Where on the Shelf Is...The Day the Clown Cried?

Welcome to "Where on the Shelf Is..." In this column, I look at great TV shows and movies that have never been on DVD and/or Blu-ray. For your pleasure and out of all of our frustrations, this column examines the Where, When and, of course, WHY?! of these non-releases.

Up this week is...THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED

What Is It?:

In his prime, Jerry Lewis was one of the top comedic presences in Hollywood, co-starring with Dean Martin in over a dozen films and headlining a number of classics, including THE BELLBOY, THE LADIES MAN, THE NUTTY PROFESSOR, and THE DISORDERLY ORDERLY.

Over the course of his career, Lewis' talents were recognized by the American Comedy Awards, the Venice Film Festival, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science, and the New Jersey Hall of Fame.

Not one of these organizations apparently ever heard of THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED. That would be the film where Lewis played Helmut Doork, a circus clown imprisoned in a concentration camp, where he performed for Jewish children and unknowingly led them to the gas chamber.

It’s like watching Doctor Doolittle euthanize your childhood dog.

Where Is It?:

Despite the fact that THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED is the movie where the chairman of the Muscular Dystrophy Association aids in the termination of hundreds of children, the primary reason it hasn't been released has less to do with content and more to do with legal issues, disagreements within the crew and personal humiliation.

From the start, the production was plagued with problems. Said problems include (but are not limited to): the rights to Joan O'Brien and Charles Denton's script not being secured; necessary film equipment being lost; crew members not being reimbursed properly; producer Nathan Wachsberger mismanaging the overall funds; Lewis digging into his own wallet to complete the movie; Wachsberger threatening a breach of contract lawsuit against his star; Lewis being distracted and pill-dependent during filming...

And even though Wachsberger (responsible for the classic, Best Picture-winning ARE YOU ENGAGED TO A GREEK SAILOR OR AN AIRPLANE PILOT?), O'Brien and Denton are all dead, several legal knots and deep wounds, as listed above, still keep the movie from ever being released. As it stands, the studio owns the original negative, O'Brien's and Denton's estates hold the rights and Lewis has the only VHS copy. And no one involved wants this one ever seen on 40' screens, let alone video store shelves.

When Will We See It?:

"None of your goddamn business!"

Not one of Jerry Lewis' more tactful moments, but heartfelt nonetheless.

In the early 1980s, Europa Studios planned to edit the original negative and secure the movie's theatrical release. That plan, of course, was nixed by co-writers O'Brien and Denton. And that is the closest the general public has ever gotten to seeing the movie.

So for now, we have to go on the word of the select few who have actually seen THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED to determine its quality: O'Brien labeled it "a disaster." Comedian Harry Shearer called it "drastically wrong" and "wildly misplaced." Co-star Harriet Andersson stated there was "something wrong with it." Television director Joshua White claimed it "looks like a student film." And journalist Lynn Hirschberg said she was flat-out "appalled." Lewis himself refuses to discuss the movie with journalists.

As an alternate, you can read the script online. That'll make your next bus trip to Auschwitz fly by!

Where Can We See It?:

Lewis' famed video cassette copy is kept in his vault, alongside Dean Martin's cast-iron liver that was willed to him in 1995.

In short, we can see it nowhere. That is, unless you hatch a plot to kidnap Lewis at gunpoint and make him reveal. Just tell the FBI it's research for Tinseltown's next big hit, THE KING OF COMEDY 2: DOORK TERRITORY.

Source: JoBlo.com



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