There's a cool article in the Los Angeles Times today about the Library Of Congress' "Mostly Lost" film festival, which brings academics, experts and hobbyists together to look at reels of film and hopefully identify, collate and place them in their proper historical context. It sounds like a lot of fun, but the big takeaway (and hall of fame level buried lede) from the article is the news from Rob Stone, moving image coordinator at the LOC, that the archive has acquired a large Jerry Lewis collection, presumably from Lewis himself, that includes the negative of the long suppressed film THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED.
Stone appears to have dropped the news on the crowd in an impromptu fit of enthusiasm. After the assembled archivists recovered their bearings, Stone also added that the film was embargoed for ten years. Since many of us assumed that Lewis would take steps to destroy the film, this is great news, 10-year delay or no.
THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED is something of a white whale for fans of Jerry Lewis films. Lewis made the film, about a clown who leads children into Nazi gas chambers, in 1972 but it was tied up in litigation with the producer and remained unreleased for years. Later, Lewis said "You will never see it. No one will ever see it, because I am embarrassed at the poor work." Comedian Harry Shearer claims to have seen it in 1979. His response: "his 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."
The script is available online in several different places, and table reads have been staged of the script, but surprisingly, despite the widespread desire to see THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED, there have been no leaked versions of the film, only a few tantalizing minutes of behind the scenes footage
The ten year (or more - we'll see) delay on any kind of release of THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED, is a bummer, but it puts us that much closer to eventually seeing the film at all. Lewis will in all likelihood be dead by then, and the irony of the timing might be that the film could end up being a major component in his legacy.