On 8.5.15 L.A. Times staffer Noah Bierman reported that Jerry Lewis had donated a copy of The Day The Clown Cried, an unfinished 1972 holocaust drama that Lewis had directed, written and starred in, to the Library of Congress.

It was stipulated, however, that the film couldn’t be screened “for at least ten years,” and only then with the permission of the Lewis estate. (Lewis passed on 8.20.17 at age 91.)

On 10.14.15 (or two months after the Bierman piece) I was informed by Mike Mashon, head of the Moving Image section on the LoC campus, that the embargo on TDTCC would be in place “for ten years,” and would therefore extend until 2025.

Although the LoC apparently intends to eventually screen The Day The Clown Cried at its Audio Visual Conservation campus in Culpeper, Virginia, curator Rob Stone has stated the LoC does not have a complete print of the film.

Posted on 6.15.16: I’m hardly an authority when it comes to Jerry Lewis‘s never-seen The Day The Clown Cried (’72), but to my knowledge an assembly of scenes from the finished film has never been shown to anyone.

I’ve read all the articles, I’ve read the script, I’ve seen that BBC documentary that popped last January, and I’d love to view it when the embargo is lifted nine years hence (i.e., in 2024). But I’ve never watched actual scenes.

This morning a friend passed along a 31-minute Vimeo file (posted two months ago but yanked on Thursday morning…sorry) that provides the first real taste of Clown, or at least the first I’ve ever sat through.

It’s basically a compressed, German-dubbed version of Lewis’s film that’s intercut with acted-out portions of the script by a troupe of 70somethings. It’s taken from Eric Friedler‘s 2016 documentary called Der Clown.

And you know what? I don’t see what’s so godawful about it.

Okay, the scheme is manipulative bordering on the grotesque — Lewis as a German-Jewish clown in a Nazi concentration camp who’s ordered in the final act to amuse a group of children being sent to the “showers” — but that elephant aside it didn’t strike me as all that agonizing or offensive. Really. Lewis’s performance seems more or less restrained as far as the writing allows, and the story unfolds in a series of steps that seem reasonably logical. The supporting perfs and period milieu seem decent enough.

When everyone finally sees The Day The Clown Cried in 2024 (or ’25) the verdict may be that it’s not a mediocre, miscalculated effort (or that it is…who knows?), but I didn’t smell a catastrophe as I watched this whatever-you-want-to-call-it. Plus it costars HE’s own Harriet Andersson.