You’ll Finally Be Able to Watch One of the Most Notorious Lost Movies Ever — In 10 Years
In the annals of infamous never-released movies, there is The Day the Clown Cried and there is everything else.
The film, directed, co-written, and starring Jerry Lewis, was made in 1972 and then shelved permanently. Why? The given reasons vary from source to source, from rights issues to legal battles. There’s also the matter of this being a Jerry Lewis film about a bumbling German clown (named Helmut Doork!) who leads Jewish children into the gas chamber during the Holocaust. By Lewis’ own admission, the finished movie was a mess. For years, he vowed that no one would ever see The Day the Clown Cried. And so far, almost no one has. The few souls who have managed to track down an ultra-rare copy have only grown the movie’s legenary status as an epic boondoggle the likes of which has never been seen in movie history (like The Simpsons star Harry Shearer, who called it a “perfect object” of awfulness).
Lewis repressed The Day the Clown Cried for decades, but now, out of nowhere, bad-movie lovers have renewed hope of seeing this disaster. Following up on a tidbit buried in a Los Angeles Times article about the Library of Congress, The New York Post reports that the Library has acquired Lewis’s entire archive of film material, including a print of The Day the Clown Cried, on the condition that the Library not make the film available for ten years. Starting in June 2024, The Day the Clown Cried...
...will be available to scholars for viewing in the research center at the 45-acre Packard Campus in Culpeper, Va., and will be shown to the public in the 205-seat theater.
A theatrical release isn’t forthcoming (the Lewis estate still owns the film’s rights, and will almost certainly keep the movie from wider circulation), but come 2024 if you can get your butt to Virginia, you will be able to watch perhaps the most notorious film of all time.
So this is my new life goal: Live for at least 10 more years (and possibly relocate to the DC area). If I can do that, I can see The Day the Clown Cried. In the meantime, here’s some rare behind-the-scenes footage from the shooting of the film: