Some mysteries just get juicier with age. At least, that’s how it felt on Aug. 10, when a seven-minute clip from an old Dutch TV documentary about the making of Jerry Lewis’ 1972 “lost” film, The Day the Clown Cried, was posted on YouTube by someone calling himself “Unclesporkums.” Back in 2009, I interviewed Lewis in his Las Vegas office about his career and the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award he was slated to receive at that year’s Oscar telecast. The star, then 82, was gracious and chatty. That is, until I asked him about The Day the Clown Cried, a never-released movie that has become a sort of Holy Grail for movie buffs, like Orson Welles’ uncut version of The Magnificent Ambersons. “We don’t talk about that,” he said curtly, “not even if I found out you were one of my sons.” An eternity of silence — or, at least, what felt like an eternity of silence — followed.
His sensitivity was perhaps understandable. The project marked a huge departure for Lewis, who was 46 in 1972 when he traveled to Sweden to direct and star in the Holocaust-set film. Since his meteoric rise as the antic, rubber-faced half of a nightclub duo alongside Dean Martin in the ‘40s, Lewis had starred in dozens of box-office hits, parlaying that success into a second career as the unlikely, ground-breaking director of big-screen comedies like 1960’s The Bellboy and 1963’s The Nutty Professor. His ambition was limitless. And yet audiences still seemed to pigeonhole him as a purveyor of seltzer-and-banana-peel slapstick. The Day the Clown Cried might have changed that once and for all. READ FULL STORY