At 87 years of age, Jerry Lewis is expected to be a cranky old man with crazy opinions about random things, and he didn’t disappoint at Cannes back in May, when he premiered his first film in almost two decades. Aside from some jokes that just plain missed, Lewis raised eyebrows when he answered a question about today’s female comedians by saying that he can’t “watch a lady diminish her qualities to the lowest common denominator,” which some people took as him telling today’s broads to smile and look pretty.
But one question that he did answer seriously regarded his 1972 holocaust film, The Day the Clown Cried, which he famously “buried” so no one could ever watch it, because he was and is still “embarrassed at the poor work.” Of course, this is the Internet era and even a 41-year old movie that Lewis thought that no one would ever see can still kind of be seen, as YouTube user “unclesporkums” uploaded some clips and raw footage on Saturday.
According to Entertainment Weekly, the plot of The Day the Clown Cried is sort of similar to Life is Beautiful, which told the incredible story of a father who convinced his son that a concentration camp was simply one big game to win a tank in order to distract him from the horrors of reality, but Lewis’ story’s ending was just a tad more insanely depressing.
It was about a European circus performer during World War II who ends up in trouble with the Nazis for spoofing Hitler. He is then forced to entertain Jewish children detained in a concentration camp, which the guards feel is the easiest way to make them behave.
It ended with a notoriously cringe-inducing scene of cavorting clown Lewis leading the laughing kids into the gas chamber. Overcome by the grief of what he is being forced to do, he chooses to stay in the gas chamber with them as they are killed.
Apparently the film was just so awful and “bungled” that nobody involved with the production wanted anything to do with it, and even French singer Serge Gainsbourg went to his grave denying that he was in it. Welp, bad news, Serge. Fortunately, this is the Internet age, so we’ll have forgotten about this by… hey, what’s Shia LeBeouf up to?