TV Cream

Films: D is for...

Day the Clown Cried, The

Infamous in its never-completedness is this uber-ill-advised Euro-funded amplification of the maudlin, borderline-morbid aspects of Jerry Lewis’s slapschtick to their logical conclusion. Lewis plays Herman Doork, a clown charged with entertaining the children and leading them to their deaths in a concentration camp. By all accounts (though admittedly there aren’t very many), it’s a chilling film for all the wrong reasons. The script, once you adapt to the revolting conceit, is cliche-ridden schmaltz, none more so than the final scene where a shattered Lewis leads the kids in a circus parade to the ovens, followed by a solemn FADE OUT, as if that justifies everything. The film itself was directed, by Lewis, as a slice of low-budget desperation with the odd tyroesque shoestring visual conceit, eg shooting some scenes in front of a black cloth, merely adding to the wrongness. The Swedish fundraisers impounded the negative, but Lewis apparently still keeps a VHS copy in a briefcase, still firmly believing this particular story Must Be Told.



  1. Lee James Turnock

    May 21, 2010 at 4:52 pm

    A few clips have leaked out and something I couldn’t help noticing was the Jerry Lewis character’s immaculate shiny shoes, even though he’s supposed to have been a concentration camp inmate for several years. Memorably described by Spinal Tap’s Harry Shearer as “trying too hard in completely the wrong direction”.

  2. THX 1139

    November 15, 2021 at 7:22 pm

    We have to wait till 2024 to see it, or what’s left of it. Jerry Lewis is such a fascinating character, a real showbiz monster to many, but capable of great generosity to others. Check out the clip on YouTube of the 70s Muscular Dystrophy telethon he did where Frank Sinatra reunited Jerry with Dean Martin – and brought A GUN onstage (!). What was he planning to do with it?!

  3. Droogie

    November 16, 2021 at 11:08 am

    As time goes on I find the stories about Lewis and what a monster he could be way more interesting than his movie output. There’s a great podcast by comedian Gilbert Gottfried where he interviews showbiz folk and nearly everyone has a scary Lewis story ( Danny Kaye was apparently a massive asshole too.) Terry Gilliam told how the Pythons unexpectedly won a best picture award at Cannes for The Meaning Of Life. The Pythons did a press conference and throughout Gilliam felt something very hot behind him that was making the back of his neck get hot. He assumed it was a stage light and ignored it until he finally turned round and saw a red faced Jerry Lewis glowering at him with hate. Lewis was pissed off that King Of Comedy hadn’t won best picture instead , and Gilliam was amazed that any one human could give off so much heat.

    • THX 1139

      November 16, 2021 at 12:51 pm

      Ha, ha, I really should listen to that podcast more often! Love a good showbiz anecdote.

  4. George White

    November 16, 2021 at 11:43 am

    Also starring Anton Diffring as guess what…

    The only Jerry Lewis films that are any good are The King of Comedy and Funny Bones, especially the latter where Peter Chelsom somehow got Lewis to play a character that is not only a thinly disguised version of himself but an utter monster who ripped off end of the pier duo George Carl and Freddie Davies and had an affair with Davies’ wife leslie Caron (utterly bizarre cast) – and he’s brilliant.

    • THX 1139

      November 16, 2021 at 12:46 pm

      I’d agree The King of Comedy and Funny Bones are great films, but Lewis was no slouch with his own material, especially The Nutty Professor, which is both funny and starkly revealing of his twisted psyche – fans liked to believe he was Julius, but actually he was Buddy Love. The Ladies Man has that amazing set as well, Jacques Tati must have been green with envy. His collaborations with Frank Tashlin are always worth a look, because Tashlin recognised Lewis was basically a human cartoon character.

  5. Glenn Aylett

    November 16, 2021 at 7:44 pm

    @ George White, Anton Diffring as anything else but a Nazi is hard to picture. He has the look of a cold eyed SS officer who would willingly send millions to their deaths and was excellent as Reinhard Heydrich in Operation Daybreak, where he plays one of the most evil Nazis so convincingly you’re glad when he dies.
    Yet, the real Diffring, who made a tidy sum playing people audiences loved to hate, was someone the Nazis would have killed off given the chance: he was gay, was half Jewish and left the country in 1936 to escape Nazi persecution.

  6. George White

    November 16, 2021 at 9:05 pm

    He did do a few non-Nazi roles, mainly horror films including bonkers Dublin-shot giallo the Iguana with the Tongue of Fire. (And even in some of those – his final film, Faceless by Jess Franco – he plays a Nazi mad doctor) and weirdly when he was living in Italy, played a British commando in Kill Rommel, a film directed by Alfonso Brescia – the italian Ed Wood.

    IIRC Diffring moved to Italy to escape Nazi parts, only to discover to his horror that the big trend or filone in Italian films at that point were WW2 actioners a la the original Inglorious Bastards.

  7. Richardpd

    November 16, 2021 at 10:20 pm

    Peter Lorre also played Nazis & was quick to leave Germany in the 1930s because of his Jewish heritage.

    I agree that The Nutty Professor is very good, as I found it on TV by chance one weekend afternoon about 30 years ago.

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