Infamous Jerry Lewis Holocaust movie inches closer to release
The Library of Congress has bought the sole known copy of the film Lewis publicly disowned
The Library of Congress has purchased the only known copy of The Day the Clown Cried, an infamous drama directed by and starring Jerry Lewis, who plays a clown taken to Auschwitz during the Second World War and ordered to perform for Jewish children.
Made in Sweden in 1971, the film never received a public release, and as such has acquired a cult reputation among cinema enthusiasts. Lewis himself, now 89 years old, has prevented the film from being shown in his lifetime, telling reporters in 2013: "You will never see it, no-one will ever see it, because I am embarrassed at the poor work."
The Library of Congress in Washington DC has reportedly agreed not to screen the film for a minimum of 10 years. It was acquired by the institution as part of a larger Jerry Lewis collection.
Details about the film’s content are few. It is about a clown called Helmut Doork, who is imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp and entertains children as they are taken to the gas chambers. Harry Shearer saw the film in 1979, and in an interview with Spy magazine in 1992, described it as "so drastically wrong, its pathos and its comedy … so wildly misplaced, that you could not, in your fantasy of what it might be like, improve on what it really is."
Production of the film was troubled from the start, with Lewis reportedly getting into a financial dispute with the producer. Fees for equipment went unpaid, as did the cast and crew's paychecks, and Lewis reportedly used his own money to complete the production. According to the Official Jerry Lewis Comedy Museum and Store, the film has been tied up in litigation ever since, with none of the parties involved being able to agree on a settlement.