Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Rant #1,019: The Day the Clown Cried

Whether you like him or not, Jerry Lewis is much more than a comedian; he is a master film maker.

Who knew that this screechy comic, who paired with Dean Martin is some very un-funny but widely popular films in the 1950s, would emerge as a film maker who made some of the funniest comedies of the early to mid-1960s?

Not since Chaplin had a comedian ventured out of his realm of comfort and created comedies that he not only starred in, but also directed.

One was the original "Nutty Professor," and sorry, Eddie Murphy, but he original puts yours to shame.

There were many others, but as the 1960s faded, Lewis had lost his flair, and he admitted it.

In 1972, Lewis tried something very different, trying to make a comedy, but one that would tear at your heart.

Thus came "The Day the Clown Cried," which starred Lewis as a circus performer who was placed in a concentration camp during World War II not just for being Jewish, but to make children laugh--right before they were sent to the gas chamber.

Since the film was a Lewis project, it had enough pull to get a slot at the Cannes Film Festival. However, what was shown there was so widely panned that Lewis vowed never to release the film during his lifetime, and it has sat for the past 40-plus years in limbo.

However, with the advent of the Internet, pieces of the film have surfaced, and once again, more footage has been released.

Seeing what can be seen on the film, Lewis may have been right about the movie.

It just doesn't have any zing, it leads nowhere, but it is an important piece of work for the comic.

He probably did fail, but it would be nice to see the film anyway.

When he made his official film comeback a few years later with a movie called "Hardly Working," he was truly past his prime as a film maker and as a comic.

It was a nice film to bring Lewis back to the screen, but it was no "Nutty Professor."

However, bad it may be, "The Day the Clown Cried" might be an artifact of its time, and I, for one, would love to see it in its entirety.

Comedy can be used to make the most grim situations almost palatable--look how "Hogan's Heroes" so cleverly skewered the Nazis for what they were and what they did--and even if Lewis' film is a failure, I would like to know why it failed.

Was it not funny, or was it supposed to be funny, in the true sense?

I really don't know, and we may never know.

And that is the crime in all of this.

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