Almost 30 minutes of legendary comedian and filmmaker Jerry Lewis’ long-hidden Holocaust drama, The Day the Clown Cried, has surfaced online in a rough edit format pulled from footage of a German documentary about the 1972 original movie.
The film, written, directed, and staring Lewis, follows a clown who was imprisoned by Nazis, forbidden to perform, and eventually leads Jewish children to gas chambers at Auschwitz German concentration camp during World War II.
Harry Shearer, of Simpsons fame, is rumored to be one of the few people who has ever seen The Day the Clown Cried in its entirety.
In a May 1992 interview with Spy magazine, Shearer said of Lewis’ film, “This movie is so drastically wrong, its pathos and its comedy are so widely misplaced, that you could not, in your fantasy of what it might be like, improve on what it really is.”
Last August, ScreenCrush reported that Lewis had handed the film over to the Library of Congress, on the condition that it not make it available to the public until 2024.
The last five minutes of the newly revealed, roughly 30-minute cut of the film show Lewis’ clown, named Helmut Doork, leading Jewish children to their eventual death.
Reasons for the film’s four-decades-long disappearance rest in legal battles over the rights to the film and the controversial nature of its plot.
Jerry Lewis spent decades making American audiences laugh at his slapstick brand of comedy in film, television, and onstage, alongside his longtime co-star Dean Martin.
Lewis, 90, is also known for his annual Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon charity fundraiser held on Labor Day, which helped raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.