In 1972, Jerry Lewis wrote, directed, starred in and produced a Holocaust film about a circus clown in a death camp.
Titled “The Day the Clown Cried,” it was never released, screened, or discussed. But a recent German TV documentary on “Der Clown,” which includes cuts from the film, is now on Youtube. Lewis, 90, after seeing the final edit, over four decades ago, determined that no one should ever see it (Harry Shearer did once see a bootleg copy)
Jerry Lewis plays a circus clown named Helmut Doork. His mockery of Hitler gets him into trouble and he is sent to a death camp where he entertains children. His job is to march them to their deaths. It is a final act of kindness toward the doomed children, and predates “Life is Beautiful” by many years.
Variety wrote, “The movie does look pretty awful, but it no longer looks shockingly awful. If anything, its kitschy-ghastly four-hankie macabre shamelessness now seems both clueless and weirdly ahead of its time.”
A better cut with English subtitles
A 1972 interview with Jerry Lewis as he was making the film