Admittedly, I had never even heard of 1972’s The Day the Clown Died directed by and featuring renowned comedian Jerry Lewis. Essentially, the film is about a clown that gets sent to the concentration camps during WWII and supposedly there is a controversial ending involving Lewis as the Clown trying to make the kids laugh as they are sent to the gas chambers to ease their fear.
Offhandedly, the film seems like it would have vast potential to me, if executed well. I mean, Life is Beautiful, one of the greatest films I’ve ever seen, somehow manages the amazing feat of weaving comedy into such an unspeakable dark tragedy like the Holocaust. So, it’s not inconceivable to execute. With that said, apparently so, because Lewis and others have ensured that this film never saw the light of day. We’re talking over forty years and no more people have seen this film than the digits on both your hands.
As someone that has a very open love affair with the cinema and is quite fascinated by cinematic history, I find it terribly intriguing that a film from such a well-known individual could go this long with most people having never seen it. And of course the “why” of the whole situation vastly interests me. Is it really that bad that he never wants anyone to ever see it?
Well, unfortunately for him, some footage has leaked, mostly behind-the-scenes material, but it’s still pretty neat to see; it’s like looking in someone’s diary:
Lewis was asked if we would ever see this film recently. This was his response:
I just can’t help but want to see this film now. I am a connoisseur of controversial, almost-blasphemous films and have seen a fair share of them (maybe I’ll do a post in the future detailing those films), so to add this to that list would be fantastic. One day…one day.