When Will the Public See Jerry Lewis’ ‘The Day the Clown Cried’?
Sunday’s outpouring of tributes and other affectionate sentiments for legendary comedian, actor and filmmaker Jerry Lewis in the wake of his passing was truly moving stuff. It’s heartening to see appreciation for such a talent, and for those unfamiliar to be compelled to investigate his body of work for the first time. And in the days following his death, the question of his legacy has been on everyone’s mind, which means the topic of The Day the Clown Cried can’t be far off.
Lewis’ legendary forbidden film was allegedly so jaw-droppingly bad that the comedian prohibited it from being shown and locked the only extant copies away. Lewis portrays a clown who takes it upon himself to lift the spirits around the Holocaust concentration camp in which he has been imprisoned, and the scattered reports from those who have seen it paint a baffling portrait. A new item from The Wrap mentions a 1992 Spy interview with The Simpsons voice actor Harry Shearer in which he describes the colossal miscalculations of a scene wherein Lewis’ character is forced into leading children into a gas chamber and amusing them as they die. I, for one, would like to see such a film.
But when will the public have it? Lewis, an increasingly good sport about the film in his older years, donated one of his copies to the U.S. Library of Congress in 2015 under the condition that it could only be shown starting in the year 2025. So, the simple answer is “eight years,” but the more complicated one is “possibly quite a bit longer.” The matter of Lewis’ estate still needs tying up, and past releases of The Day the Clown Cried have been stymied by legal intervention as well. Any number of things could happen, but the best-case scenario remains 2025. See you all then!