New BBC documentary examines infamous unreleased Jerry Lewis movie: “The Story of ‘The Day The Clown Cried'”

Just as new words surfaced from Jerry Lewis reasserting his claim that nobody will ever see his infamous still-unreleased Holocaust film from 1972, a Jewish comedian from Britain has revealed startling new images and interviews with Lewis in a new documentary that aired on BBC, “The Story of The Day The Clown Cried.”

David Schneider went to Sweden where he uncovered the still photos and more, with help from the Swedish Film Institute. Schneider also interviewed an actor who played a Nazi guard in The Day The Clown Cried, which Lewis wrote, directed and starred in as Helmut Doork — a fictional tale of a drunken clown who lampooned Hitler and found himself sent to a concentration camp, where he was ordered to lead children into the gas chambers. Yeah.

“Who could look at these pictures and not want to see the film?” asked Schneider, himself now the 52-year-old son of a real-life Holocaust survivor. “What’s most scary but also most exciting is when you look at a picture and it just looks like it’s taken from the Holocaust itself. And you just realize how easy it is to get things wrong. If you got it right? Just how strong would that be? I mean this material, because it’s so on the edge, because it’s so taboo, it’s so dangerous. But that’s where you want to go as an artist. But as a comedian as well, you want to go right to the edge to see if it’s still funny, to see if you can say things in that way.”

Lewis, in an interview broadcast over the holidays with EWTN Global Catholic Network, said he wasn’t including this film in his donation to the Library of Congress. Why? “There was no artistry. And the work was bad. The work wasn’t even – as far as I’m concerned – my critique was, it wasn’t even something you should show to the public. That’s how bad it turned out. Now, my crew, my people, my staff, everyone involved couldn’t believe I was going to smother it – just put it away.”

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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