The day the clown cried

The Day the Clown Cried ( The Day the Clown Cried ) is a film of 1972 with direction and performance of comedian Jerry Lewis . The screenplay by Jerry Lewis is based on another homonym Joan O’Brien , based in turn on a first written by producer Charles Denton and her ten years before the start of filming.

Unfinished work and without official première, was one of the first serious incursions of Lewis in the cinema, and is considered like a failed film and badly, even of bad taste by some. [ Citation needed ] Others say the inability to qualify only by the script Lewis, without having seen its projection. [ Citation needed ] For many years its existence was questioned as if it should be released.


During the Nazi dictatorship , an old clown named Helmut Doork ( Jerry Lewis ) is fired from the circus and that same night decides to mock Hitler in the presence of agents of the Gestapo . Once in the concentration camp, the clown discovers a group of captured Jewish children and decides that this will be his new audience. An infantile audience, that without being guilty of nothing, is living a hell.


During Nazi Germany , an old clown named Helmut Doork ( Jerry Lewis ) – whose personality swings between egotism, frustration, resentment and compassion – is fired from the circus. Unemployed, he goes to the first bar he meets to drown his grief, after a few drinks he has the idea of ​​mocking the Führer in the presence of Gestapo agents who apprehend him and lead him to a Nazi concentration camp for political prisoners.

Helmut manages to deal with the camp leaders – aided by the fact that he is neither a Jew nor a Communist . Being recognized in the field for always being boasted of his past as a clown, he is required by both the Nazis and the prisoners to amuse them, but Helmut, already unsure of his talent, refuses. In one of the occasions when his imprisoned companions ask him to execute numbers to amuse them, they end up throwing Helmut to the mud, and at that moment, at a distance they hear children laughing that they come from Jewish children, separated from the prisoners not Jews by a barbed wire fence. Delighted with this new audience, Helmut acquires security and begins to amuse the children.

With time Helmut manages to make a disguise. He wears shoes that belonged to a person of greater stature than he, a hat, a sack and huge trousers, make up the face with ashes and with excrement of pigeons. The public of Helmut grows, including some adults and companions of him, also in prison, and acts as a mime before them, until one day the head of the field notices, and proclaims that “the coexistence between Aryans and who they are not”. Being warned, however Helmut ignores the provision. To punish him Helmut is beaten and isolated in a Separation.

While this is happening the Nazis face a new dilemma: The children must be moved to Auschwitz as they are not destined for forced labor . A van waits for them and the children do not stop crying and crying, so the camp leaders decide to send Helmut to appease them, on the condition of being released based on their behavior. Helmut decides to accept, tells them stories and tells them that they are going to “a better place”, but is accidentally locked in the van and travels next to them.

The Auschwitz commander explains to Doork about the use of the facilities and how the buildings are actually furnaces where children are exterminated. He then asks Helmut to lead them calmly toward his final destination – the death chamber – “as if he were one of them.” Doork initially appears to have no remorse for his work, -to keep the serene and amusing children in the extermination camp, and ignorant of their fate, being led with deceit to “showers.” In the last shot the children began to hug the clown, asking: “Where are we going Helmut?”, Helmut continues to act for them so surrounded by children enter the gas chamber, everyone sings and laughs, then the doors close behind from them.


Filming began in 1972, with locations in France and Sweden , but producer Nat Wachsberger ran out of money before completing it, and his choice to produce it expired before the filming began. In addition Wachsberger never reached an agreement with the screenwriters Joan O’Brien and Charles Denton to acquire definitively the rights of filming.

Jerry Lewis, knowing the problems of the production, nevertheless continued with the filming, covering the expenses with its own funds and hoping to reach an agreement later to obtain the rights and to obtain thus to release the film. Despite their efforts, the parties involved in the production were never able to come up with terms that would allow the film to be exhibited. In the end, the studio got the negative film from the movie. This negative has disappeared and its whereabouts unknown. Lewis retains the only known positive copy.


The film remained unfinished. The actors involved in it have kept silent or prefer not to remember it; only few people close to Jerry could see takings (short) or the entire movie, [ citation needed ] experiencing different emotions. This was one of Lewis’ first attempts at making films playing a different role than he is known. In May 1992 an article published in the magazine Spy , commented by Harry Shearer says:

“With most of this kind of thing, one finds that anticipation or concept is better than the thing itself. But watching this movie was really impressive, in the sense that it is seldom faced with a perfect object. This was a perfect object. This film is so drastically confused, it is Pathos and it is Comedy which are amply out of place, so much that one can not in his fantasy of what he might seem to be, to improve what he really is … Oh my God! Is all that can be said »

The article quotes O’Brien who stated that the short film she saw was a “disaster” and that she and the writer of the original plot Charles Denton would never allow the film’s release due to Lewis’s argument changes that considered cheesy And in bad taste. [ Citation needed ]

The Golden Turkey Awards considered it the worst movie ever. [ Citation needed ]


For some time the possibility of running new versions was handled, among them a version in Russia carried out by Robin Williams , although this never was carried out. [ Citation needed ]

Jerry Lewis believes that “the film must be seen,” the controversy and the conflict of versions continues. [ Citation needed ] However during a promotional tour for his book “Dean and Me (A Love Story)” (2005), Lewis said he would not seek release the film because I was not very proud of the film. Outside of these statements, to date, Lewis prefers not to talk about the subject in interviews.