Breaking news. On August 10th (two days ago--or two days prior to my writing this entry), somebody posted on youtube what appears to be a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the controversial, never-seen, long-abandoned, always-a-subject-of-fascination Jerry Lewis film "The Day the Clown Cried", in French no less. Before we watch, however, lets do a little history lesson on this beleaguered project. Shamefully, I must admit to having have copied and pasted the below from Wikipedia--hence the wonky font sizes. I thought of rewriting the entry but it's so well done (and I'm busy editing my move) that I said the hell with it. Why didn't I provide a link instead of pasting it? Because that's just the kind of mood I'm in. Take it away, Wiki:
In 1971, while performing at the Olympia Theatre, Lewis met with producer Nathan Wachsberger, who offered him the chance to star in and direct the film with complete financial backing from his production company and Europa Studios. Before he had been given the offer, several stars such as Bobby Darin, Milton Berle and Dick Van Dyke were also approached, but declined. Lewis was initially reluctant to take the role, especially after reading the script, stating in his autobiography Jerry Lewis in Person, "The thought of playing Helmut still scared the hell out of me." In addition, he felt that he was wrong for the part, due to the strong subject matter. He asked Wachsberger:
|“||Why don't you try to get Sir Laurence Olivier? I mean, he doesn't find it too difficult to choke to death playing Hamlet. My bag is comedy, Mr. Wachsberger, and you're asking me if I'm prepared to deliver helpless kids into a gas chamber? Ho-ho. Some laugh – how do I pull it off?||”|
After rereading Joan O'Brien and Charles Denton's first draft, Lewis felt that he would be doing something worthwhile in portraying the horrors of the Holocaust. He immediately signed on to the project, but, in order to make it, he first had to arrange to perform atCaesars Palace in Las Vegas for a month, in order to fulfill the terms of his contract with the hotel. In February 1972, he toured the remains of Auschwitz and Dachau concentration camps and shot some exterior shots of buildings in Paris for the film; all the while reworking the script. He reportedly lost forty pounds for the concentration camp scenes. Principal photography began in Sweden on the film in April 1972, but the shoot was beset by numerous problems.
In an article published online on October 30, 2010 at mondo-video.com, cast members working on the film with Lewis reported his on-set personality as, “distracted, nervous, and preoccupied with money."
Film equipment was either lost or delivered late, and the necessary money was nowhere in sight. Lewis was repeatedly assured that money was forthcoming by Wachsberger, who did not appear at all on set.
Wachsberger not only ran out of money before completing the film, but his option to produce the film expired before filming began. He had paid O'Brien the initial $5,000 fee, but failed to send her the additional $50,000 due her prior to production. Lewis eventually ended up paying production costs with his own money to finish shooting the film, but the parties involved in its production were never able to come to terms which would allow the film to be released. After shooting wrapped, Lewis announced to the press that Wachsberger had failed to make good on his financial obligations or even commit to producing. Wachsberger retaliated by threatening to file a lawsuit of breach of contract and stated that he had enough to finish and release the film without Lewis. Wanting to ensure the film would not be lost, Lewis took a rough cut of the film, while the studio retained the entire film negative. In January 1973, Lewis stated publicly that the film was in final production, it had been invited to the Cannes Film Festival in May, and it would be released in America after that.Although never seen publicly, the film became a source of legend almost immediately after its production. In May 1992, an article in Spy magazine quotes comedian and actor Harry Shearer, who saw a rough cut of the film 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.|
Shearer also goes on to point out why Lewis would make the film: he believed "the Academy can't ignore this." When asked to sum up the experience of the film overall, he responded by saying that the closest he could come was like "if you flew down toTijuana and suddenly saw a painting on black velvet of Auschwitz. You'd just think 'My God, wait a minute! It's not funny, and it's not good, and somebody's trying too hard in the wrong direction to convey this strongly-held feeling."
The article quoted Joan O'Brien as saying the rough cut she saw was a "disaster"; it also says she and the original script's other writer, Charles Denton, will never allow the film to be released, in part due to changes in the script made by Lewis which made the clown more sympathetic and Emmett Kelly-like. In the original script, the protagonist was an arrogant, self-centered clown named Karl Schmidt, who was "a real bastard," according to O'Brien. Her script reportedly had him trying to use his wife, who knew the ringmaster, to get him a better gig, and he apparently informed on nearly everyone he knew after being interrogated for mocking Hitler. She stated that the original draft was about the redemption of a selfish man, but that Lewis practically changed the entire story into a Chaplinesque dark comedy a la The Great Dictator.
In 2001, a man mentioned the film to Lewis during one of Lewis' motivational speeches, indicating that the man had heard the film might be eventually released. Lewis replied to this comment with "None of your goddamn business!"[7 The same year, Lewis responded to a reporter's faxed request for information about the movie by calling and telling him: "As far as discussing [the movie], forget it! If you want to see any of it, forget it!"
On January 12, 2013, Lewis appeared at a Cinefamily Q&A event at the Los Angeles Silent Movie Theatre. He was asked by actor Bill Allen, "Are we going to ever gonna get to see The Day the Clown Cried?" Lewis replied in the negative, and explained the reason the movie would never be released was because "...in terms of that film I was embarrassed. I was ashamed of the work, and I was grateful that I had the power to contain it all, and never let anyone see it. It was bad, bad, bad."
Later that year at Cannes while promoting Max Rose, Lewis was asked about The Day the Clown Cried and said, "It was bad work. You'll never see it and neither will anyone else."
On April 9, 2012, behind-the-scenes footage and some takes with sound from the film surfaced on a Flemish website. On August 10, 2013, the video was uploaded by a user on YouTube.
And here it is, August 12th. Hurry up and watch. I was late in ordering a copy of Lewis' ex-wife Patti's memoir "I Laughed Until I Cried" and by the time I got around to ordering it, Jerry had confiscated all copies and burned them. So the below clip is certainly destined for the same fate. Meanwhile, enjoy...
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