New Images Of Jerry Lewis's Infamous Holocaust Movie Emerge

Ben Arnold
UK Movies Writer

New images from ‘The Day The Clown Cried’, comedian Jerry Lewis’s infamous movie about the holocaust, have surfaced.

A documentary made by the comedian David Schneider for the BBC shows never-before-seen images from the controversial movie’s production in the early 70s.

Lewis decided that once the movie was made it would never be released, and it remains that it’s only ever been seen by a handful of people.

Lewis both directed and starred in the movie, which told the harrowing tale of a washed up clown called Helmut Doork who is sent to a prison camp for drunkenly mocking Hitler.

However, after seeing his talent for entertaining the Jewish children, he is later recruited by the Nazis to help lead them to their deaths in the gas chambers.

In the 30-minute documentary, Schneider discusses the movie with academics, and also speaks to a Swedish film critic who once interviewed Lewis’s co-star, Ingmar Bergman regular Harriet Andersson, about the film.

“She told me about him being not a very pleasant man to work under,” he says. 

“And being a little bit erratic and aloof. She also mentioned that he had some back problems and took some painkillers and became a little strange.

“But she also mentioned that the sets were absolutely fantastic, very impressive. But they decided it was not going to be released and there are still some people waiting for their pay cheques.”

He added that Andersson claimed she was among those never paid for their work.

But one of the other actors interviewed, Lars Amble, who played a Nazi officer, described him as 'a very nice guy’ on set.

“He was very professional and gave us all confidence,” he said. “I don’t know why he never released the film, and I never saw it. Not even a rough cut.”

But though several other interviews with cast-members were confirmed for the documentary, all but Amble pulled out just days before.

“I was ashamed of the work, and I was grateful that I had the power to contain it all and never let anybody see it,” Lewis has said of the movie in the past.

Notably, actor Harry Shearer is among the few people to have seen the movie, watching it in 1979.

In a piece he later wrote for Spy magazine in 1992, he said: “With most of these kinds of things, you find that the anticipation, or the concept, is better than the thing itself. But seeing this film was really awe-inspiring, in that you are rarely in the presence of a perfect object.

“This was a perfect object. This movie is so drastically wrong, its pathos and its comedy are so wildly misplaced, that you could not, in your fantasy of what it might be like, improve on what it really is. “Oh My God!"—that’s all you can say.”

Read more
New De Niro film gets mauled by critics
Chris Rock will edit his Oscars speech
Audience walk out of Radcliffe ‘farting corpse’ movie

Image credits: BBC/YouTube