You haven’t seen it — almost no one has — but there’s a good chance that you’ve heard of “The Day The Clown Cried,” because it’s one of the most famous unreleased movies in history. Directed by and starring Jerry Lewis, the film involved a German circus clown arrested by the Gestapo after mocking Hitler, who is eventually forced by the Nazis to perform and help lead Jewish children to concentration camp gas chambers. Yes, you read that right.
The film went into production in 1972, but was initially held up due to a falling-out between the financiers. Once completed, the film was screened privately, emerging as a disaster that makes “Life Is Beautiful” look about as sensitive as “Shoah.” “Simpsons” veteran Harry Shearer was at one screening, and was quoted as saying “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,” while the film’s writer Joan O’Brien, described it as a “disaster.” It’s been lost to the annals of time, but over the weekend, Badass Digest dug up a YouTube video that features footage from the film, and interviews with Lewis on set.
Apparently part of a Dutch TV special about the making of the ill-fated film, it doesn’t quite showcase the reasons the film’s been persona non grata for so long, as you might imagine, but it’s still exciting to see a glimpse of a Holy Grail of what-the-fuck-were-you-thinking filmmaking. We’re unlikely to see any more for a long while — certainly while Lewis has breath in his body — but this is the second such leak in a year, and it’s worth taking a look at what we have here before it disappears into the ether again.