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Footage from Jerry Lewis' lost film revealed in 1972 behind-the-scenes video

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jerry lewis (the day the clown cried)
jerry lewis (the day the clown cried)

Jerry Lewis’ 1972 The Day the Clown Cried is one of the most famous unreleased films of all time — a movie so bad that Lewis has sworn it will never see the light of day. Until now, all we've seen are a few still images and the original screenplay, but that all changed when a YouTube user named unclesporkums uploaded seven minutes of footage from the set of the forgotten film, which was then posted by Entertainment Weekly. Reddit user mvuijlst points out that the original footage is from a 1972 broadcast of Flemish TV program Première-magazine.

So why is Lewis so determined to keep the movie under wraps? The plot revolves around a clown at a Nazi concentration camp who ends up befriending the children imprisoned there. The film ends as Lewis’ character, overcome with grief at having led the children into a gas chamber, chooses to stay with the children as they are all killed. One of the few people to actually see it, actor and comedian Harry Shearer, said "the closest I can come to describing the effect is if you flew down to Tijuana and suddenly saw a painting on black velvet of Auschwitz."

The Day the Clown Cried (and its cringe-inducing ending) reportedly tested so poorly with early audiences that Lewis vowed to keep it locked up forever. But while the video above offers a glimmer of hope for film historians and others hoping for the relic to finally be released to the public, Lewis doesn't sound like he's letting it go anytime soon. In a Reuters interview from May, the original Nutty Professor star said "You will never see it, no one will ever see it, because I am embarrassed at the poor work."