I’m not the world’s most knowledgable guy 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 2025). 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. Yes, 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 arduous or offensive. 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 2025 the verdict may be that it’s a mediocre, miscalculated effort (or not), 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.