1. Once upon a time (that time being 1972), Hollywood icon and comedy legend Jerry Lewis thought it would for some reason be a good idea to make a movie about the Holocaust in which he played a clown who led children into the gas chamber.
4. It was called The Day the Clown Cried, and it was not good. After some disastrous test screenings, Lewis was so horrified by what he hath wrought that he put the movie in a vault, vowing to never let it see the light of day.
5. The film is apparently an unholy train wreck of tone-deafness. At this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Lewis said of his great cinematic miscarriage, “It was bad, and it was bad because I lost the magic. You will never see it. No one will ever see it.”
6. One of the few humans to have actually laid eyes on the movie was Spinal Tap and Simpsons star Harry Shearer. Here’s his assessment from a private screening in 1979:
With most of these kinds of things, you find that the anticipation, or the concept, is better than the thing itself. But seeing this film was really awe-inspiring, in that you are rarely in the presence of a perfect object. This was a perfect object. 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. “Oh My God!” – that’s all you can say.
7. Probably the closest any of the rest of us will ever get to seeing The Day the Clown Cried is this behind-the-scenes footage shot for Dutch television, recently unearthed with audio and posted to YouTube:
8. The segment mostly deals with Lewis’s creative process and micromanaging directorial style…on, lest we forget, a movie about a clown who led Jewish children into the gas chamber at Auschwitz. So, yeah, probably best we never see it. Good call, Jerry.
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