When most comedians want to be respected as actors, they'll usually do a dramedy like The Majestic or Punch Drunk Love. Maybe they'll even do a full drama like One Hour Photo. Jerry Lewis went all out and did a movie about a circus clown who delivers children to the Nazis. It is one of the most infamous unreleased movies in the history of Hollywood.
You never go full Nazi. Everyone knows that, Jerry Lewis.
In the movie, Lewis plays Helmut Doork, an unemployed German clown who's arrested for drunkenly mocking Hitler and sent to a Nazi camp (a punishment usually reserved for mimes). At the camp, Doork begins entertaining Jewish children with his zany antics and eventually lands a job leading those same children into Auschwitz.
Yes, Jerry Lewis, the guy from the Labor Day telethons and The Nutty Professor, agrees to get some children into a Nazi train like some sort of sick pied piper. When the kids are on their way to the gas chamber, Doork decides to fight off the guards and escape with them ... no, not really, he just goes into the chambers with them and they all die.
But it's OK because it's a family film, guys.
It's like Life Is Beautiful, only a million times more awkward and wrong. Just wrong. And yes, at one point Lewis actually wanted children to see it -- in his 1985 autobiography, he wrote: "The picture must be seen, and if by nobody else, at least by every kid in the world who's only heard there was such a thing as the Holocaust."
"I just hate kids so much."
However, due to a series of legal and financial complications, The Day the Clown Cried was never actually released. Also, we think the fact that it was a movie about a clown who leads children into the gas chamber probably had something to do with that, too. Over time, it seems like Lewis' eagerness to release the film has waned: reporters are warned never to bring up the movie during interviews, and he allegedly keeps the only existing VHS copy locked in a vault in his office.
Only a handful of people have seen a rough cut of the movie, including actor Harry Shearer (The Simpsons), who saw it in 1979, in what must have been the worst Hollywood party ever. Shearer doesn't have a high opinion of the film: "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 .... 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."
"I'm Jerry Lewis, and I approved this dark comedy about the Holocaust."
Maxwell Yezpitelok lives in Chile and likes to waste his time writing back to scammers or making stupid comics.
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