[[caption-width-right:350:One of the few stills that have been released.]]

In 1972, Creator/JerryLewis directed a film about a [[UsefulNotes/TheHolocaust Holocaust]]-era German clown entertaining Jewish children in Auschwitz.


The script was co-written by Joan O'Brien and Charles Denton with Lewis overseeing the final treatment. It was to star Lewis himself, although he was very reluctant to take the project initially. He ended up heading the project in order to pave the way for a career as [[TomHanksSyndrome a serious actor and director.]] While the subject matter obviously raised more than a few eyebrows, the production was marred by other factors contributing to its TroubledProduction. Equipment was lost, the production ran out of money, and the option to make the film had since expired (the script had been floating around Hollywood for ten years). Lewis opted to pay for the film himself but the producer and script writers could not come to an agreement, so he attempted to leave the production entirely. He ended up staying on after the producer, Nat Waschberger, threatened to sue Lewis for breach of contract. By that point, enough of the film had been completed that it was edited together despite the legal issues. However, Lewis took the only tape and locked it away, never to be seen outside of a few private screenings.

The story involves Helmut Doork (Lewis), a circus clown in UsefulNotes/NaziGermany who once had a stunning career throughout UsefulNotes/{{Europe}}. Now down on his luck, he finds himself on the verge of a forced retirement. One night, in a drunken stupor, he rants against Germany and even mocks UsefulNotes/AdolfHitler. This lands him in prison, where his troubles get worse. After suffering abuse from the prison guards, he wanders to the Jewish section of the camp. Through the chainlink fence, he notices a group of Jewish children. He performs for them and finds that they appreciate his act, filling him with a sense of hope. The head of the camp does not approve at first but soon gives him the job of loading the children into trains for "deportment". Doork agrees on the condition that he is able to make an appeal. One night, due to a mishap, he is loaded onto a train along with the children. He soon realizes that the children are to be executed. He puts on a brave face and entertains them all the way to the gas chamber. Filled with remorse, he agrees to enter the gas chamber with them, where he dies.

The script is [[http://www.dailyscript.com/scripts/the_day_the_clown_cried.html available online]]. Some of the cast members and some of the very few people who have seen the rough cut of the film (including Creator/HarryShearer) were interviewed for a ''Spy'' magazine article which is available [[http://books.google.com/books?id=bsf3-GfE_JoC&lpg=PA42&dq=the%20day%20the%20clown%20cried&pg=PA40#v=onepage&q&f=false here]]. [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IJai18eys0M&feature=c4-overview&list=UUKXcoKOKthK5VVZQgJ4Hdsw Some behind-the-scenes footage]] from a Flemish film review show from the 1970s has also found its way online. There was also a [[Creator/TheBBC BBC]] documentary about this film, which can be viewed [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jbZIyXNRxos here.]] In 2015 (two years before his death), Lewis donated copies of all his movies to the Library of Congress, with a stipulation that this film could not be screened for ten years, meaning that ''The Day the Clown Cried'' will have sat on TheShelfOfMovieLanguishment for 53 years. Make sure to add more tropes when 2025 rolls around!

Compare the movie's concept to the premise of ''Film/LifeIsBeautiful'', which is a comedy about the Holocaust that similarly takes the actual massacre seriously, as well as ''Film/JakobTheLiar''. Compare and contrast the [[MissingEpisode movie's]] [[CreatorBacklash history]] to that of ''Film/TheStarWarsHolidaySpecial'' (the big difference being that ''The Star Wars Holiday Special'' actually aired on TV once and can easily be found online in bootleg form).


* ChildrenAreInnocent: Doork finds redemption in the laughter and joy of children.
* DrivenToSuicide[=/=] DownerEnding: [[spoiler: Helmut, who is a ''Sonderkommando'', decides to die with the children he's just brought into the gas chamber.]]
* FinalSolution: It is set in a concentration camp.
* GallowsHumor: A comedy set in a Nazi concentration camp.
* MyNaymeIs: Helmut Doork's last name is actually "Dorque" -- the other spelling was used throughout the script for the sake of making the intended pronunciation clear.
* NonIronicClown: Though used for sinister motives.
* TheNotSoHarmlessPunishment: Tired of beating the everloving crap out of Helmut every time he entertains children at the concentration camp, they make him the ''[[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sonderkommando Sonderkommando]]'' for children. In order words, he's forced to carry out corpses of ''children'' from the gas chambers. [[spoiler: At the climax, he's expected to ''induct'' children into the gas chamber, something real ''Sonderkommandos'' were never asked to do. It's no wonder Helmut decides to hop in with them.]]
* OscarBait: Why Lewis made the film.
* PopCulturalOsmosis: This is one of the most infamous and talked about movies ever made... that practically nobody has ever seen. It has gotten to the point that it is treated as a joke rather than an actual existing movie.
* RedemptionEqualsDeath: Seems to be the focal point of the climax.
* RevealShot: The time period in which the film is set was kept ambiguous early on, only revealing itself while Doork is drowning his sorrows at the bistro, with the camera pulling back to reveal a wall of UsefulNotes/WorldWarII photographs.
* SadClown: The title alone. Also, Doork is depressed even before getting arrested.
* SurvivorshipBias: Averted. [[spoiler: See Driven To Suicide.]]
* ThoseWackyNazis: Doork gets drunk and does a impromptu routine based on this. It lands him in prison.
* YourDaysAreNumbered: [[spoiler: ''Sonderkommandos'' were regularly KilledToUpholdTheMasquerade, so this was Helmut's likely fate had he not killed himself.]]