest assured, all of you clucking about it now would have fallen for it back in the day, and you did fall for it with Life is Beautiful. Retrospective value-judgment is a very comforting distraction; allowing you to time travel with your contemporary values and impose them on historical moments. It feels a bit like intellectual activity, doesn't it? But it's actually the arrest of intellectual growth and a crappy way to gain some bogus self-esteem; allowing reviewers to bask in self-admiration over their 'superior' position in the hierarchy of taste.

    In this, the critics become the equal of Jerry Lewis.
  • After playing an astronaut, a mad scientist and other challenging roles in the 1950's and 1960's, what was left for comedian Jerry Lewis to do? Sadly, this rarely-released movie proved sufficient for the aging star, as he finally committed to what he termed "my first serious film". Quite simply, a premise which concerns the gassing of Jewish children requires a sophisticated and subtle direction to succeed. Unfortunately, the audience receives exactly the opposite perspective.

    Basically, Jerry Lewis plays the role of a Nazi Clown who works at Auschwitz, entertaining jewish children just before they are to be gassed. Apparently the point of the film is to establish a certain Emotional bond and conflictual problem between the joy of 'clowning' and the role that the Nazis have for him. Unfortunately it comes out as a poorly-edited and particularly tasteless WWII drama - with the predefined role of Jerry as a comedian not helping matters in the very least.

    To fully understand the rationale behind this film, you have first to accept the comments made by Jerry Lewis himself - "It is he [the clown] who is assigned to try to keep the kids in the camp happy - and it is he, in the end, who is expected to lead the children - into the ovens". Sensitive? Go figure.
  • I am fascinated by this film and the story behind it.

    Allegedly Lewis has the only copy (or copies) in existence.

    It is unknown who is truly keeping the film under raps. Some believe Lewis hides the film because of the reaction he received to it. Some believer O'Brien will not accept payment in any way to sign over the rights. What's certain is that neither will discuss it publicly.

    Either way it is likely we will never be fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to see it like Harry Shearer and other noted exceptions.

    For Joan O'Brien, it must have been a nightmare. She supposedly was horrified to the point of tears upon seeing one screening of the film.

    I suppose it could never live up to the hype of how truly awful it is.

    It's probably better that the tastelessness remains in our imaginations.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Jerry Lewis features himself in his sappy film about a clown whose only goal in life is to make the Jewish children of the Holocaust happy. Lewis plays his character as a slobbering idiot (type-casting).

    This garbage never made it to theaters, mostly because Lewis is afraid to release it since he knows he'll be ridiculed by critics everywhere. His pretentious script drips with self-indulgence as the Nazis send the kids into the gas chambers with Lewis 'bravely' volunteering to go with them.

    If you ever get a chance to see it, go ahead, but only so you can have a laugh at the expense of Jerry The Schmuck.

    P.S. There's a video on YouTube which documents a few moments of the film while it was in production; it proves how much it stinks.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    No rating can be applied to a film I've only seen a couple of bits of. What I saw was some of the shtick that Jerry Lewis did as a clown and in and of itself it was in keeping with Lewis as a Chaplin acolyte.

    The Day The Clown Cried has come down in cinematic urban legend as a film so bad that Jerry Lewis has kept it under lock and key for two generations now. What I saw was some bits that were shot by a Flemish television station and put on the internet. They were Jerry as clown with none of the plot of this film.

    As all Lewis fans know, Jerry plays a once famous circus clown thrown into a concentration camp where he befriends the Jewish kids and then the Nazis find a fiendish use for his talents. That involving Pied Pipering them to the gas chambers.

    For the life of me I could never understand why he would get involved with such a project with the ghastly plot premise. Still he did and the previews were so bad the film was shelved. Lewis also tried to keep from the public his televised production of The Jazz Singer. That we now have seen, maybe we'll see this and endure it some day.

    The bits were fine, reminiscent of Charlie Chaplin. But Chaplin did The Great Dictator, not this.